Data and analysis group Oval lay bare the disciplinary issues Scotland had
It was so nearly a disaster. From 27-0 up to being just a point away from Wales, Scotland did just enough to come away from Cardiff with a 27-26 win – their first in the Welsh capital since 2002. And at the heart of their issues was a Scottish implosion on the discipline front.
According to rugby data and analysis experts Oval, Scotland conceded 13 consecutive penalties. No Welsh intervention on that front. Referee Ben O’Keeffe blew solely for Scotland minute 20 onwards.
Not only that, but if you included what Oval call “non-awarded penalties” (so think of possible penalty infringements during advantage, or when the advantage plays out and that penalty is forgotten, or there’s a try during advantage) that number rising to 16. So 16 penalty-worthy infringements in the eyes of the ref in a row.
If you think that sounds like a lot, well that’s because it is.
Oval have been collecting such data for the last five tournaments, and that number of successive penalties given away is the most by five. The next-worse repeat offenders were Wales in 2022, when they gave away eight penalties in a row.
Scotland next face France in the Six Nations, and if they are as ill-disciplined again, against a France side smarting from a loss at home, expect les Bleus to punish them. And the French know all about the risk of repeat offences, with them losing Paul Willemse being sent off permanently in their opener against Ireland for two yellow-card offences (with the latter upgraded in-match to an automatic red anyway).
And for all the issues that France had in their 38-17 loss to Ireland, in the latter stages of that game, les Bleus’ scrum really showed up well. Scotland cannot afford to be numbers down, up front.
With seven penalties given against Scotland for ruck offences, plus three offsides (two against Sione Tuipulotu, and his second getting him a yellow card) there will be no prizes for guessing what the work-on is this week.
However, few elements in rugby operate in isolation. Below is a suggestion for how ill-discipline can stem from self-inflicted pressure.
Rugby World opinion on the Scottish implosion
Rugby World editor Alan Dymock writes: We often speak about ‘quicksand’ in elite sport – the desperation to perform actually hinders us. And the more you struggle, the worse things seem to get.
Now imagine that with Aaron Wainwright tearing off big runs directly from catching a kick-off. Back-pedalling, trying to assert defensive dominance on the retreat and doing so after an array of penalties against you already. It can be the stuff of Test rugby nightmares.
But on the other side of this, you’ll hear a lot about sorting the discipline; winning back the trust of refs. Really so much of it comes from not chasing bad with worse; not following up an error with another one in quick succession, and committing a disciplinary sin to try and correct that. In fact, not following up something good with something bad helps too.
Far too often in the past, Scotland have followed up a fine score with not securing kick-off ball on the restart. Eradicating small errors – it feels silly saying – helps to right your discipline. Accuracy at the breakdown, shutting the door quickly in defence in pairs without rising too high, and catching restarts and your own lineout, makes that possible.
Recommended videos for you
Let us know what you think of the Scottish implosion and how to improve their discipline stats via email@example.com or on social media.