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Scotland 53 Australia 24: Relentless Scots rip up the record books against Wallabies

November 25 2017

Scotland tore up the record book in a joyous finish to the Autumn Test series with a record victory over a top-tier nation, scoring eight tries in humbling Australia in front of an ecstatic Murrayfield crowd. The Scots were brutally ruthless in the second half after Wallaby prop Sekope Kepu was shown a red card for a mindless assault on Hamish Watson, when the Australians had just gone into a 12-10 lead. Scotland had to shake off the loss of their talismanic star Stuart Hogg with a hip problem sustained in the warm-up, but Byron McGuigan came in for his first start and scored two tries, while Sean Maitland moved back to full back, scored one try and was outstanding in the role. Australia pulled level at 17-17 early in the second half, but were swamped by an unstoppable deluge of Scottish attacking play for the rest of the game, the home side showing a pleasing ruthlessness with an extra man and continuing the onslaught right up until the final whistle for Stuart McInally’s eighth and final try. It's the first time the Scots have scored more than 50 points over one of the other top rugby nations, and they smashed their record points total and margin of victory over the Wallabies and all Southern Hemisphere opposition. The Murrayfield crowd groaned when news of Hogg’s late withdrawl was announced as few had noticed him being led down the tunnel during the pre-match warm-up, and initially it seemed the team was more than a little distracted with a couple of early penalties taking the heat out of their early fire. However Reece Hodge missed a long penalty and a tenacious series of defending phases brought a turnover penalty, a slick lineout and a 30-metre drive which brought the team and the home crowd to life. McGuigan got warmed up with two storming runs and the Scots seemed to get warmed up as well with some great tempo stretching the Aussies, and forcing a simple penalty converted into three points by Russell. And on 17 minutes McGuigan made his real impact as a loose Beale pass went to ground and the Sale wing hacked through, and although the ball spun away from him as it crossed the line it also avoided the retreating Michael Hooper and the 11th hour replacement was able to get the score, Russell converting. McGuigan almost did it again after a sharp Russell touchline break only for Will Genia to get to the ball as it crossed the line. However the Scotland pack went early at the five metre scrum and the chance was lost. Australia seemed to be just hanging on at this point but they rallied well thanks to a couple of key Scots mistakes and then hit their hosts with a quick double to give the Murrayfield crowd something to think about. First was just good phase play and some big running wilting the Scottish defence, Bernard Foley’s little grubber allowing Tevita Kuridrani to continue his great scoring record against Scotland with a simple score. But then the big centre struck again, up in support of Foley after Seymour had spilled a pass on the touchline and the Wallaby stand-off counter-attacked at pace, kick and regathered and was stopped just short by Maitland. But the conversion was missed and at the restart Kepu’s inexplicable brainstorm changed the game, referee Pascal Gauzere having no option but to show a red card after he led with the shoulder to Watson’s head on a clearout. Scotland made the most of the penalty and the extra man immediately, kicking to the corner, driving the lineout and Ali Price nipped around the maul and stretched out for the score, converted by Russell to allow the Scots to retake the lead. Australia came back out a man down but with renewed purpose after the berak, and against some strangely passive Scottish defence made ground towards the line, Kurtly Beale darting between defenders for a try. However Foley badly missed a simple conversion and Scotland quickly buried the Wallabies with four tries in 15 minutes. Just three minutes after Beale’s try the full back tried to counterattack a fumble by McInally but the Wallabies spilled it themselves and Maitland motored down the touchline to score in the coner and restore Scotland’s lead. Three minutes later replacement prop Jamie Bhatti went storming through the middle on a thrilling run, the Scots battered at the line and Jonny Gray only had to saunter over the line under the posts, Russell converting. The Scots kept coming with purpose and Huw Jones burst through Kerevi’s weak tackle for another, and then a quick combination between Russell and Price got close to the line, the ball spread wide for McGuigan to score his second. Replacement Lopeti Timani went over for a try for Australia as they tried to rally, but the Scots were just taking a short breather and skipper Barclay went through tackles for his try under the posts to the thunderous acclaim of the Murrayfield stands. And for the final insult for the Wallabies, Beale was yellow carded for illegally throwing the ball into touch and the Scots scored their eighth try and went over 50 when Stuart McInally was at the end of the resultant lineout maul. Scotland: S Maitland; T Seymour, H Jones, P Horne, B McGuigan; F Russell, A Price; D Marfo, S McInally, S Berghan; J Gray, G Gilchrist; J Barclay (capt), H Watson, R Wilson. Replacements: F Brown for McInally 58, J Bhatti for Marfo 45, Z Fagerson for Berghan 45, B Toolis for Gilchrist 54, C du Preez for Watson 67, H Pyrgos for Price 67, P Burleigh for Horne 63, R Jackson for Maitland 73. Australia: K Beale; M Koroibete, T Kuridrani, S Kerevi, R Hodge; B Foley, W Genia; S Sio, S Moore, S Kepu; R Simmons, B Enever; B McCalman, M Hooper (capt), S McMahon. Replacements: T Polota-Nau for Moore 60, T Faulkner for Sio 72, T Tupou for McCalman 55, L Tui for Enever 55, L Timani for Simmons 68, N Phipps for Genia 57, K Hunt for Kerevi 62, H Speight for Koroibete 68. Ref: P Gauzere (FFR)


