End of an Awful Season – and Goodbye to a Legend

March 17th, 2012

Scotland’s rugby season has just ended with an appallingly inept performance against Italy which consigned us to a whitewash and left the overall structure of the team even less certain than it was at the beginning. The lineout, which had been a strength even in defeat earlier in the season, was a shambles with Ford overthrowing horribly and the preparation seemingly confused and giving Italy easy targets. Generally there was a lack of urgency and a lack of leadership and awareness – in the second half with an Italian down injured why was Denton not told to spread the ball from his mark rather than passing it back for a kick?

Yet we’ve had two of the standout forwards of the season in Ritchie Gray and David Denton, the back-row in general has been a good-looking unit, Mike Blair has looked much more like his old self and we have an exciting new full-back in Hogg. So what has gone wrong? Admittedly the match against England was a horror story for Dan Parks and caused his retirement – we should have won that easily but couldn’t cross the line. With Jackson still recovering his form after injury that pitched in Laidlaw, who has done quite well but his small stature has been occasionally exposed in tackle situations. The bad injury to Rory Lamont both removed a strong player and disrupted the momentum in the game it occurred and evoked bad memories of the injury which finished Thom Evan’s career – we do seem to have been unlucky with injury in this way.

Given the platform that the forwards produced early in the season we should have had a better functioning back division. There seems to be a lack of direction and pace about the backs in set-piece attacks which suggests lack of belief – the defence always seems to have the command of the situation and is never under pressure, while the attackers always seem to be looking to see what to do instead of running fast first and then reacting to the gaps that open because of it. There also seems to be a reluctance to engage in broken play attacks which we used to be so good at exploiting. To me the responsibility for this has to rest with the backs coach Gregor Townsend – never a favourite of mine during his playing career – though Andy Robinson will undoubtedly come under pressure too given his 3/11 record. If the rumours of Townsend going to Glasgow to replace Sean Lineen are true then we may see some difference there next year depending on who is appointed.

Mervyn Davies

Sad to see the death from cancer of Mervyn Davies. Watching rugby as a youngster he was one of those player you couldn’t help but admire even when he was hammering your own country. A big man for his time he was a fine link between forwards and backs, and his ability to poach ball from the back of the lineout with a seemingly telescopic reach remains in the mind’s eye. But not just as a wonderful player but as a leader, who led by example and a quiet word here and there, is how he will be remembered. His presence had much to do with the two most successful Lions tours ever. In an era of incomparable stars – Barry John, Gerald Davies, Gareth Edwards, JPR, Phil Bennett, JJ Williams, most of them glamorous backs, he was a forward who everyone knew and everyone respected. He will be much missed.

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