It’s 999 emergency for Scotland. 9 in a row lost against Wales. 9 consecutive defeats in the Six Nations. 9 games in the past 5 seasons in the same tournament where Scotland have been drawing or winning at half-time and ended up losing. As ever though there were still signs of progress in amongst the carnage in Cardiff.
Stuart Hogg – 7
Only on the pitch for 28 minutes but still for the 2nd week running the most dangerous back – he was on fire before injury forced him off and diminished Scotland’s attacking threat.
Sean Lamont – 6
In a backline conceding a fair bit of size to their Welsh opponents he provided a useful outlet for making hard yards.
Mark Bennett – 5
Only touched the ball 5 times (3 good carries, all in the first half, and 2 kicks). When he was involved he looked sharp but for much of the game he was peripheral to the action.
Duncan Taylor – 6
His try scoring intervention was only his 2nd carry of the entire 80 minutes but that, allied to an outstanding try saving tackle, showed what he might be able to bring to the side in the future.
Tommy Seymour – 8
An incredible transformation from last week as he pouched everything, beating some of the best aerial exponents in the Northern Hemisphere on his way.
Finn Russell – 6
More consistency this week from the Finnocent One. At this rate of progress Scotland will be just bringing him nicely to the boil in time to return to Glasgow, so thanks for that Vern!
Greig Laidlaw – 7
Back to the kind of form he demonstrated in the RWC – helped by better work at the breakdown by the forwards and assistance from his teammates clearing the ball from the back of rucks.
Alasdair Dickinson – 6
Defence was typically robust and he got more involved in the carrying duties (in the 1st half at least). Strange day at the scrum although much of this may have been down to Mr. Clancy’s ‘interpretations’…
Ross Ford – 6
The most effective carrier in the pack behind Dave Denton and has yet to miss a tackle in the tournament. Lineout needs to be sharper but this was only partially his fault.
WP Nel – 6
He will feel that his efforts at the setpiece deserved much more reward than he received. Tired quite badly in the last 10/15 minutes which exposed Scotland’s lack of depth on the bench.
Jonny Gray – 6
It always feels almost slightly sacrilegious to criticise Jonny but as one of the sides primary carrying options he didn’t break the gain line often enough. Flawless defensively (of course).
Richie Gray – 6
A similar pattern seems to be developing to the RWC with Richie improving game by game. With two opensides playing the team need him throwing his weight around as much as possible.
John Barclay – 6
The jury is still out on the 2 Johns combo at flanker but this was always likely to be the game they matched up best (with the Welsh playing two 7s of their own). More physical tests await and reinforcements may be required.
John Hardie – 6
His stats are disfigured by 3 (or maybe 4) maul turnovers being attributed to him but even allowing for this he still had his quietest game so far in a Scotland shirt.
David Denton – 5
Only made about half the number of carries Scotland should be trying to get out of him. Breakdown work has improved hugely in recent times and he won 2 turnovers (and should have had a third).
Stuart McInally – effective carry, strong tackle, hit his jumpers. Deserves a chance to play with the first choice props in the near future.
Gordon Reid – an enthusiastic presence and locked down his side of the scrum late on – but can’t bring the same pressure to bear that Dickinson can.
Zander Fagerson – he’s a raw talent and needs nurturing but not using him when Nel was visibly wilting may be as harmful to his confidence as a few tough moments in the scrum.
Tim Swinson – got on the ball more this week but the game was past the necessity for tight carrying by that point.
Blair Cowan – barely on the pitch before being taken out by a Jamie Roberts ‘special’.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – tough to make an impact in 3 minutes. Should he get the start for Edinburgh in the 6 Nations rest week to sharpen him up?
Duncan Weir – the same goes for Duncan as for SHC and a start against Munster could be useful to avoid him going stale from minimal minutes.
Ruaridh Jackson – given Scotland’s luck it was almost guaranteed that with Maitland (full back cover) missing, Hogg wouldn’t last long. Rhubarb put in a solid shift without ever quite threatening the way Hoggy had until his beautifully timed pass put Duncan Taylor away late on.
Lack of depth was the theme last week so losing Maitland before kick off and then Hogg early on left the backline even more exposed. That things didn’t turn into a complete riot was down to players shaking off the poor form of last week (in particular Seymour and Laidlaw and, to a lesser extent, Russell) and Duncan Taylor stepping up to show he deserves his place at this level. There are improvements being shown but the hardest step of all is going to be developing a winning mentality. The next 2 fixtures have to be targeted as the best opportunities in this tournament to snap a lengthy losing streak.