Try-less Scots worry Johnson

Sun, 10 Mar 2013 08:12
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Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson was concerned after his side's second successive Six Nations match without a try.

Scotland interim head coach Scott Johnson was concerned after his side's second successive Six Nations match without a try saw them lose 28-18 against Wales at Murrayfield.

The Scots defied logic in conceding territory, possession and the only try of the match last time out yet still enjoying a 12-8 home win over Ireland.

That victory stirred title hopes but it was Wales who remained leaders England's closest challengers after a Murrayfield encounter dominated by referee Craig Joubert's whistle.

The South African awarded a remarkable 28 penalties, with a Test match record 18 of those aimed at the posts.

Greig Laidlaw, who kicked all Scotland's points against Ireland was again their lone scorer, with the scrum-half landing six out of eight penalty efforts.

Wales fullback Leigh Halfpenny enjoyed a 23-point return but, significantly, the visitors scored the only try of the match through hooker Richard Hibbard.

Scotland were often on the wrong end of decisions by Joubert but Johnson refused to blame the 2011 World Cup final referee for a loss that ended their hopes of winning three successive Championship matches for the first time since 1996.

"It didn't make for a great spectacle but I don't want to be a guy who talks about the referee," said the Australian.

"Wales took the most of their opportunities...but there is nothing much between those two sides. That bodes well for us because they are world-class."

Asked about the lack of tries, Johnson - promoted from within the Scotland set-up after Andy Robinson resigned as head coach following the shock loss to Tonga in November - said the team only had themselves to blame.

"It's shown you score more tries off set-piece. We're not getting set-piece to play off. It's simple mathematics," Johnson, briefly Wales' caretaker coach in 2006, explained.

"We had a scrum before half-time, five metres from the line. What happens? We finish up 60 metres back down the track. You can talk about try-scoring but that's the ending, let's talk about what's causing it.

"What we're showing is great resolve, we're defending like mad men, we're having a crack. It would be nice to have it where we could actually play a bit."

The time taken over scrums, and the number of resets, has been a major talking point within rugby union for several years now.

International Rugby Board chiefs have experimented with various 'engagement' sequences but a solution to the problem still appears elusive.

"We are struggling with the fact 'set' (the referee's final instruction before the packs engage) means 'go' and some sides are getting half-cute and they are not going at all," Johnson said.

"There's an illusion you're going early when the other mob are not going. We don't coach that but we've been caught with our pants down with that.

"What frustrates us is that we have a world-class front row. We try to scrum square. But we are getting nothing from it - and we haven't been for three weeks."

Nevertheless Scotland, who last enjoyed a Championship victory in Paris in 1999 when they also won the final Five Nations, will fancy their chances away to a France side who only managed their first point of this season's tournament in a 13-13 draw away to Ireland on Saturday.

But they are set to travel to the Stade de France for their tournament finale this coming Saturday without Richie Gray after the giant lock was taken off in the first half against Wales with a hamstring injury.

"He's in a pretty bad way," said Johnson. "He'll play again this season but it's major time away from the game."


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