481. The Wee Things

Greig Laidlaw, the Scotland captain, looked and sounded dreadfully aggrieved after the 1-point loss to Australia, believing that referee Craig Joubert had got the late penalty call wrong.

To recap: in the 73rd minute Scotland found themselves with an improbable 34-32 lead after an intercept try off a pass by an Aussie prop, James Slipper, who should have his backline license revoked.

And it’s just started pelting down.

So what do you do?

  1. Keep the ball
  2. Play down the other end
  3. Run down the clock

What did they do?

They did not take the kick off (!), but the Aussies knocked it on. Scrum to Scotland, then a free kick against the Aussies for an early shove.

They kicked it long (!) to Kurtley Beale who, bizarrely, then kicked it long into the Scottish 22. The kick returned, but not out (!).

The Aussies run it up to between the Scottish 10-metre and 22-metre lines, and then forced into touch. Scottish lineout.

The Scots throw in to the back (!), and tap it back (!)! Bingle bobble booble, and Joubert pings a penalty against the Scots for offside (!).

Bernard Foley kicks the penalty. So now you’re 1 point behind, with 25 seconds left on the clock. You have one play left: the kick off, and you need to recover the ball, drive forward, and suck a penalty. So you have to do a high short kick off.

They kicked long (!).

So in the last 7 minutes, Australia made five separate errors. And Scotland let them off the hook by making seven of their own.

Yes, maybe, Joubert made a mistake on that penalty. Maybe, and that’s still only one.

Here’s what I learned in Cardiff in 2007: the ref missed a forward pass, but that is not why we lost. We lost because we played like muppets for most of that match, and let ourselves be in a position where a ref’s mistake could make the difference.

Don’t, just don’t, say that it was decided by only one single moment, a mistake by someone else.

Own your own mistakes. Suck it up, and come back better next time.

That’s harsh, I know. Apart from anything else, I would have loved to have seen the Scots snatch that one. And there’s no way you could say the Aussies deserved to win it.

But this is the World Cup, not a Hollywood rom-com. And I know the All Blacks can and will go out at the next hurdle unless we believe and act as if all the wee things lined up together is the winning and losing of it.

About Ned Davy

By hokey, the big fella’s tipped into his 50s. A rangy loose forward in his prime, good with the ball in hand, but rarely up with the play any more.
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