One for the purists, I think they like to say about days like yesterday. What they mean is a dog fight, a scrap, a game of rugby devoid of adventure, more like a siege than sport. Miss me with that nonsense, I beg. Yesterday’s game was dire, defined utterly by the conditions.
However, however – it did have a certain something. It felt like a game dragged out from the 1980’s, from some sodden communal sports pitch in the absolute middle of nowhere. It is quite rare you look at a professional, elite sporting spectacle, and think ‘I can relate.’ But most watching on yesterday probably could. February away days in Glossop, or the Wirral, or Aberdeen, or West Hartlepool, or Blackburn, or Falmouth – that is what they look like.
It felt nostalgic. None of the cornerstones of the modern game: repetitive tactical kicking; intricate set plays; fitness monitoring; substituting players 50 or 60 minutes in; none of them held any relevance any more. A game of such magnitude, with such quality on display, was to be defined solely by luck, by grit, by who could play the conditions.
For a while at the start of the second half, it looked as if it might be Scotland. The Scots in the pub up in Glen Coe where I was watching the game, they certainly thought so. And with good reason. Scotland appeared to playing the conditions better. Not kicking with any ambition. Keeping it tight and direct. England, on the other hand, could not for the life of them stop kicking the ball out on the full.
It was amateur stuff (of course, it wasn’t really, it was a high class game of rugby played in dire, dire conditions by elite sportsmen – on TV though, after a couple of pints, it looked pretty amateur).
Then, Hogg strikes again. Scotland’s captain failed to collect a dastardly, skidding midfield kick of George Ford, nearly conceded a try, just about escaping with a five metre scrum, but the damage was done, the territory was ceded, the pressure was on – a few moments later Ellis Genge crashed over to score.
For the second week in a row, a calamitous error from Stuart Hogg. He is a good enough player and a strong enough personality to recover, but still, what a blow to his confidence.
When Genge came on, it was obvious to all this was a contest with his name written all over it. He is so physical, so competitive, so driven, such an utter pain to play against. And so it turned out to be. He was brilliant. Ben Earle made a difference from the bench too.
Where do these two teams stand after this one? God only knows. It is unlikely either team will play in such foul conditions again. England have some momentum. Scotland, well, a narrow loss to England is hardly the end of the world.
For us, the spectator, well it was definitely a game to watch from a pub, or a sofa. Definitely one we all looked at in some bemusement, thinking ‘reminds me of so and so match on so and so a date this one does.’ Which, in the professional environment, is rare, and should be cherished accordingly.
Written by Joe Ronan.