Snedeker’s putting keeps the US in front

September 30 2016

Darren Clarke’s forlorn hopes of a complete riposte to the USA's morning whitewash were dashed as Martin Kaymer and Danny Willett had no answer to two of the players Davis Love III had benched in the morning, Brandt Snedeker and Brooks Koepka. Big-hitting Koepka, the only rookie qualifier on the US team, did the heavy lifting while Snedeker did his usual strong work on the putting surfaces as Kaymer looked drained after his morning experience and Willett had to deal with a near constant barrage of banter from the galleries. References to his brother’s article lambasting US golf fans – some amusing and some obnoxious - were peppered at the Masters champion, who silenced them only briefly when he rolled in a long birdie putt for a half at the first. However although playing reasonably in the circumstances, Willett got no help from Kaymer, who didn’t birdie a hole or even come in on the scorecard until the 10th, and that a par four to lose the hole to Snedeker’s three. That took the US four-up for the second time in the match and that became five-up at 11 when Snedeker birdied the par five. Koepka found the water at the 13th but Snedeker got the half which stemmed any idea of a comeback and ensured the USA would retain the lead at the end of the first day.


Scotland 29 Wales 13: Scots dominate second half to beat Wales at last

February 25 2017

Scotland's astonishing second-half surge overwhelmed Wales at BT Murrayfield and brought their first win over the visitors for 10 years. The Scots scored 20 unanswered points in the second 40 minutes to turn around a 13-9 deficit in possibly the most complete performance under Vern Cotter's tenure as head coach. It was their first Six Nations win over the Welsh since 2007, and the final 10 minutes was a party for the 67,500 home crowd with their team having turned the match handsomely. Tries from Tommy Seymour and Tim Visser allowed the Scots to turn the game, but there were key defensive moments in there as well and Finn Russell's seven successful kicks from seven attempts meant the injured Greig Laidlaw placekicking was not missed. Visser provided the scoring pass for Seymour's try and finished off the second after a gorgeous delivery from Stuart Hogg, but try-saving tackles from Ali Price and Visser in the second half also helped change the course of the game, and Hamish Watson came off the bench to play a monumental defensive shift for an hour. A disjointed first half with both sides unwilling to move the ball wide much saw Wales snatch the only real try-scoring chance for a narrow half-time advantage. Huw Jones showed some fine footwork in the Welsh 22 in thsefirst six minutes which eventually led to a penalty kicked by Finn Russell, but Leigh Halfpenny replied after a half-break by Rhys Webb took the Welsh to the shadow of the Scottish posts. There was plenty of jockeying and not much entertainment until Wales seized their chance as their