Scotland stand-off Finn Russell says he will work on his drop-goal technique after spurning two opportunities in the closing stages of Saturday’s tense 19-16 win over Argentina.
The 24-year-old admitted that the attempts, the first of which was pulled wide and the second charged down, were only the third and fourth of his career. His skipper Greig Laidlaw got him out of jail as he converted a last-kick penalty to seal a three-point win in the second autumn Test at BT Murrayfield.
“At that stage of the game it is my job I guess to try a drop kick,” said Russell as Scotland began building up to the final autumn Test against Georgia in Kilmarnock. “These were only the third and fourth drop kicks I have hit in a game. I’ve never really gone for a drop kick that much. The first two times were in the Six Nations against England and France, and they didn’t go over either.”
The drop goal has become a bit of a lost art in the game, possibly due to the introduction of bonus points at club level adding even greater value to tries.
However, in close Test matches drop goals can still be a valuable source of points. South Africa’s Joel Stransky and England’s Jonny Wilkinson both won World Cups for their countries with drop goals and Scotland have had many a fine exponent of the skill over the years. Dan Parks and John Rutherford are both in the all-time top 15 of international drop goal scorers with 17 and 12 respectively and the likes of Craig Chalmers, Duncan Hodge and Chris Paterson could also be counted on to chip in with a few down the years. During periods when Scotland were not known for scoring tries these could often be priceless.
“It is maybe because players are thinking more about tries. For me I am generally thinking about tries,” said Russell. “I have never been in the situation to hit a drop goal to win a match. If I was looking at a drop kick it was mainly due to us having advantage but if we have advantage I would rather play it and try to score a try rather than hit a drop kick.
“I practise them in training but it is hard to get the timing. You can get a scrum-half passing you the ball in training but you don’t have the pressure of someone coming at you. So maybe it’s worth getting a few boys chasing at me.
“I am pretty relaxed and missing that first one didn’t put me off trying a second. I will not have these misses in the back of my mind if I have to go for a late drop goal against Georgia. I am happy to go for it again.”
Russell admitted the second attempt which was charged down failed because he hadn’t dropped deep enough and that it was telegraphed a bit, making it easy for the Argentine defence to anticipate what was coming.
“Yeah a bit of both,” he said. “I have not watched it back but I could have got a few more metres of depth. Me and Greig were looking at the clock and the time and maybe we should have set up a little bit better.
“I will look over it with Greig and we will run a few scenarios through the week.”
Russell said the squad were now determined to finish the series off on a high note against the Georgians at Rugby Park.
“Against Argentina it was a bit scrappy,” said the playmaker. “If we can take away a few of the unforced errors we had, tidy a few things up, and show the attacking quality against Australia, it can be a different game at the weekend.
“I am looking forward to Kilmarnock. It is a good pitch, especially for the Glasgow boys.
“We have played there quite a lot now and I have played there a lot for Glasgow and Scotland.
“With the style of rugby we want to play we are looking forward to it.