Autumn Internationals: Laidlaw and Gray praise Scotland’s composure but admit they need to improve

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By Kaylan Geekie at Murrayfield | UWS Sport

Greig Laidlaw’s 84th minute winning penalty saw Scotland come from behind twice to see off Argentina 19-16 in a scrappy affair at Murrayfield.  

Having hit the post with a penalty attempt moments prior to his match-winner, the skipper could afford a smile and a laugh. He described the post – the same one he hit in the 22-23 loss to Australia the week before – as not being fond of him.

Yeah, it doesn’t like me that one at the minute,” said a grinning Laidlaw. “It’s [the penalty kick] has just stayed dead-straight again – I’ve struck it lovely. 

“The boys were giving me a bit of stick for taking two [penalty kick attempts] to win it, so I was pretty happy to see the second one go through the posts.

“It was going to be won by a penalty here or there or maybe one mistake, so it turned into one those games and we had to adapt.”

The captain was happy that his team found a way to win a close game and after many last-gasp defeats in similar fashion. Laidlaw puts the victory down to the team being calm and composed and taking heed of coach Vern Cotter’s half-time talk.

He said: “As Vern said, ‘it was credit to the whole team’ and that was the key after they scored; that was the message under the post, ‘don’t panic we can score tries’ and we pegged them back straight away.

“We’re still annoyed from the Australia game so we’re delighted to get on the right side of one today. Vern told us at half time that the way the game was going it was going to be a tight game. 

“It was one of those games last week and unfortunately it was one of our players that knocked the ball out of the ruck, so it was pleasing tonight that nobody panicked.” 

Although it was a clear evening in Edinburgh, both sides struggled to control the ball, leading to many handling errors in what was a stop-start game. “It was greasy out there tonight and a slippery old ball,” Laidlaw added.

“In the first half we weren’t getting to the rucks quick enough and when we were there the ball presentation was pretty loose and we coughed up the ball a few times in there half. 

“It’s great to win, it gives players confidence no matter how you win; it’s important before we play Georgia next week, which will be tough and it’s important because we’ve got three home games in the Six Nations.”

Man-of -the-Match Jonny Gray praised the leadership of the senior players for keeping the team focused after Matias Orlando’s second half try put Scotland on the back-foot

Gray echoed his captain’s words after the win. He believes Scotland still need to work on the basics if they are to improve as a team.

“We’re very happy to get through a game like that, against a team like Argentina,” he said. “There was a few things throughout the game that we were disappointed with; the set-piece, the breakdown and holding onto the ball and it’s something that we’ll have to look at.

We knew it would be hard to today; just look at how competitive they’ve been in the Rugby Championship. They’re threatening with the ball and can attack from anywhere.

They scored a great try at the start of the second half and we had to adapt [quickly] to the conditions and solve those problems. 

Despite another commanding display, the 22-year-old praised his fellow team-mates’ resolve and leadership and reiterated the mantra of fine “margins” being the difference between victory and defeat.

“We just said, ‘stick to the game plan and don’t panic’, he added. “We’ve got great leaders throughout the team: Greig [Laidlaw], Finn [Russell] and Johnny Barclay all stepped up and directed us.

“The importance of small margins can make a huge difference, you could see it in last week’s game against Australia. It was small margins again today; if you make a mistake or if you don’t quite take your opportunities, it is the difference between a win or a loss.”

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