targeting of Visser with the high ball brought a scrum on the Scots 22. The home pack pushed too early and Webb took the quick tap, moving it through Biggar, Jon Davies and Halfbenny for Lee Williams to get outside Hogg for the try. Halfpenny converted and it looked like the Scots wree in trouble when the try-scorer and Webb combined to break inside the Scottish 22, but after the ball went loose over the line the TMO called the action back for obstruction early in the move by the Welsh scrum-half. That gave the Scots field position inside the Welsh 22 and a high tackle by Warburton on Price allowed Russell to peh Wales back to 10-6. Warburton made amends by forcing a holding on penalty on Ryan Wilso n which Halfpenny kicked, but the full-back missed a fairly simple chance within his range three minutes before the half. Instead the Scots came back with Hogg’s grubber kick, Seymour carrying on the move and Jones held just short of the line, and another penalty against Wales in their own 22 allowed Russell to kick his third penalty. But Scotland’s turnaround in the second half was dramatic and personified by the contribution of Visser. First the flying Dutchman won a high ball in the air and then showed up on the opposite wing as Jones made a fine dummy run, Visser’s pass putting Tommy Seymour in at the corner despite Scott Williams’ desperate tackle. Russell converted off the post – just – and then Scotland had cause to thank a brilliant cover tackle by Price to stop Jonathan Davies as he burst through. The young scrum-half then made a telling half-break after looking to be in trouble and Wales were penalised in their 22 again, Russell booting Scotland some breath space. Then Visser made a telling contribution in defence, his tackle on Webb into touch saving a certain try after the ball squirted out of a Scottish scrummage under pressure. And then the wing stamped Scotland’s victory in style, after a long series of phases and a Pyrgos break set up position. The Scots moved it wide at pace, Russell’s flat pass and Hogg’s beautiful delivery allowing Visser to nip in at the corner and behind the posts, the stand-off converting again. That put the Scots in comfort, and Wales disintegrated, conceding a silly penalty for crossing that Russell converted into another three points. Att: 67,500 Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, H Jones, A Dunbar, T Visser; F Russell, A Price; G Reid, F Brown, Z Fagerson; R Gray, J Gray; J Barclay (capt), J Hardie, R Wilson. Replacements: R Ford for Brown 71, A Dell for Reid 52, H Watson for Hardie 25, H Pyrgos for Price 55. Wales: L Halfpenny; G North, S Williams, J Davies, L Williams; D Biggar, R Webb; R Evans, K Owens, T Francis; J Ball, A W Jones; S Warburton, J Tipuric, R Moriarty. Replacements: S Baldwin for Owens 69, N Smith for Evans 69, S Lee for Francis 58, L Charteris for Ball 57, T Faletau for Moriarty 63, G Davies, S Davies for Biggar 69, J Roberts for S Williams 63. Ref: J Lacey (IRFU)


