The Verdict: Scotland player ratings v Argentina (Autumn Tests 2016)

Is fourth time lucky a thing? Scotland needed a few goes at it but earned their win the hard way. It was a dominant last 17 minutes that set up the victory after an evenly balanced match had seemed to be trickling away from them. Here’s On Top Of The Moon’s guide to who was hot (and who was not) at an icy cold Murrayfield on Saturday.

BACKS

Stuart Hogg – 6
Most of his carries came from kick returns, where he was met by a wall of blue and white jerseys. Tried to provide a spark in the Argentine 22 but Scotland struggled to make much of an impact there. Point off for the missed tackle on Orlando’s try. He maybe couldn’t have prevented the score but the tackle had to be made.
Moment of the match: stepping in like some kind of enforcer after Greig Laidlaw’s first pushing match.
Sean Maitland – 6
Sometimes it would be nice if he wasn’t so laid back. Debutant or not, Magnus Bradbury should have had an earful from Sleepy Sean after failing to put the wing away.  Not quite enough for a point off as the whole defensive line was too narrow for the Pumas’ try – but he still should have got something on Orlando.
Moment of the match: following up to win back the ball when the penultimate penalty came off the post – which really ought to have set up the winning points…
Huw Jones – 7
When he got on the ball he looked the absolute business, same as last week. His combination of pace, strength and balance allows him to make breaks from the most unpromising of situations. His defence was solid as well. Duncan who?
Moment of the match: identifying and executing the offload to Sean Maitland after a great step.
Alex Dunbar – 8
Along with the rest of the outside backs he may have wondered at times whether he should have just taken the night off. Involving the backline in attack was a rarity, particularly in a first half when Scotland seemed to regard the ball as warmly as a hand grenade with the pin pulled. His defensive work was outstanding though and largely negated the Argnetinian attack.
Moment of the match: taking a battering as he held up Hernandez to win the ball back with just seconds remaining.
Tommy Seymour – 6
A quiet night for Touchdown Tommy and the first time this season he has failed to score while wearing the number 11 jersey. Had to look sharp on defence at times including covering back on Landajo’s grubber but with little width in Argentina’s attack Tommy was under-utilised.
Moment of the match: a trademark take of a Greig Laidlaw box kick in the last 10 minutes – the only one Scotland recovered all night.
Finn Russell – 7
Bumped off by Orlando in the first half which very nearly lead to an Argentinain try. It was the only tackle he missed all night though and he put in a tough shift against a Pumas’ attack determined to make headway through the 10 and 12 channels. Really needs to work on those drop goals…
Moment of the match: stopping Sanchez on the line.
Greig Laidlaw – 6
He certainly makes it hard to come to a single figure to rate his performance. His passing was at times too low, too high or too loopy – a below par 4. His kicking was perfect bar a 50cm adjustment required on one – probably a 7. He motivated and lead the team, particularly in those vital last 10 minutes (7/8) but he wasn’t decisive enough in his actual a play around the rucks (4/5). Tough to call but overall a solid 6 it is.
Moment of the match: the big old grin after he nailed that last kick.

FORWARDS

Allan Dell – 6
Looked more settled than last week and as if he had found his feet a little more with the defensive alignments. Maybe benefited a little from the attention at scrum time being focussed on Fagerson and Noguera Paz. Also Herrera appeared to be on his best behaviour after a shambolic showing last week against Wales so there were less shenanigans on that side of the setpiece!
Moment of the match: a nice offload out the tackle – the only one thrown by a Scottish forward all night.
Fraser Brown – 6
Complemented the back row well and was a consistent annoying presence around the breakdown (from a Pumas’ perspective anyway!) There’s no avoiding that the fundamentals of his job include throwing into the line out and he loses a mark here. he had a couple of wobbles early on and a pair of overthrows either side of half time, one of them just 5 metres from the Argentinian try line.
Moment of the match: his Rab C. Nesbitt heaband after returning from the blood bin.
Zander Fagerson – 5
With Scotland struggling for continuity in the first 50 minutes he wasn’t able to carry as much as he did against Australia but he still worked hard in the loose. Attention will be focused on his scrummaging but he ended the night almost even with the Argentinain loosehead – and Scotland’s 2 worst scrums occurred after he had been replaced.
Moment of the match: winning a scrum penalty against Noguera Paz.
Jonny Gray – 8
He’s just really bloody good at everything (with the possible exception of moustache growing).
Moment of the match: a small thing but even after 80 minutes of hammering himself into the ground he illustrated his relentless nature by still being willing to follow in Greig Laidlaw’s match-winning penalty – in case another one came back off the post.
Grant Gilchrist – 6
This was another step back up towards his pre-injury best. It’s still hard to see the benefit of making him go through this process on the Test match stage though. Vern Cotter has shown he’s willing to select based on form (when given a nudge by injuries) so why has Ben Toolis, who has outplayed Gilchrist throughout this season, not been included?
Moment of the match: any one of 9 solid but unspectacular tackles.
John Barclay – 7
The Argentinians were extremely effective at shutting off the breakdown area so there were far fewer opportunities for JB to dominate this area compared to the game against Australia. He responded by upping his carrying duties and helping guide his flankers (combined total – 3 caps) through the match.
Moment of the match: every time he didn’t concede a penalty – of all the Scots he seemed the most in tune with Mr. O’Keeffe and managed to push his luck to the maximum.
Hamish Watson – 8
He has this remarkable sort of pin balling style to his carrying which allows him to bounce of people when they try to take him down. In fact nobody on the Scotland team beat more defenders than Hamish! He was also taking on more of the jackalling duties and was almost flawless in his tackling.
Moment of the match: the perfect steal on Hernandez with just over 5 minutes left on the clock.
Magnus Bradbury – 7.5
Mad Mags’ performance was so good for a debutant it deserved an 8 but judged on the same scale as everyone else it was a strong 7. Hence the descent into the madness of decimal point scoring. For a lad who nearly puked when he found out he was in the team he betrayed no sign of nerves on the pitch.
Moment of the match: showcasing powerful credentials with his very first carry in international rugby – straight through the tackler, over the gain line, no messing.

SUBSTITUTES

Ross Ford – made a big contribution to the defensive stand in Scotland’s 22 that saw off Landajo’s break and 2 scrums.
Alex Allan – helped shore up the last 2 scrums, forcing the Argentinians to move the ball – whereupon they were immediately turned over both times.
Moray Low – got emptied on back to back scrums midway through the the second half but helped hold up the last 2.
Tim Swinson – not much to do other than pull in the lineout that lead to Laidlaw’s penalty miss.
Ryan Wilson – was one of the primary carriers in that frantic last 10-20 minutes.
Ali Price – unused. Hopefully he’s had a really comfy cushion to sit on the last 2 weeks…
Peter Horne – thank goodness he got back to cover the charged down drop goal attempt or else Argentina might have had a shot at going the length of the field to win.
Tim Visser – nothing to do but cross his fingers at the last kick (rumours that he made a flappy half attempt before the rest of the team had to cover finger crossing duties for him are little more than scurrilous scuttlebutt).

The ‘Official’ On Top Of The Moon Scot of the match was…Hamish Watson, just ahead of Magnus Bradbury. Because frankly it would be a little boring giving it to Jonny Gray every single game! Hamish was strong in attack and defence adapting well against a team playing a very different style to that which he faced against Australia last week.


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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