The Verdict: Scotland player ratings v Samoa

So how to judge the strangest game of the campaign (so far)? So much to worry about around kick-offs, defensive patterns and the breakdown. But ultimately the side came through and won the game, achieving the most basic goal we had for this RWC – make it to the quarter finals.

BACKS

Stuart Hogg – 5
Was visibly struggling with cramp from about 52 minutes in. Was only taken off after 70 minutes after it had almost cost us a try when he could not cover a kick through at full pace. 2 areas of concern arise, mostly related to coaching/management: why is a 23 year old full back not fit enough to last the pace off 7 days rest? And why was he left on the pitch when we could easily bring on a vastly experienced replacement in Sean Lamont and move Sean Maitland to FB where he is equally as comfortable as he is on the wing?

Sean Maitland – 6
The only back not to miss a tackle (he made 5 which is too many for a wing/FB to be needed for). Also looked our most threatening runner ball in hand with 3 of our 9 clean breaks and where he was also badly let down at least 3 times by players not being able to execute basic skills with the defensive line stretched. Would he have made more of his chances if he had been sharpened by more game time? One for the coaches to ponder…

Mark Bennett – 4
Another who looked a little rusty after a fortnight off. Only 4 carries which is just nowhere near enough for one of our main strike runners though he did still turn that into more metres than anyone bar the 2 wingers. Defensively he was all at sea – 2 missed tackles (out of 7) is only half the story with the Samoan centres seemingly breaking through untouched at will at times and Mark often looking like he didn’t know who he should be covering. The first half goes on the players but given there seemed little reorganisation after half time the coaches have got to shoulder their share of the blame too.

Matt Scott – 4
He was the biggest of the 4 starting centres but you wouldn’t know it from the relative physicality on display. Carried 6 times and made a grand total of 2 metres which is immensely disappointing. Marginally less guilty than Bennett on the defensive fiasco in midfield but mainly because the Samoans were looking to challenge round the corner once they’d got round the Scots defence rather than down his channel – and he was as bad as anyone for not moving across quickly enough.

Tommy Seymour – 6
Touchdown Tommy continued his scoring run with today’s try taking his run to 4 successive Test with a 5-pointer. He also worked hard, carrying more than any other Scotland back and making more metres than anyone other than Maitland – although, being churlish, normally with that many carries he would expect to break at least one open for a huge gain.

Finn Russell – 5
We hoped he would be the Messiah for this game but he played more like a very naughty boy. The only player who seemed keen to try and get some kind of offloading game but generally he was marginally off the pace with his speed of thought and action, such as his 2 kicks to nothing with penalties coming that caused no discomfort whatsoever for the Samoan defence. His own defensive efforts were also not up to his usual high standards, missing 2 of his 5 tackles.

Greig Laidlaw – 6
Well what a lot to talk about here.

The Good:

  • Took charge after half time and dictated to what had been a rather directionless pack of forwards.
  • Won his kicking duel with Tusi Pisi.
  • Took his try well at a vital stage in the game.

The Bad:

  • Frequently slow to the breakdown.
  • Frequently slow at the breakdown.
  • Not enough effort to get in Peyper’s ear about the 19 penalties Samoa managed to concede without coming close to a yellow card.

The Ugly:

  • Spotted space down the wing in the first half (mainly because Maitland called it) and when the Samoan defender over-committed to block the pass it left no-one at home and the chance to put the grubber through for Sleepy Sean to run in on but he couldn’t get it done.
  • Spotted space down the wing of the back of a turnover in the second half (mainly because Miaitland called it) but ran towards his winger instead of stepping in and taking away the defender – a basic skill executed perfectly by Danny Care later in the evening.
  • Less box kicks than usual but there was one in the second half where you could see he just wanted rid of the ball and punted it forward with no-one to chase – leading to Samoa immediately heading back to our 22.

There was honestly an 8 out 10 performance in there struggling against a 4 out of 10 in some areas. That’s why I’ve averaged it out at a 6 which I think is a fair summary of his overall contribution.

FORWARDS

Alasdair Dickinson – 5
Had the beating of Census Johnson all afternoon but the continuity that Samoa managed in the first half reduced the opportunities for Scotland to impose their scrum dominance. They were also hindered by the fact that Mr. Peyper was less interested in offending at the scrum and more at getting the ball back in play, otherwise Samoa would not have won a single one of their own scrums. Al’s performance in the loose was rather summed up by 2 kick offs where he was first bumped off by the Samoan 8 and then waved the same player through without even making contact. Contributed 3 of the 8 tackles missed by the dark blue front row.

Ross Ford – 5
Handed off by the by a Samoan centre in the build up to the first try which was sadly reminiscent of the occasion he was stiff armed by Ronan O’Gara a couple of years ago, although with less tomato-faced girning involved. Just the 2 carries and he was as guilty as anyone in the Scottish pack (and they were all pretty much as bad) for ineffective clearouts and not protecting the ball carrier which allowed Samoa to turn ball over (or win penalties for holding on) on at least half a dozen occasions.