Jon Welsh plans better memories in Cardiff

February 1 2018

Jon Welsh last played for Scotland in the most pivotal moment in the team’s history, but he plans to be part of another more positive one at the Principality Stadium tomorrow. The Newcastle tight-head prop was the man erroneously called offaside by referee Craig Joubert in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia in 2015, resulting in the penalty Bernard Foley kicked to cruelly knocks the Scots out of the tournament. It’s taken until now for Welsh, always a formidable scrummager but often tagged as not being dynamic in the open field for the modern game, to fight his way back. And it’s only now he’s getting asked about that day at Twickenham. “My pals still blame me,” he laughed. “I remember when it happened and everything that went on. We knew straight away what had happened and Greig (Laidlaw) and Gordon (Reid) were screaming at the ref “go to the TMO it came off the nine”. “He made the call. In the game of rugby you respect the ref’s call. Has anyone tried to ref a game, there are a thousand things going on. “Maybe other refs would have gone to the TMO, there was almost the exact same incident on the Lions tour in the summer and they got the call right there.” A week later, Welsh volunteered to play for his new club the Falcons and has barely looked back, becoming a regular in a team moving up the Aviva Premiership and finally finding a way back to Scotland. “I’ve been in training squads since but not the team, so I was never away,” he said. “You never give up hope that you’ll get a chance to play for Scotland again. If you perform well for your club then your country will come for you. “As I have got older I’ve realised it takes time for a team to gel. That is what you are starting to see at Newcastle, a group that has been together for three or four years now with wee tweaks here and there and that’s translating out on the pitch.” Club mate Chris Harris Welsh thought could be an England player before he realised the centre was Scottish qualified – “it was good we snapped him up” - and he has come to greatly admire his front row partner Scott Lawson who has also been recalled. For another “Scottish” player at the Falcons, Gary Graham, the choice between countries led to him going with England. “That is Gary’s decision, his choice, and I’m not really surprised,” said Welsh. “He is a very good player but he got the call from England and answered it. “Has there been a bit of banter about it? Oh yes, lots!” He has no doubt that his front row partners will be able to stand up to Wales, despite Warren Gatland indicating they will be targeted. “I’ve no doubt at all. I’ve played with Gordy for years and Rambo (Stuart McInally) has come on leaps and bounds since I last played with him. His setpiece has improved massively. “I don’t care what they’re saying I’ve got my own job to focus on.” It’s been some journey for Welsh, who started at the Whitecraigs club, forced his way into pro rugby via GHA, and won his first cap literally at ten minutes notice in Rome. “Chunk (Allan Jacobsen) went down as late as you could and I was straight into it,” he recalled. “The door was being locked so we could try and get Chunk fit; well strapped up, you’d never get him fit! “Andy (Robinson) told me to get ready and it all seemed to happen in two seconds.”


Thoughtful Ramsay switches to “caveman golf”

July 6 2016

The 26 swing thoughts of Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth’s careful and thoughtful consideration of every blow? It’s all a waste of time and we should play “caveman golf”. When that verdict comes from a deep thinker such as Richie Ramsay, you get the idea that he may be on to something. A self-confessed overthinker, the Scot thinks he needs to be much more like new World No 2 and flavour of the month Dustin Johnson. Many think that Johnson’s style is down to him not being the brightest peg on the practice range, but Ramsay thinks there’s much to commend it and to copy. “I just need to keep it simple,” he said on arrival at Castle Stuart for the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.” I always believe the best golfers are either the guys who don't think at all or really think about it and work out a proper plan. “DJ is a great example of that. He just stands up and hits it. It’s a simple game when you play caveman golf; see target, hit ball, find ball and see target again. You just have to keep it simple.” Johnson’s attitude is common to American players, Ramsay believes. “He looks as though he plays golf under pressure as if he is playing with friends, which is a great ability,” he continued. “Tiger Woods was more intense and obviously knew what he was doing, but DJ does it a different way that also works, as he much more free-flows it. "It helps, of course, that he hits it 360 yards and straight as well. But I remember seeing him on the TaylorMade truck at Muirfield in 2013 and it struck me how relaxed he was. That's a good way to be.” Ramsay is one of the smarter players on the circuit and is self-aware enough to acknowledge that this simple style goes against nearly every instinct he has. “I can get much too fiddly,” he admits. “I start asking how far it is to the back edge rather than just picking a yardage and swinging it. “When I do that I am normally pin high. When you get too much information you can over-think.” Ramsay is coming towards a spell when he plans to take more time off - he and wife Angela are still adjusting to parenthood with daughter Olivia born earlier this year – but he’ll work more on the mental side and going on the course than trying to fine-tune technique on the range. “I would love to play the Open (if he could qualify in one of the places within the top 12 this week) but just finishing high here is probably the more important,” he continued. “I would rather just get that performance under my belt going into a break. “It would be nice to do that and get you the motivation to work hard over the break to get better. If you try to force it, it becomes harder. “I have got a couple of little things I’m going to change over the break to try to get better. I’m going to work on the mental side. “I’ll have two weeks off if I don’t make the Open, play the Paul Lawrie Matchplay, and then have another two weeks off. Then I have a run of tournaments and that is normally when I turn up another gear for some reason.”


