Six Nations report card: Scotland break their hoodoo and exceed expectations

Six Nations: Scotland split with Townsend, Russell and van der merwe Credit: Alamy
Six Nations: Scotland split with Townsend, Russell and van der merwe Credit: Alamy

After two rounds of the Six Nations, the competition takes a break, allowing us to take stock and provide a report card for each team. Next up, it’s Scotland.

The 2022 edition has already been memorable for Scotland fans, with their side finally breaking their hoodoo by winning their first two games for the first time since 1996 – before the inception of the Six Nations.

Gregor Townsend’s side started the tournament magnificently as they made it a hat-trick of Calcutta Cups against the Auld Enemy as the neighbours from the north hushed a packed Twickenham crowd with a 29-23 win.

The win was memorable, but the Scots knew they needed to refocus after the opening round fixture and back it up in the second round to get the monkey off their back.

It was a golden opportunity to break their duck against a Wales side in shambles, and the Scots obliged with a stunning 35-7 triumph inspired by the magician that is Finn Russell, who looks excellent at pivot since repairing his relationship with Townsend.

The red-hot start from the Murrayfield men has the side in second place on the table, only behind the world’s best, Ireland, on points difference.

Best players so far

Picking the best between Finn Russell and Duhan Van der Merwe is almost impossible, so we didn’t. Both stars have played out of their socks in the opening two rounds, and even that feels like an understatement.

Russell looks happy and expressive in Scotland navy blue, ripping passes and kick passes with aplomb. The rugby fraternity has always been aware of the Scot’s ability to break down defences with silky attacking guile, but that has been limited in the past by a rocky relationship with Townsend. Now the duo look to be on the same page, and the playmaker looks outstanding going forward and is largely responsible for Scotland’s attacking output in this year’s edition. So long may it continue as a free-flowing Russell is majestic to watch.

Van der Merwe somehow just transcended into a different stratosphere this season. His quality and power with ball in hand was always obvious. Still, in two games, the wing has beaten a ridiculous 20 defenders, bearing in mind the record for defenders beaten in one Six Nations campaign is 31 by the man himself in 2021, surpassing the great Brian O’Drsicoll by one. The statistics are mind-blowing, considering he has made 254 metres with ball in hand in two games. Add in a try for the ages, and suddenly van der Merwe could be considered the most dangerous ball carrier in the world at this point.

Unsung star

A hallmark of Scotland’s campaign amongst the forwards has been incredible defensive commitment led by our unsung hero, Matt Fagerson. The number eight has been a workhorse of note, making an absurd 45 tackles in the opening two rounds with 26 against England.

Fagerson’s influence does not stop there, with a try and a try assist to his name as well as 80 metres with ball in hand.

Townsend will be hoping the star can continue his tireless work and continue to inspire the Scotland pack to work harder as the team look to stay near the top end of the table.

Best moment so far

Probably the best moment of the entire tournament thus far is the simply ridiculous solo try scored by Van der Merwe against England in the opening round. It is a moment of magic that will be played over and over for years to come as the rampant winger wrote his name in Six Nations folklore.

The Scot received the ball 58-odd metres out and turned on the pace immediately, busting through England’s defensive line before stepping past a defender in the backfield and finishing with a big fend to power over and score. Van der Merwe beat a whopping five defenders en route to one of the greatest moments in the Six Nations.


Biggest weapons

Scotland’s attacking output has been massive this year, scoring 64 points compared to the 37 from last season at the same stage. This largely stems from Russell’s attacking vision and a reasonably balanced backline. Centres Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones, affectionately named ‘Huwipulotu’, have transformed their good form shown at club level to the Test arena, and the understanding between the two is clear.

Add in a dangerous back three with van der Merwe beating defenders in his sleep, Kyle Steyn, who was at the double against Wales and Stuart Hogg, who has been a mercurial performer for his country for a significant period, and you certainly get a weapon.

The forwards have also played their part and been solid enough at set-piece, but where their true value has shown is defensive commitment. In the opening round against England, EVERY starting forward hit double digits in their tackle counts, with Luke Crosbie joining Fagerson with 20 or more.

The same effort was on show a week later, with only two players in the forward pack not reaching 10 or more tackles. Of course, defensive systems can be coached over and over, but the commitment to play for each other comes from togetherness and team ethos – things Townsend looks to have nailed at the moment.

Biggest shortcomings

The team’s possession and territory statistics are not what one would expect for a side who have scored a lot of points in the first two rounds. Scotland had only 43% possession against England and 29% territory. Meanwhile, against Wales, they had exactly half the possession but 39% territory.

Scotland must be commended for their ability to strike despite those statistics falling in favour of the other side. However, there is a concern as the two opening rounds were against two sides with recent coaching changes and stalling attacks.

When Townsend’s men face France this weekend and Ireland later on, their committed defence will be under more pressure. Scotland needs to find a way to improve their territory control because if they let the two best teams in the world play with the ball in their area for long enough, even the most committed of defences will eventually crumble.


The developmental aspect is only positive for Scotland, beginning with the heightened togetherness within the squad. After all, rugby is a team game, and the more players want to run out on putting their body on the line, the more synergy the team will have, often on defence.

Meanwhile, the full trust thrown at Russell genuinely makes the side a different prospect whilst also cleverly using the Glasgow centre combination of ‘Huwipulotu’ to link with the venomous outside backs.

Keep the commitment, keep the balance and try to gain more control over the territory battle.


Scotland have done incredibly well thus far but, to some extent, benefitted from facing two stalling sides. However, nothing must be taken away from a team that looks really impressive. The proof will be in the pudding when they face France this weekend and Ireland a week later.

In the preview before the start of the tournament, Planet Rugby predicted Scotland not to have the best season and only just avoid the wooden spoon, finishing in fifth.

This has drastically changed by virtue of their own performances as well as the failure to launch from Wales under Warren Gatland and the teething process for Steve Borthwick at England.

As aforementioned Scotland’s potential will become more clear after facing the France and Ireland. Nevertheless, our updated prediction sees the Scot finish in third place.

Townsend will be absolutely delighted with the tournament thus far, and giving Scotland anything less than an A on our report card would not be adequate.

READ MORE: Six Nations report card: Fatigued France below par in title defence

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