Friday 15 December 2017

Six Nations - Touchlines

Laidlaw's swift recovery true story of Scots' Slam

Ireland v Scotland
Ireland v Scotland

Ireland 9 (0) Scotland 32 (22), Lansdowne Road, March 3, 1984

Those who missed last night's wonderfully evocative BBC documentary on Scotland's 'Grand Slam '84' should do their best to track it down via Auntie Beeb's iPlayer (ask the kids).

Still, we're not sure if they caught the real story of this facile Triple Crown tie, the third leg of the Slam they would complete in Paris.

The match was rudimentary enough. Willie Duggan lost the toss and his side kept conceding penalties, with Peter Dods punishing the hosts all day long, while the classy Roy Laidlaw pounced for two tries on the blindside.

However, he was concussed – hence missing the raucous evening/early-morning drinking session – but his half-time replacement, debutant Gordon Hunter, was done for too.

In the days before Plan B, supporters spilled on to the field and one clattered into Hunter, shattering his cheekbone, ruling him out of the French game.

Mercifully, Laidlaw recovered in time, but given his special relationship with John Rutherford, one wonders would they have beaten the French with a third-choice No 9 in situ?

Ireland, who gave debuts to Hugh Condon and Derek McGrath – now head honcho of the Heineken Cup organisers ERC – would win the Triple Crown a year later.

Ireland – John Murphy; Trevor Ringland, Michael Kiernan, Moss Finn, Keith Crossan; Tony Ward, Tony Doyle; Phil Orr, Harry Harbison, Des Fitzgerald, Moss Keane, Donal Lenihan, John O'Driscoll, Derek McGrath, Willie Duggan (capt). Rep: Hugh Condon for Ward; not used: Ginger McLoughlin, John Cantrell, Donal Spring, Robbie McGrath, Hugo MacNeill.

Scotland – Peter Dods; Jim Pollock, Keith Robertson, David Johnston, Roger Baird; John Rutherford, Roy Laidlaw; Jim Aitken (capt), Colin Deans, Iain Milne, Alister Campbell, Alan Tomes, Jim Calder, David Leslie, Iain Paxton. Rep: Gordon Hunter for Laidlaw.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I use statistics like a drunk uses a lamp-post: for support rather than illumination."

The old ones are the, erm, best. And the older Scotland coach Scott Johnson gets, the better chance he has of using all the old ones. He's working on a rate of about two every press conference these days.

IRISH NEED TO GO DISTANCE

SCOTT JOHNSON'S other line has been how Scotland need to play two games within a game: one for an hour to ensure they are alive in the contest, before pushing for a result in the final quarter.

Ireland's target this championship is slightly reversed: they normally play for an hour, often less, and then completely shudder to a halt.

Take 2013. After the bewildering opening half in Cardiff, Ireland declared after Brian O'Driscoll's 42nd-minute try at 30-3; had Wales taken all their chances, they may have got closer than their unanswered 19 points.

In the dire encounter with England, the sides were tied after 57 minutes, but Ireland didn't score again.

In the equally dire Scotland game, Craig Gilroy's try put Ireland 8-0 ahead in the 43rd minute; 12 unanswered points from the Scots thereafter steered them home.

Ireland led 13-0 against France 32 minutes in but threw that lead away; albeit for a draw. In the shambolic Italian game, Ireland at least scored in the dizzying heights of the 63rd minute. They still lost.

Joe Schmidt, who endured a few scoring droughts in his time at Leinster, hasn't arrested the trend – yet.

Ian Madigan's 56th-minute penalty was the final act in the tame – as we learned later, deliberately pre- planned tame – outing against Australia.

But even in the game they targeted, New Zealand, after achieving perfection for 33 minutes, the inability to score afterwards deserved punishment against most sides. Especially the All Blacks.

NUMBER OF THE WEEK

7 Only Wales (9) scored more tries than the usually toothless Scots in last year's championship. Five of them were strike-one plays off the first phase – the same as the other five nations combined. Conversely, they were the only team not to score a try when play went beyond seven phases.

TWEET OF THE WEEK

Joseph Barton ?@Joey7Barton

@SimonZebo sorry mate. I was convinced you where from New Zealand because of your rugby prowess! #mybad

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