All aboard the Robinson rollercoaster
November 29, 2012
Andy Robinson celebrates with Dan Parks following their win over Ireland in 2010 © Getty Images
Andy Robinson's recent announcement that he was stepping down as Scotland boss brought to an end a mixed tenure including memorable wins over southern hemisphere giants but also poor performances closer to home. With this in mind, this week's Scrum Sevens looks back at a selection of seminal moments in Robinson's reign.
Robinson swaps club for country - June 2009
Following Frank Hadden's decision to step down following a disappointing 2009 Six Nations - which saw the men in blue record just one win against Italy at Murrayfield - Robinson was the obvious choice to replace him. Prior to his unveiling as the new Scotland boss he had worked wonders at Edinburgh. In his first season in charge he guided his unfancied side to a fourth place finish in the league, despite a torrid pre-season that saw the projected signing of Stephen Larkham fall through.
In his second season at Edinburgh, he pushed them up to second with his team scoring the most points with the second-most tries in the league. While they failed to make a dent on the European scene, Robinson's reputation was at an all-time high. He would make a promising start to his tenure in charge of Scotland guiding them to a memorable win over Australia in November 2009 in what were dreadful conditions, a week after they had downed Fiji in Robinson's first game. But the autumn ended on a sour note with a 9-6 loss to the Pumas.
Snaring the Pumas - June 2010
In Robinson's first Six Nations as Scotland coach, the team experienced mixed fortunes as they opened with three consecutive losses - to France, Wales and worst of all, Italy - but they bounced back with a draw at home to England and finished it off with a memorable 23-20 triumph over Ireland in Croke Park. But that battle for northern hemisphere supremacy marked the end of Robinson's honeymoon period. He then had to back up all the off-field promises of improvement with results. And they did just that on the summer tour of Argentina.
Wins in Argentina are not to be sniffed at. It is an immensely hard place to go but Scotland managed to silence the Pumas' passionate home support on not one, but two occasions on successive weekends. The first of their two Tests ended in a 24-16 triumph in Tucuman - with Dan Parks slotting all 24 points - and this was backed up with a 13-9 victory a week later. This was a Pumas team packed with stars and Robinson's settled side prevailed.
Bagging the Boks' scalp - November 2010
Robinson suffered his heaviest loss in charge of Scotland in the first of their three autumn internationals in 2010. They came up against the All Blacks - a team that a year later would be celebrating their second World Cup win - and were blown away 49-3. It was a reality check for Robinson and his team.
But credit to the Scots, rather than being rabbit in the headlamps when they faced South Africa the week later, they re-grouped and won 21-17. Parks was once again their hero as he kicked all of their 21 points and despite Willem Alberts - the scourge of England - going over late on, the Scots held firm and recorded a hugely impressive victory.
This was backed up with a win over Samoa in Aberdeen a week later and Robinson's team went into the 2011 Six Nations hoping to break out of the bottom two that had become their usual home.
A World Cup of woe - October 2011
Scotland's Nathan Hines shows his emotion at their early World Cup exit © PA Photos
Following on from an awful Six Nations campaign - which saw Scotland record just win, against rivals Wooden Spoon rivals Italy - not much was expected from them heading into the 2011 World Cup. But they warmed up for the competition with a win - against Ireland and then another over Italy - which raised some hope that Scotland would continue their record of having qualified for the knockout stages at every World Cup. But after unconvincing wins over Romania and Georgia, they fell to Argentina by a point and had to beat England to progress. But they failed to overcome Martin Johnson's side, a team who were preoccupied with their own off-field strife - and had to take an early plane home.
Robinson's future came into question after the World Cup but the SRU stuck by him. The coach said at the time: "There are a lot of positives I'm going to take out of the tournament and for the squad it's important now we're able to start the planning now for the Six Nations."
The damning Wooden Spoon - March 2012
After their pair of fifth-place finishes under Robinson, the Scottish faithful were hopeful that the 2012 Six Nations would mark a resurgence by that crop of players. Their first match of the tournament saw them come up against a new-look England who were taking their first tentative steps under Stuart Lancaster. In what were horrendous conditions, debutant Owen Farrell - alongside a charge-down try from Charlie Hodgson - guided England to a 13-6 victory at Murrayfield.
And it got worse for Scotland. They fell to Wales (despite ending a run of four games without a try), France and Ireland to set-up a Wooden Spoon shootout against fellow strugglers Italy. It was the Azzurri who prevailed 13-6 and Robinson was once again facing questions about his future.
The SRU once again backed him and Robinson held on to his job. But what was perhaps most remarkable about the whole tournament, from a Scotland point-of-view, was the case of Dan Parks. He was handed the fly-half berth for their first match of the competition against England, despite the impressive form of Greig Laidlaw, and played a key role in their defeat with his kick leading to Hodgson's score. He announced his retirement from Test rugby just three days later - a remarkable turnaround and one that must have upset the apple cart for Robinson and his charges.
Taming the southern hemisphere - June 2012
With the sorrowful showing in the Six Nations still ringing in Robinson's ears, his next assignment was to take his side to the southern hemisphere. They started their three-Test tour with a win over Australia in Newcastle. As seems to be the case with Scotland's wins over the big southern hemisphere three, the victory came in atrocious conditions but Robinson's side played the match to perfection and came away with a 9-6 victory.
Next came Fiji in Lautoka with Scotland prevailing 37-25 - a match which saw Tim Visser's debut in the blue of Scotland - and they finished off their trip south with a 17-16 win over Samoa. It was a morale-boosting tour and put them in good stead ahead of the November Tests.
Andy Robinson cuts a lonely figure after their loss to Tonga © Getty Images
The nadir - November 2012
In an autumn where all the northern hemisphere sides - apart from France - struggled against their southern hemisphere neighbours, Scotland emerged without a win to their name, and also coachless. 'Valiant' defeats against New Zealand - where the men in blue managed to score three tries - and South Africa were followed by their nadir.
Scotland went into their match with Tonga full of hope. While they had failed to record wins against the All Blacks and the Boks, they had showed plenty of promise. But against Tonga they were woeful. They fell to a 21-15 defeat, in front of unfamiliar surroundings in Aberdeen. The spotlight was once again back on the coach, and Robinson said in the aftermath of the Tonga defeat: "That was a totally unacceptable performance we've witnessed today. From my side I'm very angry. There will be consequences because of this performance."
The "consequences" resulted in him surrendering his position as Scotland coach. He departed his role at the SRU with a record of 10 defeats in his last 13 games but can hold on to the memories of impressive wins over South Africa and Australia.
© ESPN EMEA Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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