The Autumn internationals in rugby are often exciting matches to watch, offering coaches an opportunity to find the system and players that work best for them ahead of upcoming major tournaments such as the Six Nations. But this Autumn they were more than just that, as Scotland recorded a memorable win over Australia. By Ryan Nixon.
The match which qualifies as my sporting highlight of the year was Scotland’s record 53-24 victory over Australia. Seeing my home nation perform so incredibly well against a team that have long stood amongst the best in the world (and currently officially placed at number three behind New Zealand and England in the world rankings) was truly spectacular.
In general, the Scottish rugby squad were one of the highlights of the test matches, as they displayed a somewhat mature and more developed style of play than that of which they have demonstrated in previous years.
The team seem to have finally started moving the ball quicker and more sensibly, are starting to show the long-awaited ability to retain possession when pressure is being piled onto them and have finally retired kicking aimlessly throughout the match.
This new generation of rugby from Scotland comes at the right time for the country’s fans after years of hardship and mockery through tournaments such as the Six Nations and the Rugby World Cup. From finishing dead last and being given the wooden spoon in the 2012 and 2015 Six Nations, to being put out of the 2015 World Cup by a heart-breaking one point loss against Australia, to constantly being referred to as the ‘valiant losers’, much to the chagrin of fans and players alike, Scotland seemed to finally find their feet in these tests, with the win against Australia being the icing on the cake.
With Australian prop Sekope Kepu being sent off in the first half, reducing ‘the Wallabies’ to ten men, this gave the Scots the opportunity to run riot, and witnessing eight tries being put past a world-beating team was incredible. The boys had a wavering first twenty minutes or so, but from there on out, they were utterly irresistible compared to the Aussies, who just seemed to be somewhat lacking on the day.
From my position in the stand, one of Scotland’s absolute stand-out players was newbie Byron McGuigan. The winger, who by most Scottish fans own admission, was a name scarcely recognised when he was pulled into the starting line-up just ten minutes before the match after star player Stuart Hogg withdrew in the warm-up due to injury.
However, the 28-year-old performed when Scotland needed him the most, scoring a brace of tries and displaying keen instincts of when and where to make runs into space.
McGuigan, alongside every other member of the team on that day, ran away with the match and I can honestly say that no team deserved a win more in these tests than Scotland. Sure, there were a few iffy moments where the Scots gave away a succession of unnecessary knock-ons, but all of those instances were crushed by the total dominance and irresistible display of rugby from the Scottish squad throughout the entire second-half and much of the first.
With that match being the last of Scotland’s Autumn tests, it begged the question of just how would they perform in the upcoming Six Nations – can they carry this form through?
While being optimistic yet still retaining a sense of realism, I think Scotland could easily come away with second in the Six Nations. Dethroning a side such as England in their current run of form would be an immense challenge, as I believe the English will win the upcoming tournament. But then again, if any team right now can cause an upset, it’s Scotland.
The team is finally coming of age, and I’m glad I’m around to see it. As a Scotland fan, I can’t wait to see what the future holds.