Dundee High 6 Edinburgh Accies 40: Accies go top with clinical display

October 29 2016

Edinburgh Accies had too much pace and power for Dundee High at Mayfield as they scored six tries without reply in going to the top of BT National League One. With leaders Jed-Forest suffering their first defeat of the season at Marr, the Raeburn Place's side's bonus point took them top of the table and it was an impressive display against an overmatched and injury-depleted High team. The home side lost two more men in a first half punctuated by injuries to both teams but had always been struggling against the direct running of the Accies dynamic pack and the pace of their back division. Phil Godman, the former Scotland stand-off making his first start for High, kicked an early penalty but Accies’ superb execution had the home defence under all sorts of pressure for the first quarter of the game. Some scrambling defence kept the visitors at bay but eventually the pressure told with tight head Clement Lacour crashing over near the posts, Andrew Bell converting. The Frenchman made a fine steal in the shadow of his own posts as High attempted to hit back, but the rest of the half was marred by two sickening collisons afflicting either side. Accies suffered first with Bell and Greg Campbell colliding and the back rower was forced from the field, and then just before half time High’s Christy O’Donnell and Kevin Franco clashed heads, the back rower being stretchered from the field. Because of the lengthy delays for treatment 55 minutes had been played in the first half when Sam Chalmers went over for Accies’ second try which went uncoverted. High needed a big start to the second half but it was Accies again who took control, Campbell’s replacement Lawrie Seydak going over for their third try, Bell converting and High prop Alan Brown yellow carded to boot. High did get a second Godman penalty when a man down but back came Accies with the bonus point try, scored by wing Matt Coupar after sharp work from scrum-half Alex Glashan. The home side’s effort couldn’t be faulted with skipper Andy Dymock and lock Neil Turnbull leading the resistance but a clean break from Ronan Seydak set up centre Neil Armstrong for the visitors’ fifth try and then the big replacement bagged his own interception try with the final play of the game. Dundee High Rugby: C O’Donnell; I Matacagi, C Bowie, F McKay, R Joy; P Godman, A Dymock (capt); J Gibson, D Russell, A Brown; N Turnbull, C Cumming; K Franco, D Turner, R Milne. Reps: J Brady, N Dymock, J Petty, Y Alagilly, K Samson. Edinburgh Accies: B Appleson; M Coupar, S Chalmers, N Armstrong, S Kirkby; A Bell, A Glashan; J Pearse, C Black, C Lacour; N Aitken, S Gibson; G Campbell, J Sole (Capt), T Drennan. Reps: C Weetman, L Seydak, R Seydak, M Love, J Forrester. Ref: K White.


