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Robinson rues loss of first-half plot

Scotland head coach Andy Robinson admitted last night that his side had shot themselves in the foot by surrendering to South Africa easy penalties, easy territory and easy points in the first half at Murrayfield.

Although the Springboks actually conceded more penalties over the course of the game – 14 to Scotland's 11 – Robinson's side allowed their opponents to dictate proceedings over the first 40 minutes as they built up a 14-3 lead at half time, an advantage that was stretched to 21-3 early in the second period.

"We're pretty disappointed with what happened today," said the grim-faced coach. "The last 30 minutes was very pleasing for us, but what happened in the first 50 minutes was hugely frustrating.

"We went into the game with a plan and obviously that plan didn't work and wasn't effective enough in the first half.

"What we faced today was different from what we faced against the All Blacks last week. Last week we faced speed, this week we were up against physicality. They are the toughest team to play against. It showed the gulf to where we are.

"We have to make sure we learn the lessons from this. We cannot afford to give away penalties in the way we did. We need to deal with our discipline because we gave them field position and allowed them to build their maul.

"Everyone in the dressing room at half time was disappointed in the way we played."

The critical sequence in the first half saw the Scots concede a penalty near halfway. From the resultant line-out, deep in the 22, South Africa gathered, formed a driving maul and sent hooker Adriaan Strauss over for the first of his two tries.

As discipline and countering the maul had been high on Robinson's list of priorities, it was a disaster in every sense.

Scotland captain Kelly Brown backed up the coach with his assessment of the way the game had gone, commenting that the team had never been able to get into their stride and impose their own game-plan on the Springboks.

"We spoke all week that we had to get our physicality right and that we needed to be very disciplined," Brown explained. "In the first half we weren't and the energy was a little bit down.

"In the last 30 minutes it became a case of lie down and die or stand up and fight. I felt we stood up and fought. But next week, when we play Tonga, we need to do that from the first whistle.

"The main thing today was our discipline. In the first half it was just the case that we conceded far too many penalties. It's hard to speak straight after the match. We put a lot of emotion into it. We worked and worked and, ultimately, we have been unsuccessful. We need to go back and look at the tape and learn our lessons. Next week it is about getting fired into Tonga."

Robinson fielded questions about the implications of the defeat for his side's prospects at the 2015 World Cup. After losing to New Zealand and South Africa on consecutive weeks, Scotland cannot now win a place in the top eight of the world rankings before the World Cup draw next month, and will therefore be seeded as a tier three side. As a consequence, they will now find themselves in the same pool as two other top ranked nations.

Reflecting on the last two weeks, Robinson did his best to find positives, but admitted that the bad outweighed the good over the course of the two games.

Robinson said: "What I take from the first two games is that we have shown we can perform against the best sides.

"We have also shown that if you don't do it for 80 minutes they will score points against you. Today, they gave us a masterclass in how to dominate territory and field position and take the sting out of the other side.

"We didn't start as we wanted to but part of the reason for that was the accuracy South Africa played with and the way they controlled the game. It was a lesson in how to play away from home.

"They have a plan and it worked for them. They understand how they want to play. Their pack is becoming very balanced and that gives them the ability to play like that. Also Ruan Pienaar [the scrum-half] is a world- class player. It is a side that is shaping well.

"We have confidence that we can keep hold of the ball against top teams. If you look at the way we have played in parts of the last two games there has clearly been belief there. But we have to do that for 80 minutes to beat the very best."

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