Tim VISSER took Scotland’s sixth straight RBS Six Nations Championship defeat at the hands of Wales firmly on the chin, admitting the Murrayfield hosts had been out-smarted in an 18-28 defeat.
The 25-year-old Edinburgh wing endured a frustrating afternoon as did all the home backs as Scotland were muscled into submission by streetwise opponents and a referee who was part of a new world record with 18 penalties which resulted in kicks at goal awarded to Wales.
“We can’t win games giving away that many penalties (18) and not getting things right at the scrum and line-out,” acknowledged Visser, adding: “Not being tactically as good as they were is something we have to take ownership of.
“We can’t blame anyone but ourselves.”
It’s true there was a huge element of Scotland shooting themselves in the feet, and, between the anthems and kick-off, there was an intriguing comparison when the Wales team ran to carefully positioned tackle bags for a last-minute hit out while the Scots stood around. But this misery of a contest will be remembered for much more than that; in fact, it was all about referee Craig Joubert, from South Africa.
Back on October 27, 2011, the Evening News reported on how Matt Williams, erstwhile Scotland coach and straight-talking Aussie, had used an Irish television programme to lambast Joubert’s handling of that year’s World Cup Final in which France were edged out 7-8 by New Zealand.
After accusing Joubert of “abrogating responsibility” Williams went on to say: “He (Joubert) just didn’t want to be the person making the decision that New Zealand would lose the World Cup. The World Cup was decided on non-refereeing decisions. It has got to be fair for both sides.
“It is shameful at the World Cup. It’s so sad we have got to talk about this. It is not about beating New Zealand (but) France should have had opportunities to win that game from penalties . . . and the referee did not have the same rules for both sides.”
One man’s opinion, albeit backed up by forensic-like analysis (see YouTube) and Williams also admitted the All Blacks were the better team; but still one man’s opinion.
Nevertheless – and notwithstanding Scottish shortcomings – there were echoes of that Auckland final 18 months ago at Murrayfield on Saturday where the likes of Ross Ford, Kelly Brown and Johnnie Beattie were provoked by the calls into unprecedented displays of animated exasperation.
Source of the agitation was mostly – but not exclusively – the scrum where Joubert had formed the view Scotland would not desist from engaging early. It hardly appeared to cross his mind that Wales might have been delaying contact.
There was much symmetry to this fixture, too, including the fact the last occasion the Scots lost six straight meetings with the Welsh was exactly a century earlier.
More relevant is that fact it was the half century milestone of a notorious meeting that produced 111 line-outs and caused the laws of rugby to be re-written.
What price something similar will have to occur following this debacle where a key moment came in the 45th minute with Johnnie Beattie penalised under his posts for being off his feet when it was clear he was arched over the ball in what is termed ‘bridge rucking’.
None of this will alter the scoreline and it was to the credit of Tim Visser and others that they tried manfully to place emphasis elsewhere – and succeeded. Indeed, Wales deserved the spoils on the fact that they notched the only try, a somewhat soft close-range effort conceded to hooker Richie Hibbard.
Had the Scots scrum not been mystifyingly penalised after Duncan Weir had taken play to the Welsh line then who knows . . . but we could go on in a ‘what might have been’ vein and Visser was not going to make calls on what happened at the scrum although he did say: “I never really know what goes on there. One scrum call seems to go one way one time and the other the next time.
“It is tough. That is just the way it is. We got some penalties, they got some penalties.
“There was no platform to play off and it was almost like basketball. Every time they scored we scored.
“It was trading points almost and then they just seemed to slip ahead at the end.”
For Visser there were pluses to be taken back to the Scottish camp but a lot of negatives too.
“They played a reasonable game but nothing we couldn’t have dealt with if we were better tactically.
“Their attack was far ahead of us and if you look at what they did especially in the first half they kept us out of the game for long periods. It was tough, especially for the back three, to get into the game. Again it was our own fault giving away so many penalties and not having anything to play off.
“We are at our best when games start to develop some fluency, some rhythm and the last ten minutes showed what we can do. We started making line breaks. We got our hands on the ball a bit more in the back three. For large parts, though, we couldn’t do that because of what they did to us and, to be fair, what we did to ourselves in terms of where we were on the pitch.”
The target for Scotland now is to emulate the 2006 side who won three Six Nations Championship ties although that will mean a first win in Paris on Saturday since 1999 against France.
What does Visser feel the Scots have to build on?
“The detail in our work was there helping the defence improve dramatically. We did a lot of good stuff and were in the game for a long time. We are a very upbeat camp and where we have come from in the Autumn (losing to Tonga) is brilliant. Also, how we have learned from the Six Nations is brilliant.
“If we had played this game six months ago it could have been part of a whitewash.
“A lot of hard work that might have gone unseen from a few of the players, including myself, is there under the supervision of defence coach Matt Taylor.
“That is something we can now build on.
“There is a chance to get three wins. If you look at how France have been doing there is a massive opportunity.
“France are on and off. They can play some incredible stuff but don’t really have any structure behind them at the moment.
“Let’s hope we capitalise but only if we learn from this game.
“At half time we talked about the penalties including holding on to the ball in the breakdown.
“That is something we control but didn’t otherwise we could have been in with a shout.
“Our squad is a mix of experience, people like myself just starting to play international rugby and some really young boys. Once we get on the same level technically and tactically we can be a successful team. That is very encouraging but there is a lot of hard work goes into that and still needs to go into that.”
And, of course, there is Greig Laidlaw who slotted all Scotland’s points from penalties for the third time in five outings.
“Greig has been phenomenal. Even facing kicks with wind ahead of him he has done brilliantly. He is someone we can build a team around. He embraces everything we are about, a massive competitor technically and tactically very good,” said Visser whose own display, notably a missed touch which led to a penalty was not flawless while Beattie took his eye off the ball in a concession as fatal as Jim Hamilton going offside under his posts.
So, Scotland have a grievance but not a get-out card; must do better can be the only verdict.
Scotland: Penalties: Laidlaw (6).
Wales: Try: Hibbard. Conversion: Halfpenny. Penalties: Halfpenny (7).
Scotland: Hogg; Maitland, Lamont, Scott, Visser; Weir (Jackson 78), Laidlaw, Grant, Ford, Murray (Cross 76),Gray (Kellock 29), Hamilton, Harley, Beattie (Wilson 67), Brown. Unused subs: Hall, Low, Pyrgos, Evans.
Wales: Halfpenny; Cuthbert, Davies, Roberts (S Williams 72), North; Biggar, Phillips (L Williams 72); James, Hibbard (Owens 60), A Jones, AW Jones, Evans, R Jones (Tipuric 48), Faletau (Bevington 80), Warburton. Unused subs: Mitchell. Coombs, Hook.
Referee: C Joubert (South Africa).