By Al Dymock
MURRAYFIELD MAY have hosted the world famous All Blacks, but the only way to see the game properly was in a pub where the sounds of the football drowned everything else out.
Without the predictable analysis, the in-play commentary, the clichés or even Twitter, it is possible to assess a heavy loss, live.
Of course this deliberate ploy leads to complications. In the absence of commentary there is the odd shout from the expert propping up the bar and one must make do with actually looking at what is in front of them.
This is the issue. You do this. You then play Guess the Headline. You cannot avoid repeating in your head, over and over again, “…succumb to half tonne”.
Without looking at Twitter or live blogs and without hearing radio or television commentary it is still possible to predict what is being said. Scotland played well, but New Zealand have finesse and power and skills no one can compete with. Quality shines through. Brave, brave Scots.
Scotland did play well for large parts of the game. “Succumb to half tonne”.
Scotland scored three tries. They were built on the breakdown work of Jim Hamilton and Kelly Brown, the hard running of Richie Gray, Ryan Grant and Geoff Cross, and the finishing prowess of Tim Visser.
This did not mask the errors, though. Scotland have more courage than a Drambuie doused Dutchman, but we know this already. If the oft-touted rhetoric of change is to be adhered to then press and punters alike must move on and look at the failings.
It is the same with England and Wales. England have already had their year of “fresh approach” under Stuart Lancaster, and we now need a new record. The Welsh are still obsessed with free running and how a game can only be won with a Smörgåsbord of gear-changes.
If we can get past Scottish pride, England’s fresh approach and Welsh wizardry we will be fine.
So to analyse Scotland’s game one must acknowledge the fine work, while also saying that the new Scottish team has to bite their lip and take a few cheek-reddening slaps.
To “succumb to half tonne” is no longer good enough, regardless of who the opposition is. That is a necessary view point. They did do well when they swarmed in attack and they hit the ruck with more grit than a slug’s nightmare, but they fell off too many tackles, with 25 Scottish defenders beaten during the game.
Three tries is stupendous for the nation and Tim Visser is proving himself to be a real fillip to Scottish rugby, but the defensive system must improve from this display if Scotland are to progress further. South Africa looked as secure as a rice paper dinghy against Ireland, but they have robust, forceful men. Scotland can build on the All Black experience by hitting these African oaks with venom.
Cherish and reward the pack that played New Zealand, but threaten them with no supper should they ever stand in groups of three defensively again. The image of a stuttering Kiwi runner looking up and seeing two front rowers or a second row and hooker standing side-by-side is not for repeating.
Also reward Visser and Matt Scott for their endeavours. Allow Greig Laidlaw room to breathe and make sure Mike Blair is still comfy with the pace of the international game.
After all this organised loveliness, rally everyone. Make them aware that a defensive line must not bow in the middle and that attackers must be tracked. Above all, make them aware tackles have to stick.
After this, if the Boks look just as ruthless and the scoreline is just as heavy, drop the half tonne on the management.