By Alan Dymock
BEING THE bridesmaid rather than the bride is never great and on Saturday there were few more radiant than the blushing Welsh belles, but for Scotland they will be happy they were on the dancefloor.
The RBS 6 Nations spluttered along. After a glut of tries in week one everyone gorged on superlatives, stuffed with praise for the “greatest championship ever.” However, the middle three sections were turgid, grim affairs, hampered by the weather and as free flowing as the bar at The Priory.
In this section England and Wales raised their game, demonstrating what can be achieved with a bit of grit and a willingness to run hard lines. Ireland and Italy stumbled and lurched, with France continuing to display an ineptitude beyond their means.
Scotland enjoyed this period.
We were not told this was a team built to sift through muck, but they certainly got their hands dirty. They created tries out of opposition mistakes and they ambushed anyone silly enough to pursue the same tactic time after time. They prayed on Italian naivety, pickpocketed Ireland and for the best part of an hour kept touch with Wales, despite being whistled so often they must have felt like a scantily clad lassie walking by a building site.
The Scots lapsed in the final game, allowing France to finally perform well enough to avoid public guillotine from a baying crowd, but Scotland ensured the French could not climb from the root of the championship table.
Scotland lost three times, of course. England, France and Wales were better than them. However, the manner of their losses was sufficient enough to warm Scottish hearts and two wins is not to be scoffed at, it’s more than France or Ireland managed. This team has tried to gradually improve and have neither crowed about their progress nor thrown out every blueprint from previous regimes. They have made small changes.
Many want Scott Johnson to be offered the job full-time, and if he does sit down and talk “man to man” with SRU CEO Mark Dodson, as he says he will, it is hard to see Dodson not grinning and offering the Aussie a permanent contract. It is just whether Johnson wants it or not.
He has proved a point, and for the likes of Dean Ryan, that was simply enough for him and he will surely wiggle his way out from under the spotlights. Johnson seems to have enjoyed working in short bursts again and the players have warmed to him. The lights have come up, but maybe no one else wants to go home.
With two years until the World Cup, Scotland can build in a more understated way than the English and Welsh, while still moving forward. If, that is, they tie in a head coach and a forwards coach who are on the same wavelength and have a rapport with the playing staff. The best thing for Scottish rugby would be to stabilise, build towards 2015 and have coaches pushing themselves and dragging players with them, rather than being comfortable with competing.
Sound familiar? It is almost identical to the line Johnson has delivered all Six Nations. Time for a head coach to ensure those words are not hollow. After all, we all love a nice line of rhetoric, but at this stage in the night you would take anything back to your hotel room. Let’s make sure it’s a bit prettier in the light of day.