How Scotland sprung surprises to beat fading France

From BBC - February 12, 2018

Feeling in good shape? Me too. Funny, but this morning my knees do not feel as bad as yesterday. The crystal clear tap water tastes even better, my porridge was not as chewy, and the air feels clean. Oh how good it is when your team wins.

Let's get the obvious stuff out the way first. Jonny Gray and Grant Gilchrist had superb games in the second row as Scotland came from behind to sink France at Murrayfield.

It was not only what they did in tandem - one offload from Gray to his partner in the lead up to the Sean Maitland try was extraordinary - but in what they did individually in open field running and generally smashing things up.

Peter Horne likewise had the drive and bite needed in a team getting back to winning ways. Man-of-the-match Greig Laidlaw provided an over arching calm and assurance. And Simon Berghan blossomed the longer the game went on.

David Denton is one of the answers to a question I sometimes ask myself which is: "Who are the muckle number eights who within the last couple of years seemed first choice for Scotland but have been posted missing for some reason?" The other answer is Josh Strauss.

Denton came on and made an impact. Ryan Wilson had a quiet first half but when he goes to work, he goes to work, and Wilson clocked in after forty minutes.

To win rugby games you need (at least) parity up front, and Scotland had that.

And, again stating the obvious, it's a wee nod of approval to head coach Gregor Townsend who made a substitution that few would have predicted; ejecting Finn Russell from the pitch to move Laidlaw to stand-off. Who saw that coming? Nobody.

Before we touch on the key to Scotland's success a word on France. French rugby players are outrageously out of condition when compared to the other top class countries.

Their Top 14 can be over reliant on a kicking and mauling game allied to a player-buying culture equating value with sheer size.

The French have lost their first two games in the Six Nations for the first time since 2013 and both matches have slipped away from them with good reason. It's sad to see a French team trying to slow the game down.

There is speed and ability with the likes of Teddy Thomas on the wing, centre Geoffrey Doumayrou, and the ever-present Yacouba Camara at wing forward.

But the longer the game went on, the less we saw of them, and the less we saw of the "S" word that is worth mentioning now.

Arguably, the most important piece of any team's armoury is its shape.


Continue reading at BBC »