Why Jonny Gray was Scotland’s True ‘Man of the Match’

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Ireland's lock Devin Toner (L) vies with Scotland's lock Jonny Gray during the Six Nations international rugby union match between Scotland and Ireland at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland on Febuary 4, 2017. / AFP / Paul ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Stuart Hogg’s performance was truly amazing, in Scotland’s 27-22 over Ireland. Lauded for his performance, however Scotland would not have taken the day if not for the strong defensive work from Jonny Gray.

The first match of the RBS Six Nations Championship was absolutely amazing. In the ‘match of the weekend’ Scotland shocked many throughout the world, with their win over Ireland. That win marks only the third time that Scotland has won since Italy joined the annual championship, and expanded the tournament to six teams.

Stuart Hogg had two tries and 104 meters made. His performance ‘offensively’ was by far the best of both teams. The highlights showed his searing pace and agility but it hid the ‘true warrior’ that underpinned this weekends victory.

This match was not determined solely by Scotland’s offensive abilities. This match ultimately came down to Scotland’s ‘defensive dominance’ of the Irish. Ireland maintained a 59% possession over the match, and an amazing 63% of the match was spent in Scottish territory. With such a strong edge for Ireland, the only hope for Scotland was to block every attempt made by Ireland to steal this gallant victory.

Forward Battle Surely the Reason for Success

Scotland overall made 242 tackles and lock Jonny Gray was responsible for 27 of them. His performance truly set the bar for defensive play. His British and Irish Lions place was trumpeted with his continual top class performances. Clutch tackles, linking with his forwards and turning up in the defensive line, were all qualities Gray provides. His battle with Devin Toner (see main picture) and overall defensive performance is why Jonny Gray maybe the true Scot’s Man of the Match.

And his was not the only challenge to Hogg’s two-try display. Another great performance of note for Scotland’s defense was by Edinburgh’s flanker Hamish Watson. Watson played very well, finishing second on the list, in terms of tackles with 19. The defensive work horse also finished fourth on the team, in meters made at 25. He ran hard, backed up and then put his head down time, and time again.

They each put their hands up, for their commitment, energy and desire to prove Scotland were no ‘easy points’ for any Six Nations team.

Finn Russel Cleared of Possible Head Injuries by Thorough HIA

During the match against Ireland, Finn Russel took a very bad knock to the head. He left the field, and while initially cleared to return to the field, gratefully the player was held back. He was not actually fully cleared until yesterday.

It is great that Russell has been cleared of all concern, through the HIA (head injury assessment). It gives fans and his coach Vern Cotter comfort,Β as the only alternative for his position in the squad is Duncan Weir. Weir is a good flyhalf in his own right, but is not entirely ready yet for the international stage.

Debate Over ‘MOM’ Award Maintains Internal Competition

The debate over who the best player in Scotland’s match against Ireland is a healthy one, as it makes everyone think.Β And after so many years of hearing it, it might have become a cliche–but this match truly was a team win.

Gray and Watson on defense, stopped all Irish momentum. Stuart Hogg did ‘what Hogg does best’ and scored tries. Greig Laidlaw captained to perfection, and crucially kicked heroically. His name would have been in the running as well. Alex Dunbar’s try off the shortened line-out showed Ireland’s true weakness at the set piece. His game was worthy of acclaim too, but this match was in-fact won by all 15 players for Scotland.

Many consider it an upset, but it wasn’t. Many believed that Ireland would win [widely predicted] but the outcome was not as simple as in years past. The Scottish are proving that they are ‘not an inferior’ team to their European brothers anymore. This is not only great Scotland side, but a team to be cautious of, by all Six Nations competitors.

This was an incredible opening to the Championship, and we can all hope and pray that those quality performances continue.

Scotland next play France in Paris, on Sunday February 12.

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