WP Nel – 6
The strongest performer among Scotland’s front rowers – only Hardie had more carries among all forwards and Eskimo put himself about well, also contributing the only proper jackal to win a holding on penalty that any of the Scotland players managed in the game. He was also well on top in the scrum although the comments for Dickinson apply here as well as it didn’t provide the decisive advantage that might have been hoped. 3 missed tackles out of 9 is an issue and like the rest of his teammates his defensive work will need to be a lot better against Australia in a week’s time.

Jonny Gray – 5
Looked tired and that is not something you ever expect to find yourself saying about Jonny. Only carried the ball 4 times in the game with 9 tackles made (1 missed). For a guy who can usually hit double figures for both categories in his sleep this is a bit of a worry. Glasgow are going to have issues because even though they are short at lock it looks like both Gray and Nakarawa will need a rest for a period post RWC if they’re not going to end up burnt out at some stage this season.

Richie Gray – 6
The only forward not to miss a tackle but there were times the situation was crying out for him not to go in and assist with a tackle that was already being made but rather to hold back and then drive over the ball before the Samoan support arrived. Didn’t get too much pressure on the opposition throw in at the lineout but our own set piece was generally solid (overthrows aside). Just doesn’t seem to pop up in the right places to take advantage for his skill set – he needs to be wider out and trying to find mismatches as he is just not an effective tight carrier.

Ryan Wilson – 3
Mark off for the brainless stamp which could have proved extremely costly, even before you consider that he was inches away from a red card. The one and only time he carried the ball in the entire game was off the charged down kick where he reacted really well but then ruined it by throwing a horror show pass with 3 Scottish bodies to aim at. 50% tackle completion (3 made, 3 missed) is also not what is needed from a number 6. The player can’t take 100% of the blame – he’s not been used in the right way at all in this RWC. Strokosch or, more likely, Cowan will start at 6 against Australia.

John Hardie – 6
Hard, hard graft for the man from Lumsden – ridiculous though that Scotland’s number 7 ended up being the forward with the most carries. He hit every contact hard but it was tough making any impact on the Samoan defence – particularly as the follow up from his teammates was so weak. Another with 3 missed tackles to his name – he can’t afford any next week. Scotland’s opposition in the pool stages have created 385 rucks. 378 of them have ended successfully so Scotland have managed to spoil/turnover just 1.8% of them and the vast majority have barely been contested allowing quick ball to be recycled. Our opensides have to take their share of the blame for not getting over the ball better but the fundamental issue appears to be the way the coaches want to approach the breakdown. To my eyes it simply is not working to our strengths.

David Denton – 5
What happened between the warm up matches and the RWC proper starting? Dave was in the form of his life, mixing up his game, making good decisions and showing some handling skills. Since the tournament started he has regressed further and further in each game. He at least has maintained the improved defensive efforts (9 tackles made, 1 missed) but he’s in the team for his offensive prowess and yesterday’s efforts of 7 carries for just 5 metres allied to dropping the ball yards from the line was way below the standard he would expect. In fact excluding Wilson’s gain from the charged down kick Scotland’s pack combined for 39 carries but just 36 metres gained across the whole match – a Denton or a Strauss would expect to make that much ground in a game by themselves. The whole pack needs to carry better but will find themselves up against the brick wall that is the Australian defence on Sunday – this could be one to watch from behind the sofa…

SUBSTITUTES

Fraser Brown – doesn’t hook but plays the rest of his game more like a modern hooker – basically an auxiliary openside. He did completely bomb a huge overlap outside him by cutting back into contact though.

Gordon Reid – brief cameo while Dickinson had his HIA. Not much chance to make an impact.

Jon Welsh – unused.

Tim Swinson – managed the same number of carries as both the Gray brothers but only played 19 minutes. Doesn’t have the size but uses what he does have far more aggressively than his peers in the squad.

Josh Strauss – appeared to have the same issue as Denton – despite being a primary ball carrying option he just couldn’t seem to get his hands on it. Even when Scotland were slowing things down they couldn’t seem to organise themselves to get their dominating carriers front and centre to take it up.

Henry Pyrgos – unused. Only himself to blame – had the chance to put his hand up and for the selectors hand against the USA but he did not take it. Needs to get back to Glasgow and show he can be the number 1 number 9 and run the show for for the Warriors if he wants to take the next step in his career.

Peter Horne – cameo – not too much can be said.

Sean Lamont – as mentioned above should have been on a lot earlier for a struggling Stuart Hogg and in fact his solidity in defence and under the high ball might have been useful for stiffening the Scotland resolve. 100 caps is a huge achievement though and he should be very, very proud. Would be great if he could sign off next week by finally breaking his RWC duck with a try against Australia.


So are these ratings too low, too high or just right? Add your thoughts below!

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2 comments

  1. Denton had his best game in a Scotland jersey by a long way. Maitland was shaping up for a stormer but Joubert and the TMO put paid to that with their collision.

    Like

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