As the Scotland team lined up to sing the national anthem on Saturday, no one in attendance nor the ones watching around the world on television envisioned what was to happen. It was either a convincing win or a narrow win, which the fans expected, not a Tongan victory and not a Scottish performance which spelled the end for the coach.
The fact that the only plus point to take away from the match is that Andy Robinson has walked away from the national team is undoubtably a horrible thought. Scotland should be feeling positive and looking forward the upcoming RBS Six Nations championships and a chance at redemption following last year’s wooden spoon effort. Not feeling sorry for themselves, passing the blame amongst each other, while offering Robinson an easy way out of his rotten Scottish tenure (24% win rate).
Scotland as a unit played like lost boys, they found themselves in two clear try-scoring opportunities but lacked the skills to finish them off. To come away from a match against a team which is widely considered a lower-class test nation, with just 15 points, all from the boot of Laidlaw, is awful. To their credit, Tonga brought the pain as well as the skills to put Scotland in their place. They put their hard hitting, fast-paced offence into practice, allowing Scotland no room to breathe – they deserved the win and the scalp of a nation who are quickly fading into obscurity.
15. Stuart Hogg – 6
Another consistent day for the full-back. He kicked well and defended the flanks better than last week. He needs to offer more of a running attack. Taking more chances is the only way he can improve his overall play, he lacks the attacking invention to be a legitimate game changer for the Scots.
14. Sean Lamont – 6
The big winger presented himself as a runner at every opportunity but the Tongans defended him well, preventing him from making any gains. As another influential player, he just lacked the space and ball to change the course of the match.
13. Max Evans – 4.5
First start after coming in for De Luca. He had no attacking penetration with supporters quite easily forgetting he was even on the pitch. Very poor from one of Scotland’s better players.
12. Matt Scott – 5
Not nearly as impressive as last week. He was again a consistent defender putting in some strong tackling, but offered nothing in attack nor suitable support running. He allowed the Tongans too much space to pass the ball about and keep possession. Poor match from a player who was beginning to look like one of Scotland’s most impressive assets.
11. Tim Visser – 6
The strong winger looked for every inch of space but just lacked penetration along with supporting players. As one of Scotland’s main attacking weapons he needs to see more of the ball.
10. Greig Laidlaw – 6
Kicked all of Scotland’s points and played better than last week. He put the ball in multiple scoring positions but had no attacking threat from his backs. He was bullied by the fast-paced Tongan defensive setup which prevented him from asserting his creative skills.
9. Henry Pyrgos – 4.5
His first start following a brief starring role last weekend. He lacked the patience needed to wear down a team who came to slow the ball down and drag the contest out. He made some basic errors which prevented Scotland from gaining any momentum. He worked well with Laidlaw which can only be a good thing going forward for the Scots.
8. David Denton – 5
Played very poorly throughout the match. Did not assert his usual dominance on a match which needed his style of play. Nowhere near as effective as last weekend, allowing the Tongan back-row to run things from the rucks, mauls and open play.
7. Kelly Brown (C) – 5
A poor game from Scotland’s captain. When his team needed motivation and drive he was nowhere to be seen. He allowed for the team’s heads to go down, handing Tonga a physiological edge for the remainder of the match. He needs to be more assertive and vocal otherwise he will quickly find himself out of the team.
6. Alastair Strokosch – 5
His usual fast paced, frantic, erratic and penalty ridden game but unlike in his other outings, he did not perform at his best. He gave away too many silly penalties offering easy points and position for the Tongans to control the match.
5. Alaster Kellock – 5
Like Gray, Strong in the line-out, winning 17 with only 2 lost, but was a pedestrian throughout the contest otherwise. He needed to front up with some strong tackling and was unable to stem the excellent running of the Tongan pack.
4. Richie Gray – 6
Excellent in the line-out with Kellock but offered nothing else. As one of Scotland’s big men he needed to impose himself early on with his size and strength but struggled to get involved. Poor apart from the line-out play.
3. Euan Murray – 6
Scrummaged well and performed better than last weekend. Strong in the tackle and offered himself as a viable runner. He worked well in the ruck, creating quick ball for Pyrgos and Lawson.
2. Scott Lawson – 7
The only star Scottish player thanks to his excellent line-out throwing and consistent scrummaging. Played very well against a tough and resilient Tongan team. Looking like the better choice between Ford and himself.
1. Kyle Traynor – 4.5
Winning his first Scottish cap following a topsy-turvy season so far with his club. Played well throughout the contest, scrummaging efficiently against a big pack, but did nothing to oust Grant as the starter.
16. Dougie Hall
On for S.Lawson, replacing Scotland’s most impressive player. Hall did his job but offered nothing much in attack. Lawson should have been kept on for the full match, a substitution for no reason.
18. Geoff Cross
On for Murray, not enough time to rate.
19. Grant Gilchrist
20. John Barclay
On for Denton, offered nothing new from a player who has so much promise. Played like someone who had only just discovered rugby, the powerful Tongan back-row put him in his place straight away.
21. Rory Lawson – 4.5
On for Pyrgos, Played well considering he has been out of the international picture since 2011. Offered good ball to supporting runners, but lacked the skill to impose himself overall in the tight affair.
22. Tom Heathcote – 3
On For Laidlaw, missed a kick and dropped the ball in the closing minutes costing the Scots a scoring opportunity. Not enough time to rate overall.
23. Nick De Luca
On for Evans, not enough time to rate.
By Alexander Mcleman follow me @TodaysPlay