Scotland player ratings – versus England 6 Nations

Scotland fought back from 31-0 down after half an hour to come within a whisker of winning at Twickenham for the first time in 34 years – but it wasn't to be

Scotland rugby team
The Scotland team celebrate Finn Russell's try. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

15. Sean Maitland – 7 out of 10

Solid under the high ball and in the tackle – including an excellent try-saving effort on Henry Slade in second half. Replaced by Adam Hastings on 67 minutes.

14. Darcy Graham – 9

He just keeps getting better and better, with two brilliantly taken tries here. Has electrifying pace and agility with ball in hand, while bravery and combativeness off the ball more than compensates for any lack of bulk. We need to stop talking about that now – he’s proven it is a non-issue. Survived a shoulder challenge at head level after the ball had gone from Owen Farrell, which happens too often with the England captain to be just a coincidence.

13. Nick Grigg – 6

Was left playing eenie-meenie-miney-mo between Henry Slade and Manu Tuilagi for the first try, and ended up throwing himself at Tuilagi when he really needed to hold his space. Like all his team-mates, was much better in the second half before suffering a leg injury and being replaced by Chris Harris on 56 minutes.

12. Sam Johnson – 8

An inauspicious start when he flew out the line at Owen Farrell and didn’t make the hit which left Nick Grigg exposed on his outside during the lead-up to Jonny May’s first minute try. Plenty of aggression in defence during that torrid opening period, including one huge tackle on Tuilagi, but questionable judgement at times, and generally Scotland were chasing shadows at that point. A huge second half performance, showing brilliant pace and power to ride five tackles for the try which put Scotland ahead with four minutes to go. Was beaten on the inside by George Ford for that late equalising try but Scotland were dead on their feet by that point.

11. Byron McGuigan – 8

Fought his corner with real aggression in the first half; and although chances didn’t come his way, his willingness to look for work was a very useful outlet for Scotland.

10. Finn Russell – 9

An astonishing player. As culpable as his team-mates (if not more so) during that awful first half, most notably when he missed touch with a penalty in overtime of that period, when he really needed to get his team into the changing rooms to re-group – he was lucky that Joe Launchbury lost the ball in contact or Scotland could have been even further behind at the break.

But when he turned it on after the break his instinctive brilliance was the key to what almost became the greatest comeback in international rugby history. He was, quite simply, untouchable – with that audacious interception try from halfway which tied the scores just before the hour being perhaps the most memorable moment – although his long, flat, cut-out pass to Maitland in the lead-up to Graham’s second try ran it close.

Ripped the ball off England prop Ellis Genge right at the death and then sent a 50-metre clearance downfield, which looked like it might secure a famous victory, but it wasn’t to be.

9. Ali Price – 8

A gutsy performance on the back foot during the first half. Was one of the few who didn’t go missing when the wheels came off. Was heavily involved in Graham’s try at start of the second half, then made Bradbury’s try a few minutes later by collecting his own chip ahead and feeding the rampaging No 8.


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1. Allan Dell – 5

Was caught napping whilst marking the front of the line-out from the scrum-half position for England’s second try. Scrum was fine. Replaced by Gordon Reid on 44 minutes.

2. Stuart McInally – 7

Charged down Farrell and had the pace and wherewithal to run it in from 60 yards, which provided Scotland with a much-needed boost just before half-time. Line-out wasn’t great. Scotland missed Laidlaw’s leadership when everything was going wrong in the opening 40.

3. WP Nel – 7

Not at the races in the first half, but who was? Scrum stacked up.

4. Ben Toolis – 7

Scotland’s top tackler with 20 and justified his selection ahead of Jonny Gray.

5. Grant Gilchrist – 7

The problems Scotland faced early on were not of the forwards’ making, although he did flap at a line-out around the 15 minute mark which suggested he was slightly shell-shocked by how things were going at that stage. Came onto the game and was generally his usual industrious and reliable self.

6. Sam Skinner – 7

Worked hard against the tide during his 56 minutes on the park before being replaced by Josh Strauss.

7. Hamish Watson – 8

The Pinball Wizard was his usual industrious self, especially in the first half when a lot of his team-mates appeared shell-shocked.

8. Magnus Bradbury – 8

Came onto a game in the second half with some thunderous carries and, of course, that rampaging try. Has done brilliantly in coming back after four months out and putting in three huge shifts in the Six Nations. Easy to forget that he is still something of a novice at international level, with this only his seventh cap.


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Replacements

16. Fraser Brown – 4

Gave away a penalty just inside Scotland’s half with less than 10 seconds to go, for trying to snaffle the ball when off his feet, and that proved costly. England kicked to the corner and established a strangle-hold from which the visitors just couldn’t escape.

17. Gordon Reid – 7

Came on in 44 minutes for Allan Dell so can claim that Scotland won 31-7 during his time on the park.

18. Simon Berghan – 7

Replaced WP Nel with 23 minutes to go and made an important contribution when he ripped the ball from Billy Vunipola for Sam Johnson’s try.

19. Jonny Gray – 7

Came on, made lots of tackles, didn’t let anyone down. Standard.

20. Josh Strauss – 6

Scotland’s bench impact is becoming a key component of their artillery, it would be great if the guys who started could make the same sort of impression.

21. Greig Laidlaw – 7

Would Scotland have been better off with their skipper on the park to put his foot on the break when it was all unravelling during the first half? That debate will run and run. When he did get on, he carried on from where Price left off. His long range penalty to put Scotland into the lead with 13 minutes to go didn’t have the legs but that seems academic now.

22. Adam Hastings – 7

A brilliant last-gasp tackle on England’s left wing prevented what appeared a definite Jack Nowell try. In reflection, it might have been better for Scotland if the try had been scored at that point because it would have left George Ford with a really difficult conversion, whereas England scored under the posts a two phases later. But you can’t think that way in the white heat of international rugby.

23. Chris Harris – 7

Added energy during the final quarter.


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David Barnes
About David Barnes 1143 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

4 Comments

  1. Great points, Phil…..I dedicate my next Lucky Dip lottery win to help establish another pro team! All the best

  2. Water under the bridge now..real issue is to look at the future setup of the game at all levels in Scotland. Personally, I have no idea how we manage to compete internationally with only two professional teams. With the exception of Italy all of the 6 Nations countries have bigger bases to select from. How do we do it and how do we need to change to maintain our standing internationally? Wish I had the answer!

    • Dave, if you consider it from a different angle… the SRU is now in better financial health than ever before and ultimately, two teams seem to offer a sustainable model presently relative to the player base and overall earnings. Take the WRU as a comparison and they are in serious trouble, mainly as a result of overextension in their coffers servicing 4 teams. Unless we have some Scottish billionaire come out the woodwork and offer to start another pro team under a privatised model (I would love to be that person), I think the only feasible option is to allocate resources to grassroots and build the domestic game as much as possible, keeping talent tight in Scotland!?

  3. Laidlaw was and is in no way better than Price when he came on!! As we had the ball in the 78th minute, he should have kept it in the forwards and just kept on keeping it…instead he decided to put up one of his usual weak box kicks thereby handing the ball and the game back to England!! He is not a good scrumhalf or captain and I wish the Scottish press would stop making him out to be so. Price & Horne are the future and better all round players in running, passing, tackling and box-kicking!! All Laidlaw has is his place kicking and even that wasn’t any good today!!

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