Monday 11 December 2017

Laidlaw switch was key to victory over Ireland says Scotland prop Ryan Grant

Greig Laidlaw's four penalties guided Scotland to victory
Greig Laidlaw's four penalties guided Scotland to victory

Andy Newport

SCOTLAND prop Ryan Grant insists Greig Laidlaw's match-winning display against Ireland proves interim head coach Scott Johnson called it right when he switched the Edinburgh man back to scrum-half.

Laidlaw had been stationed at fly-half for much of the season with his club side.

But he was moved back to his more natural number nine slot by Johnson prior to the RBS 6 Nations championship getting under way following the retirement of record-breaking half-back Mike Blair.

On Sunday, he justified the boss' decision when he kicked all 12 points and marshalled a forward pack that stood up magnificently to a first-half Irish onslaught that somehow failed to break through to score, despite Declan Kidney's men at one point racking up possession stats nearing 80 per cent.

Glasgow loosehead prop Grant was one of those forwards who defended for his life in that opening 40 minutes, setting the foundation for the 12-8 win which moves the Scots into joint second in the Six Nations table.

But he hailed the kicking and organisational display of Laidlaw following his four perfect penalties.

"Greig is a class, class player. He is great with the boot and a great marshal of the pack,” he said.

"That's why he's perfect for the nine role. He speaks to the forwards and lets us know where we need to be.

"He does the same with the backs and has got a great understanding with them."

Scotland ridded themselves of two nagging 12-year problems as they beat Ireland on home soil in the championship for the first time since 2001.

The victory, which followed the 34-10 triumph over Italy earlier this month, was also their first back-to-back success since that same campaign.

Grant feels the team's rivals will now have to change the way they think about Scotland.

He said: "We did acknowledge that there was a perception of 'Same Old Scotland' who will, you know, win one, lose one. That kind of thing.

"So we wanted to stamp that out and show we are not a one-trick pony. We wanted to put consecutive results together."

Asked if a title push was a realistic proposition, Grant added: "Yeah, sure. Anything is possible now. It's an open tournament now.

"But by no means was that our best game. We have got a lot to work on before the Wales game."

Johnson explained after Sunday's match that he opted against ranting and raving at his shell-shocked players following their sub-standard display in the opening half.

Instead he gave them a calm appraisal of where they were going wrong and Grant insisted the boss had got it right with his assessment.

He said: "It was a game of two halves really. In the first half we were under a lot of pressure and defended for a lot of it.

"That shows a lot of character from the boys that we were able to withstand that for the first 40 minutes.

"We didn't get any possession at all and we needed to get out on the front foot and keep hold of the ball at set-pieces, so Scott put an emphasis on that.

"He wanted much of the same in defence - just to keep them out - and the rewards would come.

"Ireland had a lot of possession but I can't comment on their game plan or what they were trying to achieve.

"But we spoke about line speed before the game and trying to shut Ireland down, especially in and around the ruck and I thought we did that well.

"A lot of it came down to the forward pack and defending in and around the ruck area, which is where they attack a lot.

"We were unable to unleash our back three, which we would have hoped to do if we'd had more possession.

"But that's part and parcel of the game and you take what comes with the territory."

Press Association

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