Scotland's set-piece wizardry that led to Hamish Watson try and caught Wallabies on the hop explained

In the understandable rush to acclaim Ewan Ashman’s wonder score it has almost been forgotten that Scotland notched another try of the highest quality in the win over Australia.

Hamish Watson is buried beneath the bodies as he goes over to score Scotland's first try against Australia. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Hamish Watson is buried beneath the bodies as he goes over to score Scotland's first try against Australia. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Hamish Watson’s first half effort from a clever lineout move was straight off the training ground and Gregor Townsend was quick to give credit to its architect. Step forward, John Dalziel.

The Scotland forwards coach worked his magic with an imaginative ploy which caught the Wallabies on the hop.

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Ashman’s throw was plucked out of the air by Jamie Ritchie who fed Grant Gilchrist. The Scotland lock then presented the ball to the on-rushing Watson who steamed over the line via a perfectly executed driving maul.

Dalziel is honest enough to admit that it took them three attempts to get it right but when it clicked it was a special moment and played a huge part in the 15-13 victory on Sunday.

“If you ask the other coaches, I probably spend too long on that sort of thing,” Dalziel said of his set-piece wizardry. “We’re all battling for minutes during the week!

“To be fair, we identified it and picked it up as an area where we might have an opportunity. But it took us three times to run it and that’s the beauty of training.

“Reviewing it with the forwards on Monday morning, we can say: ‘Look, it doesn’t have to be perfect every time we run it.’

The dynamic Watson was named man of the match in the 15-13 victory. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“We learned something on each occasion we ran it. And the detail was absolutely spot on.

“They don’t always come off, you don’t always get it right, but it was pleasing because it was a really important score, in the context of the game. Credit to the players for adapting through the week.”

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Pre-planned set-plays don’t always come off but Dalziel says this Scotland squad cannot be faulted for the effort they put into trying to make them work.

Scotland forwards expert John Dalziel, right, with head coach Gregor Townsend. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)
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“There are times you have the best intentions and it just doesn’t work, so you need to tweak things,” he said.

“As coaches, we do get things wrong. And teams adapt. They watch us and they’ll adapt, so you have to be prepared.

“Part of the plan is being prepared for what you’ve not actually seen previously. The ability to adapt is the biggest thing you want to grow in a young squad.”

Dalziel has now turned his attention to South Africa who visit Murrayfield on Saturday. Trying to spot a flaw in the world champions’ game is a huge challenge for the Scotland coaches and it’s unlikely that they will be able to pull off the same move again so soon

Watson celebrates the win with Scotland captain Stuart Hogg. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

“Australia’s defence in that area of the pitch is unique to them. We found a weakness in it,” said the Gala man.

“Now the biggest challenge of all is to find any weakness in the South African set piece. And stop them. In terms of set piece challenge, there is none bigger than this weekend.”

Dalziel and the rest of the Scotland coaches sat together to watch the Springboks defeat Wales 23-18 on Saturday. It was instructive if not exactly revelatory given what they already know about their next opponents.

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“It was a typical South African performance,” said Dalziel. “We know their strengths, that bludgeoning power, and I thought Wales put a lot into that Test as well and battled for a long period of time.

“You have to go for 80 minutes like that in an arm-wrestle against South Africa to come out on top, so we’ve learned a lot of lessons from that, and from watching them in other big games over the last year.”

Scotland’s victory over the side ranked third in the world is the type of result that makes other top nations sit up and take notice. Put together with the away wins over England and France earlier this year and it’s hard not to form the impression that this Townsend side is on the cusp of something special.

New caps Ewan Ashman and Josh Bayliss both made key contributions, Ashman (pictured) with his superb try in the corner and Bayliss by winning a late turnover which stymied the visitors’ last attack of the game. Notable contributions also from Jamie Hodgson and George Horne.

The visit of the world champions will be their toughest test yet but Dalziel believes it’s important not to get too carried away by one-off results. But he is also unstinting in his praise of the squad’s character having watched the majority of the players develop from a young age.

“In general, as Scots, we as a nation get pretty high on the wins – and sometimes get too low on defeats,” said the forwards coach.

“But I’ve been lucky enough to work with these players for a number of years, from the under-20s onwards. I’ve seen them grow as men and it’s outstanding, the high standards they hold with each other.

“As a group, they deal with setbacks, know the path they’re on – and there is no ceiling.

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“They want to grow and become that Scotland team that is consistent, that can win on the big occasion more often.

“They’re starting to see that. They’re very humble and realise we’re at the start of the process. It’s a young group with loads of growth to come.”

Ashman and fellow debutant Josh Bayliss are just the latest to be integrated into the group. Both came off the bench and made hugely significant contributions against Australia, Ashman with a superb diving try in the corner and Bayliss by winning a late turnover. Dalziel believes the pair are now ready to start for Scotland.

“One hundred per cent,” he said. “It was really frustrating for both through the summer, because they were supposed to get capped much earlier. With the summer [tour] being quashed by Covid, it was a nightmare for them.

“But we know they have the ability to play Test rugby. And they proved to everybody yesterday just what they have in the locker.

“We’ll see a lot more of these guys going forward. It’s great to be able to add these guys to our squad.

“They’re going to be big players for us going forward.”

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