Six Nations 2015: Vern Cotter takes positives from Scotland defeat
Scotland head coach keen to focus on improvements despite a second defeat from their two matches in this year's championship
Vern Cotter refused to get drawn into a blame game after watching his Scotland side lose 26-23 to Wales at BT Murrayfield.
The Dark Blues scored a last-minute try through replacement prop Jon Welsh, converted by Finn Russell, but were denied a final chance to attack as referee Glen Jackson blew the whistle before Wales could take the restart.
What we can do is take some positive things out of the game, because I think we improved from Paris. That, for me, is encouraging. So what we do next is important.
Scotland had Wales backed up on their tryline at the end of both halves, but struggled to find a way through a determined Welsh defensive effort, which offered more resistance than it had against England nine days earlier despite allowing Stuart Hogg too much space from turnover ball to break away down the left for the opening try of the match early in the first half.
And the hosts could have had a crack at a win had captain Greig Laidlaw not been ruled short just before half-time, which Jackson determined without consulting the Television Match Official.
“If we analyse the game, we felt they probably could have had a look at Greig’s try at the end of the first half and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne when he went to ground, which could have given us a try earlier,” Cotter said.
“There are a lot of things that we don’t have control on.
“I don’t want to lose a lot of energy talking about it either, because it’s not going to change the result.
“What we can do is take some positive things out of the game, because I think we improved on from Paris. That, for me, is encouraging. So what we do next is important.
“This game also illustrates some areas that we need to work on.
“After scoring our try, I think we went into our shell a little bit. We needed to keep expressing ourselves and keep an attacking philosophy. That’s something we’ll look to develop.
“I’m sure we can create danger from all forms and situations and I thought that once we started attacking we became a threat.”
Scotland conceded 10 points during a sin-bin period at the end of the first half after Glasgow Warriors outside-half Finn Russell was yellow carded for taking out opposite number Dan Biggar in the air.
The reality is we got close. We showed some good signs, we played some good rugby.
Despite referee Jackson reviewing the incident and determining the offence warranted a yellow, Cotter could still lose Russell for at least the match with Italy, if not their fourth round contest against England at Twickenham as well, if the player is cited and found guilty of causing a dangerous tackle.
Disciplinary hearings at club level have been determined to punish such incidents where a player lands on their head or shoulders with a ban as a deterrent to stamp out perceived reckless collisions in the air.
But the Scotland head coach also admitted to some frustration at not getting much advantage from a number of quick penalties in the Welsh 22, while they again fell foul of the referee as they conceded 13 penalties, which allowed full-back Leigh Halfpenny to keep the scoreboard ticking over for Wales in the first half.
“For the effort, it’s reasonably hard to take, but it’s done now,” he added.
“There were three penalties inside their 22 at the last 15 minutes. Some of those may have been cynical as well.
“Did that deserve a yellow card? Well, obviously not, so that’s the way it is and we have to deal with reality.
“The reality is we got close. We showed some good signs, we played some good rugby.
“[Discipline] is something that’s spoken about and I need to have look at their penalties that were against us, how many were 50/50s and how many that were non-negotiable that we need to avoid.
“We’ll look at those as a group and decide if we need to have a shift in how we approach rucks or how we do our homework on referees to make sure we adapt as best as possible.”
Cotter conceded that there are still a number of areas that Scotland need to work on for the rest of the Six Nations campaign, including their high ball reception with Wales backs Halfpenny, Liam Williams and Dan Biggar coming out on top throughout the match.
But the New Zealander preferred to look ahead to the next match against Italy rather than dwell on incidents in the match.
“We need to have a look,” he said.
“There are some things we need to improve on. The high balls certainly that’s something we’ll work on positionally.
“At times, perhaps we needed to keep the hand on the ball and we need to improve on our high ball receptions.
“There’s a lot of things we’re not going to avoid either, so we’ll look at those very clearly with a lot of honesty and we’ll look forward to the next game.”