Having beaten Australia 24-19, Scotland’s next task is to complete a clean sweep of their summer tour by adding Fiji to their list of scalps.
So says Hamish Watson, the Edinburgh flanker fresh from scoring the winning try for Gregor Townsend’s side in Sydney.
“Fiji in Fiji is not going to be an easy test,” Watson accepted. “They have some amazing players and away from home it will be very tough to beat them.
“We will enjoy the win [against Australia] but then put it to one side and concentrate on the Fiji game because they pose a lot of threats.
“The win over Australia was an amazing result. It is great for Scottish rugby and great for all the fans. An amazing victory, definitely my career highlight.”
The stunning victory over the Wallabies – which moved the Scots up to fourth in the world rankings – was also something of a personal triumph for Watson, who has broken into the Scotland side only in the last year. He was one of Scotland’s main ball-carriers and helped lead the defensive effort before and after popping up on the shoulder of centre Duncan Taylor to run in the final score of the game.
“When we looked after the ball we scored tries,” he said. “That try was an amazing build-up by the boys. It was great play by Lee [Jones] and Duncy [Taylor], and pretty easy for me to finish it off.
“The game itself was probably was a bit scrappy at times. We had a quick word immediately after it in the changing room, but we will analyse it, come back together and speak about it. I think we left a few tries out there. Our defence was awesome but we could definitely have scored more tries. Sometimes we didn’t look after the ball as well as we should have. We are still pretty new to the systems – it’s only Gregor Townsend’s second game with the squad – and we will keep building. It’s good to have things to work on after a great win.
“When we held the ball the Aussies looked out on their feet at times. If we can just look after the ball a bit better and become more comfortable with the systems, then that will all come together.”
His starring performance puts a high-profile finish on Watson’s breakthrough year, in which his rise to the top has coincided with the team starting to flourish.
“It has been great for me personally and for Scottish rugby,” he said.
“If you look at what we did in the Six Nations, we got ourselves to fifth in the world and now we are building on it, beating Italy in tough conditions and Australia in Australia. It’s a good time for all the players and all the fans.”
Townsend, meanwhile, praised the ‘strong bonds’ within his team.
“The last 15 minutes are fresh in the mind and they required huge effort because the Wallabies had a lot of possession,” he said. “You could see their line break when we were only five points up in our 22 with the crowd behind them. The effort to get back on the ball, and Alex Dunbar managing to get the turnover, it was fantastic.
“If you have to defend 10 to 15 minutes against a team as brilliant in attack as that, you need strong bonds, and that is what this team has.”
The resolute defending at the end encouraged Townsend, who felt his team have learned from narrow defeats to Australia on the previous two occasions the teams have met, including the 2015 World Cup quarter-final. “A lot is about what happens when you have not got the ball,” he added. “They made the right decision to drive the line out and keep possession in that last minute but it was a great bit of play from the Australian defence to get a turnover, then it was great play from us to get it back.”
Captain John Barclay admitted the final minutes were equally nerve-wracking on the field.
“It was a bit tense at the end but the work that had gone in prior to that is what won the game,” he said.
“They play a fast game, that is as fast as I can remember playing in. The fact that we managed to slow the ball down helped. The boys put everything out there, which is all you can ask.
“It will give us confidence, the fact is that we have come out the wrong side of a couple of these over the last few years. It is nice to close out one. The Six Nations we closed out a couple of really important results in the Wales and Ireland games, which shows we are getting better at closing out games.”
Australia head coach Michael Cheika was full of praise for Scotland. “We think they are a top team team,” he said. “We have had big contests in the past, they are a well-coached team, and they have had some big results in the Six Nations. We knew what we were in for and got exactly what we expected.”
Next stop for Scotland is Fiji, where the heat and a host of familiar faces in the opposition team – Leone Nakarawa and Niko Matawalu both made their names at Glasgow Warriors while Viliame Mata is currently at Edinburgh – will both make life tough but Scotland arrive with confidence boosted by the weekend result.