Strathallan aim to stay on top in Schools rugby

December 7 2017

Strathallan’s historic Scottish Schools Cup win could just be the start of a progression of success for the Forgandenny school, believes first XV coach Ed Kalman. The former Scotland international prop came to Strath when he retired from playing in 2014 to be a physics teacher, but has become thoroughly involved in the culture developed at the school by director of rugby Andy Henderson. Henderson’s programmes have turned Strath from a peripheral school in Scottish Schools rugby into arguably the premier nursery in the game in SCotland and now Schools Cup winners, after Wednesday’s 52-8 crushing of Perthshire neighbours Glenalmond College at BT Murrayfield. It’s definitely possible that some of the players in this year’s 1st XV can follow in the footsteps of recent Strathallan old boys who have gone on to play professional rugby – Jamie Ritchie, Murray MacCallum and Cameron Fenton are all with Edinburgh, while brothers Zander and Matt Fagerson play for Glasgow, Zander having already won 14 caps for Scotland at just 21. “Some of these lads have a real opportunity to go and play pro rugby,” believes Kalman, who has watched the current team develop over the last two years. “It’s probably since Andy took over as director of rugby that there’s been an acceleration of development of rugby at the school,” said Kalman. “Initially it was in development of individual players, and that’s why we have quite a few guys now playing pro rugby and Zander playing for Scotland. “But it was a natural progression from there that we’re more than just individuals, we’ve developed a group. “These guys have been together for two years, reached the Under-16 Cup Final and drew that, and watching their development has just been fantastic. To cap it all off by winning the Under-18 Cup for the first time is just brilliant. “ Keeping that development going when so many of the winning team will now move on out of Under-18 rugby is the real challenge, Kalman agreed. “Schools rugby is so unbelievably quick, we start in September and finish it here,” he said. “It comes in cycles. The group we have here all came through together and the final was almost the end of the process for them. “But we’ve got roughly half the squad coming back next year we had a strong Under-16s team this year and hopefully we’re getting to the stage where it’s a continual progression as a school in rugby terms.” Several of the Strath squad might be set for bigger things. Captain Murphy Walker, huge lock Cameron Henderson and powerful centre Ollie Smith are all in the National Academy system, while Josh Henderson, Andy’s son, is currently seconded to Stade Nicois in France as part of his development. The last Midlands school to win the Cup were the Bell-Baxter HS team from Cupar who won in 2006, and although the High School of Dundee and Dollar Academy have reached recent Under 18s finals, they’ve been unable to break the recent dominance of the big Edinburgh schools. Strath’s emergence as a power in Schools rugby – despite having just 600 pupils - had been hinted at, but beating first defending champions Stewarts Melville and then their 21-3 victory away to previously unbeaten George Watson’s at Myreside in the semi-final this year signalled a changing of the guard. “It’s a massive breakthrough for the school,” said captain Walker, a Scotland Under-18 cap. “We had such a strong group of players who really gelled from the first week of pre-season, and we’ve been pulling performances out of the bag all year. “It’s a huge achievement for the school  because we’ve come up short in the semis four times previous to this, but winning the game at Myreside to get through at last was a big thing for us. “We enjoyed ourselves on the big pitch and scored some great tries. That Cup is going to look great back in the cabinet at Strath.”


Ryder Cup: Danny Willett’s brother’s article puts Europe on the defensive

September 29 2016

You can pick your friends, but not your family. Team Europe are desperately distancing themselves from an incendiary article penned by Danny Willett’s brother which described American golf fans as “cretins”. Published in National Club Golfer magazine, the article by Pete Willett – whose tweets around the time of his younger brother’s Masters victory brought some admiration and attention on social media – says that the European team need to “silence the pudgy, basement-dwelling, irritants stuffed on cookie dough and pissy beer”. He goes on to describe them as “fat, stupid, greedy, classless” and underline “the need to silence these cretins quickly”. Willett senior’s writings are clearly designed to be humorous, but the article doesn’t so much overstep the mark but leap it in one bound. European captain Darren Clarke is far from amused and said Willett was chewing out his brother. “It’s not what Danny thinks, it’s not what I think, and it’s not what Team Europe stands for,” said Clarke. “Danny’s bitterly disappointed and he will express his displeasure to his brother about it. “The fans could not have been nicer to us this week and hopefully that continues. The article was beyond our control, and it’s Danny’s brother’s opinion, not Danny’s or ours.” Willett senior didn’t seem to take his brother’s disappointment too seriously, however, later tweeting “sorry to any American followers but I mean every word”. US captain Davis Love III said he was aware of the article, but didn’t plan to even read it. “I took (New England Patriots) Coach Bill Belichick’s advice; ignore the noise,” he said. “If I read it, I’m going to get mad. So I just ignore it.” The American skipper wants a loud and partisan crowd at Hazeltine, but not one that oversteps the mark. “They’re golf-starved up here, and these people are so nice,” he said. “Fans at a home event, here and in Europe, just get into it and a big part of home advantage is the fans. “But we have to keep them going. It got quiet at Medinah on the Sunday, didn’t it? That was scary. We have to make birdies, we have to win holes.”


