It’s a been long time since Scotland scored five tries against first class opposition, August, 2007 to be exact, against Ireland in a World Cup warm-up match. Fast forward seven years and Vern Cotter opened his BT Murrayfield account with a scintillating five-try performance against Argentina who, let’s not forget, have won their past four matches in this stadium.
Cotter wants his team to enjoy their rugby, so the question was whether this comprehensive performance would be enough to elicit a smile from the taciturn Kiwi? The jury is still deliberating on that. He may have been pleased, he could hardly be otherwise, but he wasn’t going to offer much in the way of hard evidence.
“It was a tough old start wasn’t it,” said Cotter when asked about Argentina’s early try. “We had the ball and we are making plays and we were looking dangerous and we got turned over. It finished with a try against the run of play.
“What happened next I thought was really pleasing and really important. We turned around and got our hands on the ball and kept the same philosophy to score a try to bring it even.
“I really enjoyed watching the boys playing for each other,” Cotter continued. “I watched them get up, with men down, yellow cards, and to encourage them to get up and help one another I thought was great. And, of course, scoring tries, I am really pleased for them to get over the line for those five pointers.
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“I thought we varied our play which is important, between kicking into space, running short side, running open, running off nine, I thought Greig [Laidlaw] did a great job. There are certainly things to work on, we’re not getting carried away, we are playing the best team in the world next weekend. Still it’s a long time between drinks so we might have a couple tonight.”
And why not? The Scots showed flair in the first 46 minutes and plenty of grit, snot and sweat thereafter when holding out the Argentine onslaught, at least until the final few minutes. Scotland’s defence coach Matt Taylor will want to know why the opposition was allowed three tries inside the final ten minutes, although it was never going to be enough to change the final result.
The coach’s first task is selection and some had questioned Laidlaw’s starting role at scrum-half but the little Jed man was an entirely different animal to the tentative character who has occasionally been a brake on the Scotland bangwagon. Yesterday he had his foot firmly on the gas. What are they feeding him down in Gloucester since his move to the English Premiership?
“It’s nothing in the food!” replied the man of the match. “I have sort of got the spring back in my step. Going down to Gloucester, there is strong competition. Week in and week out you get the feeling that you have to win games of rugby and that has certainly helped me. Just going to a new clubs and having to prove yourself help, it’s certainly brought my game on.”
It certainly has. Laidlaw kicked four conversions and two penalties but everyone expects that from him. The little fella also proved a serious threat with the ball in hand. His quick thinking in the first half with a quick tap penalty made a try for Sean Maitland and his quick feet after the break carved out another for Stuart Hogg.
“I think, as Vern said, that 1-15 all put their bodies on the line. They were all man of the match in my eyes,” Laidlaw concluded with a broad smile on his face.
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