Home Tags Posts tagged with "Pool B"

Pool B

Max Evans evades Jaba Bregvadze of Georgia in the Rugby World Cup

Max Evans evades Jaba Bregvadze of Georgia in the Rugby World Cup

According to some, it was the missed dropped goal from Dan Parks that cost Scotland victory. According to others, it was the lapse in concentration that failed to secure the kick-off which ultimately resulted in Argentina’s try. For others, it was referee Wayne Barnes’ failure to spot the Argentinians offside when Parks went for that fluffed dropped goal.

But really, while all these played their part in Scotland’s agonising 13–12 defeat to Argentina today in Wellington, what really mattered was Scotland’s inability to collect points when they had the clear advantage of territory and possession.

For the first 15 minutes of the second half, the Scots were all over the Argentinians. The Scots had line breaks, they were constantly in their opponents’ 22, they forced mistakes and knock-ons from the Argentinians – yet, try as they might, they couldn’t score.

It was that long passage of play when Scotland needed to come back with something, anything: a penalty, a dropped goal or a try (converted or not) from that spell encamped under the Argentinian posts – and they came back with nothing.

That was what really mattered at the end because, when the Argentinians had a chance, the one in the whole match, they took it and scored.

In that sense, today’s Pool B defeat in the Rugby World Cup was marked by familiar failings: the depressingly typical Scottish failing of not being able to score tries, not being clinical and ruthless when presented with the chance to score.

Andy Robinson has created a courageous, stubborn, defensively strong, combative team, but he is no nearer unlocking that spark of creativity and ruthlessness which Scotland need to step up to the next level than his predecessors.

And the problem is that Scotland may well not just have to beat England next week to progress, but do so with a four-try bonus point – and Scotland have hardly ever looked like scoring four tries. They did so against the whipping boys of Romania, but only when they were desperately trying to rescue the game and scored the fourth right at the end.

Today’s defeat was also, in a sense, waiting to happen. It was the day the Scots luck ran out. In 2003, Scotland scraped through to the quarter-finals courtesy of a last-minute score against Fiji which gave them a two-point 22–20 win. In 2007, Scotland were equally lucky, edging past Italy again by just two points, 18–16, after the Italians missed an easy pot at goal.

So today’s defeat, while it is deeply depressing for all Scotland fans, was really probably on the cards at some stage. Scotland haven’t really improved from the sides that crawled into the quarter-finals in 2003 and 2007, so this was always going to be close, really close.

Did Scotland deserve to win today? Yes. They had the better chances, they were more harshly dealt with by the referee than were their Argentinian opponents, the 50-50 decisions went against them but – again – they failed to score a try.

The Argentinians scored the only try of the game, so they would argue they deserved the win.

The Argentinians also bossed the breakdown, at least in the first half. They didn’t just slow Scottish down ball, they snaffled the ball some of the time and forced Scotland to give away penalties at others.

Scotland improved after the break, committing more forwards to the rucks to clear the Argentinians out – but Scotland also suffered at the setpiece scrums. The Scottish front row was doing well against their more vaunted opponents, but it was the Argentinians who managed to come away with more in terms of penalties when. On at least one occasion it looked as if they had duped the referee into penalising Scotland when it had been the Argentinians who had been breaking the rules.

But that was always going to be the case. This was always going to be a tight game, fought out by the forwards in the driving rain, allowing for little creativity on either side. If ever there was a game suited to the forward-orientated Argentinians, then this was it.

It was a shame, though, that Chris Paterson should be the one who missed the all-important tackle to led to the Argentinian try. Paterson has rescued Scotland on more occasions than anybody else in the side but, on this one occasion, he failed and the game was lost.

On the plus side, the Scottish line-out was excellent – most of the time. It was mainly secure on Scotland’s throws and pinched at least one Argentinian throw.

John Barclay was back to his best at seven, Kelly Brown was solid at eight and Al Strokosch was combative – if not dominant – at six. Max Evans was brilliant on his wing, always hungry for the ball and creative with it – although, try as he might, even he couldn’t conjure that one try-scoring opportunity.

Rory Lawson’s distribution was efficient but it was his half-back partner, Ruaridh Jackson, who really came of age. He took his dropped goal really well, he kicked well for the corners and brought his backs into the game sharply.

He really should have ended all discussions on the pivotal fly-half role now simply because he does some things better than Parks (passes, runs and tackles) – and of those other attributes at which Parks is supposed to excel (kicking for the corners, dropped goals), Jackson is now his equal.

The likelihood is that this result will condemn Scotland to an early return after the pool stages – for the first time in the country’s World Cup history.

In that sense, this is a harsh penalty for a one-point loss that could have gone either way. But the reality is that Scotland have not excelled in this World Cup. They got out jail against Romania, put Georgia away rather uneasily without scoring a try and were edged out by Argentina.

They haven’t looked the sort of side that really looks like it deserves to go through and challenge in the latter stages – not like Ireland, for instance.

The Scots have one match to redeem their World Cup, but they know that heroics and a win over England might not be even enough to keep them in the cup.

It would certainly help, though, not just for the team but for the whole of Scotland, if they could produce their one big team effort next Saturday.

It would be nice for all of us, those who have travelled to New Zealand and those of us back home, to have something to cheer about, after all.

Donate to us: support independent, intelligent, in-depth Scottish journalism from just 3p a day