Ali Price: '˜Puppy dog eyes' got me off the hook with ref
The gestures were hardly needed on an evening when BT Murrayfield found its voice but Price said it was a demonstration of how fired up the home team were, feeding off one of the best atmospheres experienced at the old stadium for many a year.
“There’s not much I can do in the frontline. I’m a little guy,” said the 24-year-old Glasgow player after the agonising but uplifting 22-17 defeat to world champions New Zealand. “I’m there to bring energy. If we have 67,000 people behind us, which we did for the whole game, you don’t understand the buzz that creates on the field.
“I was a bit over-enthusiastic. I get caught up in the moment. I gave him my puppy dog eyes and said sorry. He [English referee Matt Carley] was alright after that.”
Price shared the strange mix of disappointment and pride felt by the squad, crowd and nation in the immediate aftermath of a glorious chance to record a first ever win over New Zealand that just slipped away.
“We put in a pretty handy performance tonight,” he said. “Everyone is gutted that we didn’t win the game.
“I don’t think anyone give us a hope in hell all week. We didn’t read too much into that, we were tight-knit and went about our training and knew that if we turned up and put them under pressure and played a game, that we would be there or thereabouts and give ourselves a good shout.
“We nearly did it. We are proud of our effort and it’s a shame we just couldn’t get over the line at the end.”
There may have been fire in the bellies but Price explained that the heads remained icy cool, even when the home side twice fell 12 points behind in the second half.
“We were always very calm under the sticks,” he said. “New Zealand are a good side and are going to score, but every time they did we were on about the next goal – what to do off the next kick-off. Everyone was very calm.
“We put them under huge pressure, especially off kickoffs. I don’t think they found it easy to exit. We had a couple of first caps today and Barcs [skipper John Barclay] made a great point, saying that whoever has come in has fitted straight in and hasn’t looked out of place at all. Whoever pulls on the jersey, it’s a special moment and they gave their all. I think everyone did that tonight.
“The atmosphere out there was unbelievable. Running out, the anthems, the haka, everything. When you grow up playing rugby it is nights like this that you want to be involved in.”
Price has seized the opportunity presented by the absence of Greig Laidlaw through injury and participation in the Lions tour and could well be difficult to dislodge when the more experienced man returns from a broken ankle. His high-tempo style fits with the gameplan coach Gregor Townsend is looking to build and there is a natural familiarity with his club half-back partner Finn Russell.
The Kings Lynn-born player, who has a Scottish mother, is now looking forward to rounding off the November series with a win over Australia this Saturday after experiencing victory over the Wallabies in the summer.
“The last time we played Australia in Sydney we put in a good performance and we won. Come Monday, when we come back in, we are geared up to win next Saturday. It’s a huge challenge because they are on a bit of a roll, bar the result [against England]. We won the last game against them and we will be looking to continue that.”
Price assured the fans that they can expect another high-octane display.
“We want to play at tempo,” he said. “You see that at our lineouts and generally on the pitch. I feel that we are an exciting team to watch. Teams can’t rest against us, regardless of where the ball is. We’ve got the fitness. Glasgow boys, Edinburgh boys, exile boys – we’re all fit.
“If we are in games with 60 minutes gone, going into the last 20 we back ourselves to be fitter than anyone else.”
Lock Jonny Gray, whose try got Scotland back into the game after New Zealand had carved out a 15-3 lead, is adamant that the team will make further strides in the final autumn Test.
“We are always looking to improve, no matter what,” he said. “We had two wins on [the summer] tour but then lost to Fiji, and that really hurt us.
“We are always improving. We’ve got loads to learn. There will be lots of things to look at from this game.
“Australia have some really exciting attackers. In defence they have jackals everywhere. They are going to slow down our ball and attack us there so we need to get that right. There were things we got wrong today but we will look at the stuff that went well and take it forward.”