When teams lose, coaches talk about processes and performance and improvement. When teams play badly and still win the coaches concentrate on the result. You can probably guess what Vern Cotter was talking about after yesterday’s scrappy but welcome win over Argentina.
“It was nice to be able to come away in the 83rd minutes with the win,” said the coach who has witnessed late losses against Italy and Australia… twice. “It was a dour affair. We saw right from the start with the ball a little bit wet and the way they were trying to unsettle us at ruck time that it was going to be a tough game. It was going to be an arm wrestle and I thought the guys responded really well.
“It wasn’t perfect by any means. What we saw was a lot of grit and character. The guys got what they went for with that determination and I thought we constructed opportunities so there’s a lot of positives to come out of this game.”
There were a few positives to come out of this game. The form of new boy Magnus Bradbury was encouraging. He carried well and made several important interventions in defence.
When Scotland were trailing 16-13 late in in the game Finn Russell spotted space in the back field and came up with a peach of a restart that bounced into touch just seven metres from the Argentina’s try line, leading directly to Laidlaw’s 68th minute equaliser.
Huw Jones has a happy knack of stepping out of tackles. He did it last weekend and he repeated the trick yesterday to create Sean Maitland’s try. Hamish Watson was hoodwinked by the Puma scrum-half late in the first half but the flanker made amends by stopping Nicolas Sanchez just metres from the line with a try saving tackle.
But the most positive aspect of this match was that Scotland won this match without so many front line troops. Perhaps just two or three of yesterday’s forward pack would be starting if everyone could put their hand up so credit is due to the young guns. The Scots’ set scrum only really engaged reverse gear when Zander Fagerson was replaced late in the game.
Most importantly this young side did not panic even after Greig Laidlaw’s 78th minute penalty, in an action replay of last Saturday’s failed conversion, bounced back of the Argentinian upright.
“Yeah it doesn’t like me,” Laidlaw was able to joke after the event. “The boys were giving me stick for taking two to win it. I was pretty happy to see the second one go between the posts.
“As Vern said, it was credit to the whole team. That was the key. After they scored, that was the message under the posts: ‘don’t panic, we can score tries’. We hit straight back and scored and pegged them back straight away. That psychologically was a massive blow. We’re still annoyed from that Australia game if we’re being honest so we’re delighted to just get on the right side of one today.”
Laidlaw wasn’t the only one sporting a broad grin after the match. Jonny Gray was in the thick of the action as always the Scotland lock repeatedly underlined the quality of the opposition that Scotland had seen off before returning to a favourite theme of this team.
“There was a feeling from last weekend and every game you watch now, the importance of small margins, they can make a huge difference to a game and it was again small margins today.
“If you make a mistake or don’t quite take your opportunity it could mean a win or a loss. Every game now, especially against world class sides like that, it’s all about small margins.”
Argentina played for eighty minutes, Scotland played the full eighty-three. Small margins.