Scotland must put faith in flair
February 28, 2009
Thom Evans scraps through the Italy defence © Getty Images
Scotland's 26-6 win over Italy at Murrayfield had all the hallmarks of recent Six Nations games involving the Italians. It was scrappy, confrontational and at times horrendously limited in scope, but the fans streaming from Murrayfield and into Edinburgh's bars won't be talking about any of the leaden passages that dogged sections of the game.
What they will be talking about is pace and excitement, and more specifically Simon Danielli and the Evans brothers, Max and Thom. The Murrayfield faithful has been baying for a chance to see Scottish rugby's new darlings in action and while they weren't able to mask Scotland's lack of invention at certain stages, they raised the decibel level inside the ground on several cacophonous occasions.
Danielli's try, straight off the training paddock, exhibited a mixture of pace and precision that has been lacking from a Scotland side that has too often in the recent past looked more as though they were hacking away at a coalface than engineering any gaps in play.
Thom Evans too has justified the calls for his selection, with a try last week and a pacy assist for Scott Gray this week, and it is he and his brother who have created a much needed buzz among Scottish fans. The fact that they were missing from the Scotland side to face Wales at the start of the championship led to further ill feeling against coach Frank Hadden and now that he has rectified his mistake he would do well to stick with their attacking philosophy. The ability to score tries from deep and at pace frightens any side and for the remainder of the tournament the eyes of their opponents will be darting to the wings.
Scotland were comfortable in victory against a well meaning but misguided Italy side, and while they are far from the finished article their strike runners are beginning to show that they can inspire confidence amongst their team-mates.
It wasn't all that long ago that the Millennium Stadium crowd had little to cheer apart from the jinking brilliance of Shane Williams, his confidence and class a beacon for fans and team-mates alike. Scotland should follow this example. They do not possess game-breakers in every position but they do possess the intelligence and wit, particularly in scrum-half Mike Blair, to manufacture opportunities for their wide men. Scotland pulled off the old trick of winning today despite going without the ball for long periods of play, their discipline was excellent and there was a feeling all along that they could be clinical given the chance.
Italy's gnarled pack nearly snuffed out any attacking opportunities for Scotland with their extensive possession, the magnificent No.8 and captain Sergio Parisse exemplifying their spirit, but they are far too limited behind the scrum.
Their coach, Nick Mallett, must be wishing that he had 15 Parisse's to fill his team after he contributed to their two moments of quality during the 80 minutes, slotting a drop goal in the first half an pulling out an outrageous flick to set up Mauro Bergamasco for a near score.
Scotland, often lumped in with Italy this season as tournament write-offs, are not in this position. While Mallett can look through his side and pick out only several players with genuine pedigree Scotland have enough experience and quality in key positions to function as a powerful unit and now they finally have players to ignite their previously monotone backs play.
In a game that is becoming increasingly forward dominated, Scotland would do well to put yet more faith in pace and youthful exuberance.