Scotland Rugby World Cup: Richie Gray regrets self-inflicted lineout issues and looks for 80-minute performance against Tonga
The Scots won 13 of 17 on their own throw for a 76.5 per cent success rate, with the Springboks stealing two. By contrast, the world champions lost just one of 12, giving them a 91.7 per cent success rate. For Richie Gray, the most frustrating part was that most of Scotland’s problems were self-inflicted. As good as South Africa were in Marseille on Sunday, the big lock struggled to recall them putting too much pressure on the Scottish lineout. Instead, a combination of miscommunications and technical issues combined to turn the set-piece into a problem area. It started as early as the 10th minute when George Turner could not find his jumpers and the Boks were able to steal at the tail and launch a counterattack which eventually led to their first kickable penalty. It happened again 10 minutes later when Jamie Ritchie fumbled another throw to the back after Scotland had got themselves up to the South African 22.
“It was very disappointing because as good a Springbok side as they are, I don't feel there was massive pressure in the air,” said Gray. “It was all our own doing, whether that was a few communication errors or a few technical things around the lift, jump or throw, and that was the most disappointing thing because we weren’t coming under a huge amount of pressure from the Springboks themselves.”
Gray, making his first World Cup appearance in eight years, acknowledged that these failings limited Scotland’s inability to build a platform to attack but was also keen to stress that there were positives to take from the 18-3 defeat. They went toe to toe with the world champions in a keenly fought first half but were left to rue a spell early in the second period when they conceded two tries in three minutes.
“We put ourselves in a really good position in the first half. We had a big moment just before half-time to get it to 6-3 and then we came out the sheds and the 10-15 minutes after half-time cost us the game. We touched on it at half-time. We knew there would be a reaction from the Springboks at scrum time but we didn’t deal with it well enough. There were inaccuracies with ball in hand, inaccuracies at the set-piece and the game got away from us and then we’re chasing it against a very good defensive side, a side that doesn’t give you much, and it’s a very difficult position to be in.”
It’s Tonga up next for the Scots, who have no room for error if they are to finish in the top two in Pool B and qualify for the quarter-finals. The Tongans will make their tournament bow against Ireland in Nantes on Saturday and then play Gregor Townsend’s side in Nice a week on Sunday. “The key is to keep focused for Tonga,” said Gray. “They’re a dangerous side, they’ve got a lot of new faces coming in and it will be physical. They’ll want to come out and hit some bodies. It’s a good test for us, to get it right for 80 minutes, that’s the biggest thing.”
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