McIlroy using the banter as motivation for Hazeltine

September 28 2016

Rory McIroy’s motivation to put one over on “the greatest team ever assembled” is all that’s needed to get Europe’s competitive juices flowing at the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine. A chill morning in Minnesota – every bit as cold as it was at Gleneagles two years ago – greeted the first practice yesterday with McIlroy, now an unquestioned team leader, playing with Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood and Sergio Garcia, whom he partnered last time, when the Northern Irishman really came of age as a senior figure in the European team. McIlroy is fresh from his thunderous finish at Atlanta to grab the Tour Championship, FedEx Cup and the cool $10 million bonus, and has his mojo back, teasing the US about Task Forces and Davis Love’s rather outlandish claim for his team last week. “I don’t think it’s hard for us to find motivation,” he said, asked whether it was tough to find the underdog spirit after you’ve won eight of the last 10 Ryder Cups. “Anywhere you look or listen, the sea of red on the golf course or the comments in the media by the team of the US captain give us so much motivation already. “I mean, whenever you are going up against one of the greatest teams ever assembled, that’s motivation enough to say, how good would it be to beat a team like that?” he asked, staying remarkably straight-faced. In truth, for all the banter McIlroy knows how difficult it will be for Europe to win four-in-a-row. “Obviously I’ve followed it all and I’ve had a bit of fun with the task force, greatest team ever assembled and whatever else they’ve been saying, but it’s going to be tough this week,” he admitted. “Apart from Gleneagles, it’s always been tough, and we’ve won a couple we maybe shouldn’t have. I mean we shouldn’t have won in 2012, that was a steal, grab and go, it was unbelievable how that worked out. “Even in Celtic Manor in 2010, we only won one session. It’s been a lot closer than people realise, and it’ll be close this year against a great American team.” He doesn’t even blame the US for trying to change things, but feels that they may be in danger of overdoing the team bonding thing. “If Europe were in the same position as America have been through in the last few Ryder Cups, we’d be searching for answers and doing the same thing,” he continued. “We are fortunate that we’ve had this blueprint passed down from captain to captain and that’s evolved into a very successful team, but it’s not like we think about that too much, it’s not rocket science. “The culture of the European Tour is a little different with guys socialising with each other. It’s great that the US have been trying to bond a little more, but that’s been a natural fit for us. “I think there does come a point when you maybe try a little too hard, you can “over-team” it instead of it happening naturally.” McIlroy’s own role has changed in the team from four years ago, when he played as World No 1 having just won a major, but still didn’t feel like a senior figure. “I didn’t feel like it was my place, we had so many players with such great experience in the Ryder Cup and I still didn’t feel like I deserved it,” he recalled. “I also made a couple of comments before 2010 that seem very stupid now. I thought I knew what it would be like from having been to 2004 and 2006 and Junior Ryder Cups but I had no idea, really. “At Gleneagles, however, Paul McGinley said he needed me to take on more responsibility and I relished the chance to be one of the leaders and speak up in the team room, and I’m ready to do that again.” He also has a close relationship with skipper Darren Clarke, dating from their first meeting on Rory’s 10th birthday. “My present was to play the Valley course at Royal Portrush, I’d also got a Cleveland Rusty Wedge which was the big thing then; it was my birthday and the day couldn’t get much better, then I meet Darren. “I was just in awe. He’d just won the WGC Matchplay, was a top 10 player in the world and he was a hero. Obviously I was part of his foundation after that and got to know him really well. “That day has always stuck with me. Now here we are, the biggest stage of the game, and I’m playing under him as Ryder Cup captain.  I’m very much looking forward to that.”


