In this years 6 Nations, Scotland v Ireland pitted two mastermind coaches against each other. Both Joe Schmidt and Gregor Townsend understand the dark arts of elite level strike moves and generating defensive mismatches. Ireland won, and that result will now be etched in history. But here are some moments that could have tipped the balance the other way.

Scotland v Ireland | The Injury that cost a try

Here Scotland get a turnover and Hogg puts a kick in. Unfortunately, he is then checked and taken out of the play. This results in a shoulder injury for the talented Scottish full-back.

Hogg picks up an injury
Hogg picks up an injury

Scotland now desperately need to organise their backfield defence in his absence. Maitland instructs Hogg (red circles) to join the defensive line while he tries to cover fullback and wing.

Hogg has to join the defensive line while injured
Hogg has to join the defensive line while injured

Ireland are aware of Hogg’s absence in the backfield and move to take advantage of it immediately with a kick. Here we can see where Hogg is in the line at the start of the clip, and where he should have been if not injured.

Where Hogg should have been
Where Hogg should have been

Ireland finish off the move and score. Would Hogg have covered this had he not been injured? Would Ireland have even kicked if he wasn’t injured? A speculative kick like this is certainly not their usual behaviour. Let us know if this was 5 saveable points.

Murray scores after the Hogg injury
Murray scores after the Hogg injury

If you have been keeping up with the 1014 content you know we are big fans of the current form of Finn Russell. The article below explains some of his skills last week against Italy.

Scotland v Italy | Scotland’s Game-Changing Innovation

Let’s take a look at the Finn Russell magic that both worked and didn’t work.

Scotland v Ireland | Finn Russell’s many moments

Here we can see Russell in the defensive line. He is going for an intercept, and the read on the pass is beautiful.

Russell assists Scotland's try
Russell assists Scotland’s try

Scotland would score their sole try off this play.

Here are some of the moments that almost came off. Below Russell throws a great pass to Johnson before a line break. The next pass is questionable for sure, but nevertheless Scotland advance.

Russell throws a nice pass
Russell throws a nice pass

Russell now demands the ball again and skips past 2 defenders, then has the presence of mind to put a chip in. Seymour can’t quite get the pass away for the try.

Seymour almost finishes the Russell chip
Seymour almost finishes the Russell chip

This is another moment where good Irish defence prevented 5 or 7 points for Scotland at the final second. The margins between these two sides were very narrow. However, Ireland fully deserved the win for the way they shut down one particular Scottish tactic.

Scotland v Ireland | Why stacking players outside the 15-metre line didn’t work

Ireland don’t like playing outside the 15-metre lines on both attack and defence. Scotland, therefore, made a point of stacking players out there on attack. Below, Scotland uses a pod to hold defenders before going outside the 15-metre line.

Scotland pull Ireland wide
Scotland pull Ireland wide

On this occasion, the kick finds good territory. But Scotland would get closer to making this tactic work later in the match. This time they manufacture a two-on-one by stacking players wide, but Kearney saves the day for Ireland by applying pressure to Jones at just the right moment.

Scotland almost profit from stacking players outside the 15-metre line
Scotland almost profit from stacking players outside the 15-metre line

Scotland had the right idea by using pods and dummy runners to try and get around Ireland’s rush defence, but they couldn’t plan for the Kearney effect.

Again below the Irish full-back applies pressure at just the right time. Scotland have already worked this one wide with an overlap. Kearney checks Johnson just as he kicks, and Murray is able to gather the ball under less pressure.

Scotland fall victim to the Kearney effect
Scotland fall victim to the Kearney effect

Scotland had bad luck in some areas (such as the Hogg injury), but the Irish players were just too good in others.

The 1014 Rugby explored what is holding Scotland back in significant detail over on their YouTube channel. See the following video for more information.

How far away are Scotland from England, Ireland and Wales? Do they have all the pieces of the puzzle to win a 6 Nations? We would love to hear your thoughts.

2 COMMENTS

  1. A great read, thanks.

    The challenge on Hogg was a disgrace IMO. If you look at the BBC slowmo footage of the incident it is obvious that POM deliberately changes his body position after the kick to take Hogg out. Not only that, he leads with his elbow while targeting Hogg’s knee.

    It still shouldn’t have led to a try as Seymour and Maitland should have had enough composure to deal with the kick by going to ground then clearing their lines. However pivotal that score was, the more serious issue is that a cynical career-threatening challenge has not been dealt with. This sends out all the wrong signals and does the game a huge disservice in the long run.

    It is interesting to note that in successive weeks, Scotland have had a try disallowed by a penalty being wrongly called against them during a Hogg attack then have lost a try because a penalty wrongly wasn’t called for them during a Hogg attack. In the former incident, Italy also pretty much score a try straight from the platform the penalty gave them. If these calls had been made correctly, Scotland beat Italy by about 40 rather than about 10 and they would have been attacking the Ireland line from a lineout while leading 3-0 instead of going 5-3 down. Massive moments.

    I think Seymour also messed up when Russell’s grubber created the 2 on 1 with Johnston. All he had to do was kick the ball in field for Johnston to run onto but instead he tried to gather the ball with a defender right on top of him. Again, a bit of composure lacking I think. (Assuming everyone is fit I wonder if we might see a back three of Hogg, Maitland and Graham against France?)

    But, as a Scotland supporter, there was still much to applaud Ireland for. Stockdale’s try was brilliantly executed (and analysed by Gareth) and is a great demonstration of how small the window of opportunity is even with perfect planning and execution. A brilliant goal-line stand at the end of the first half, including showing great concentration to deal with Russell’s dummy penalty. And Carbery was excellent – he may have thrown an intercept that Sexton wouldn’t while he was feeling his way into the game but there is no way that Sexton makes the third try. (I hope he is not as effective when Munster come to Edinburgh for the Q-F next month!)

    It’s been disappointing to read and listen to some of the negativity on other sites about this game. I thought both sides played some bloody good stuff and were cancelling each other out as a result for large parts; it was not as spectacular to watch as other games but the preparation, commitment and skills on show were no less commendable.

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