The Verdict: Scotland player ratings v Italy

It was 10th time lucky for Scotland as they snapped their 6 Nations winless streak. But who were the key contributors to the victory?

BACKS

Stuart Hogg – 8
Beating defenders for fun at the minute (6 tackles missed on him plus committing opponents before passing or offloading). The best full back in the tournament right now.
Tommy Seymour – 6
He didn’t see much of the ball but still kept up his excellent scoring record. What’s been positive for Scotland (and Glasgow) is his defensive work being much more solid.
Mark Bennett – 5
For the third game in succession he barely touched the ball (he’s had 11 carries in the championship – Campagnaro managed 10 on Saturday alone!)
Duncan Taylor – 7
He was the key man in the backline’s defensive effort and looked threatening with ball in hand – on the few occasions he received it…
Tim Visser – 6
A tidy performance with the undoubted highlight being some nifty handling to put Hoggy into space. Could have done with protecting his full back when the ball was in the air.
Finn Russell – 7
Dreadful start with his first kick to touch (from a penalty no less) but he brushed it off, like he always does, and gave it a bit of everything to keep the Italian defence guessing.
Greig Laidlaw – 8
Welcome back to the Little General. Why can’t it alway be like this? Captained well. Kicked well. Made good decisions. Motivated his team. Slick service. Job done.

FORWARDS

Alasdair Dickinson – 8
He was ridiculously dominant in the scrum with Cittadini penalised so many times it was extraordinary he wasn’t even warned let alone carded.
Ross Ford – 7
He’s no Jonny Gray but 3 games and 24 tackles into the tournament he’s still to miss one. Lineout was tidier and he was influential at the scrum where Scotland just wanted to drive over the ball at every opportunity.
WP Nel – 6
If he’d wanted a rest he could surely have just asked instead of swatting the ball away like he was snot klapping a haggis?
Jonny Gray – 8
His carrying was more effective when he took it straight up rather than going on one of those diagonal runs looking for a weak shoulder – but he consistently got over the gain line. 22 tackles with none missed. That’s 22 and none…!
Richie Gray – 7
Another step up from the big man – by the Ireland game he’ll be flying. Unlucky not to get more reward for a couple of lineout steals where possession was immediately conceded.
John Barclay – 8
The outstanding player in an outstanding back row display. John the Elder revelled in playing a well balanced unit and was hunting down the ball all afternoon.
John Hardie – 7
The only player to play all 240 minutes of Scotland’s 6 Nations so far, John the Younger has displayed great resilience and combined particularly well with Barclay and Wilson.
Ryan Wilson – 7
Unquestionably his strongest showing for Scotland and it was no coincidence that he was playing in his natural position.

SUBSTITUTES

Stuart McInally – again looked good in his cameo. But when is he likely to get more than that for Scotland or Edinburgh?
Rory Sutherland – unused. Similar position to Rambo – not easy to be backing up the same player for club and country.
Moray Low – one scrum and one penalty to Scotland – although it was very messy so hard to judge how influential he was.
Tim Swinson – sneaked on after the last try.
Josh Strauss – What would have happened if a back row had gone down early – McInally or Swinson on? It all worked out anyway and he managed a couple of decent carries.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne – unused. Really needs to get some more minutes under his belt for Edinburgh during the 6 Nations rest week.
Peter Horne – one strong burst but 3 missed tackles – very unusual for someone who is usually such a tenacious defender.
Sean Lamont – brought on purely to counter Sergio Parisse’s very pouty Blue Steel with a Le Tigre of his own.

The ‘Official’ On Top Of The Moon Scot of the match was…John Barclay. Plenty of contenders (Laidlaw’s boot and leadership, Dickinson’s scrum dominance, Jonny’s defence, Hoggy’s try creation) but JB making a total mess of the Italian breakdown killed their momentum time after time. On another day (with another ref) he could have won another half dozen turnovers or penalties.


For the avoidance of doubt:
10 – DC v the Lions, 2nd Test 2005
9 – excellent
8 – very good
7 – good
6 – decent
5 – pass marks
4 – poor
3 – very poor
2 – waste of space
1 – waste of oxygen
0 – comatose
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