Scotland 29 Italy 0: Scots finish the Cotter era with emphatic win over Italy

March 18 2017

Scotland finished the Vern Cotter era and the 2017 RBS 6 Nations with an emphatic bonus point victory over Italy as sunshine opened up at last at BT Murrayfield. The Scots kept the whitewashed Italians off the scoreboard, the first time they’ve “nilled” opposition in the 6 Nations since 1993, while scoring two tries in each half. Finn Russell, Matt Scott, Tim Visser and Tommy Seymour had the Scottish tries but the defensive performance was the most impressive given they had shipped a record 61 points against England at Twickenham last week. Italy are in no way comparable to England in terms of cutting edge but they brought plenty of power and aggression especially in a ten minute spell camped on the Scottish line in the second half. But at both times they worked enough space out wide the Scottish scramble defence somehow saved the day. The Scots also negotiated a sizeable deficit on the penalty count and ten  minutes of a yellow card for captain John Barclay without conceding. Russell was awarded man of the match but it could have gone to a number of Scots, particularly Zander Fagerson who was outstanding in a strong pack performance, especially in the scrummage. It's Scotland's third win of the championship, only the second time and first since 2006 they have managed to finish with more wins than losses in a 6 Natuions campaign. It took the intervention of referee Mathieu Raynal to kick start what was a dreadful game in the dreich over Murrayfield for the first 20 minutes. Scotland seemed happy to kick away all the ball they secured while Italy tried to maul every possession they got with varied results. Stuart Hogg’s monster penalty from near halfway after the Italian scrummage splintered was the only score of the first quarter, Carlo Canna missing an easy penalty chance to level the scores. Finally the ref called together the captains after one series of play littered with errors and penalties to ask them to be more positive, and almost immediately Scotland obliged. Two breaks by Huw Jones nearly opened up Italy and Tim Visser was only just short of a cross kick, but Scotland turned the screw kicking a penalty to the corner as Jones went off with a knock to be replaced by Matt Scott. They won solid possession and worked a series of phases close to the line which finished with Russell squirting through a gap between defenders for the opening try, and the stand-off converted himself. Canna missed a second relatively simple penalty chance and Scotland bagged their second try just before the break. Jonny Gray stole a lineout after a superb long touchfinder from Hogg, Scott almost went through on a short pass from Russell and with a penalty advantage, Ali Price’s high kick into the in-goal area was knocked back by Hogg for Scott to mark his comeback with a gift try. Russell missed the tight conversion but Canna couldn’t convert a third penalty try to keep Italy scoreless going in at half-time. Scotland were under the cosh for much of the 15 minutes after half-time after Hogg’s poor kick allowed Italy to set up a series of driving mauls the Scots struggled to cope with. Successive penalties meant skipper John Barclay saw a yellow card for persistent offending, but Italy somehow butchered not one but two two-man overlaps when they put the ball wide and eventually the Scots forced a knock-on and were able to clear. And the Scots made the Italians pay with a third try on 62 minutes, Hogg’s deft chip over the top of the rush defence seeing Visser slide across the wet turf to dot the ball down after Padovani couldn’t clean up, Russell adding the conversion. And in a build-up typical of the patient ball retention Scotland have used through the championship, they worked space through multiple phases for Russell and Hogg to open up a gap for Tommy Seymour to score the bonus point try  in seven minutes remaining, Russell converting. Italy pressed for some consolation but the Scots defence held out to record their first shut-out in the Six Nations since 1993. Att: 67,500 Scotland: S Hogg; T Seymour, H Jones, A Dunbar, T Visser; F Russell, A Price; G Reid, R Ford, Z Fagerson; G Gilchrist, J Gray; J Barclay (capt), H Watson, R Wilson. Replacements: F Brown for Ford 66, A Dell for Reid 56, S Berghan for Fagerson 66, T Swinson for Gilchrist 57, C du Preez for Wilson 49, H Pyrgos for Price 54, D Weir for Scott 75, M Scott for Jones 26. Italy: E Padovani; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, L McLean, G Venditti; C Canna, E Gori; A Lovotti, O Gega, L Cittadini; M Fuser, G Biagi; A Steyn, M Mbanda, S Parisse (capt). Replacements: L Ghiraldini for Gega  40, S Panico for Lovotti 63, D Chistolini for Cittadini 40, F Ruzza for Biagi 74, F Minto for Mbanda 53, M Violi for Gori 53, L Sperandio for Canna . Ref: M Raynal (FFR)