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Stuart Hogg serves reminder of his capabilities

Stuart Hogg may have been in the doghouse for the past three months, but he emerged from it with his tail wagging wildly on Saturday evening when he delivered the sort of trademark solo try that marks him out as a very special talent indeed.

Stuart Hogg celebrates scoring his solo try with team-mate  Tim Visser during Scotland's 24-6 victory ove USA. Picture: SNS
Stuart Hogg celebrates scoring his solo try with team-mate Tim Visser during Scotland's 24-6 victory ove USA. Picture: SNS

Hogg's notorious late charge on Dan Biggar of Wales at the Millennium Stadium in March led to him becoming only the third Scot in history to be sent off in a full Test match. It was also a major factor in the scale of humiliation suffered by the Scots that day, as they lost 51-3 to a Welsh side that took to running in tries for fun.

Suddenly, the man who was the hero of the previous campaign had a sub-zero rating in the eyes of most Scottish fans. He also had a bit of a problem, for at the very point when he should have been helping Glasgow's push for RaboDirect PRO12 honours he was sidelined by a three-week ban. In Hogg's absence, Peter Murchie grabbed the Warriors No.15 jersey and made it his own, keeping it for the PRO12 semi-final against Munster and the final against Leinster the weekend before last.

The rumour mill had it that Hogg had played his last game for Glasgow, that he would be heading across to Ulster before long. Yet when he stopped to speak in Houston after the USA game, he was adamant that he was staying put. "Unless you are aware of something I am not, then I will definitely be at Glasgow next season," he said.

There was a broad smile across his face and an easy laugh as he spoke. But the mischievous pleasure he took from being back in the Scotland team and back on the Scotland scoresheet was in stark contrast to his feelings in the aftermath of his dismissal against Wales.

Until Saturday, Hogg had kept his counsel about the sending-off, but he admitted, in colourful terms, that his reckless collision with Biggar had sparked a chain of events that made the final few weeks of the season a miserable experience.

"What happened against Wales was a complete brain fart," said the 21-year-old. "I won't be doing that again in a hurry because I let a lot of people down in that game. But I'm trying hard to get them all back on my side now. I am happy just to be back playing.

"It was a frustrating, difficult two weeks missing the semi and the final, but I can't really have any complaints. Peter Murchie had been playing really well and I can't grumble. I have to respect [Glasgow coach] Gregor Townsend's decision on that. I felt Murch played well in both games."

Hogg seemed to become a peri­pheral figure as Glasgow made their PRO12 charge. The talk among some Warriors supporters was that the club might even be better off without him, especially if compensation for the loss of his services was going to be paid. Yet what he did in Houston's BBVA Compass Stadium on Saturday was a pertinent reminder of how big a loss he would be.

It was also a reminder that Scotland had assembled their best back three in years when Hogg, Tim Visser and Sean Maitland came together so well during the 2013 Six Nations. ­Injuries at different times to Visser and Maitland meant that the trio had not been in harness together since the last match of that tournament, but it was easy to sense Hogg's excitement that they had such a fruitful reunion against the USA.

He said: "It was great to be back playing with the other two. Viss on one wing and Sean Maitland on the other. I think it's a pretty strong back three and it was great to be back out there with those guys. They are both great players and we missed that, I felt, in the Six Nations this time around."

But what of his own performance? It was not exactly faultless because he made a lurid error when he dropped a high ball in the first half, but overall he played with the authority and sharpness that earned him his Scotland debut as a teenager two seasons ago and a subsequent call-up to the Lions.

"Listen, all I can do is play my own game and that's what I tried to do," he said. "There is no point in looking back, as long as I give my best for the team and do whatever I can then I'll be happy with that. I was delighted to score. I'd been frustrated after dropping that high ball in the first half and I wanted to put that right. I caught the ball and Viss shouted that the space had opened up; thankfully I got there."

Touchingly, Hogg also paid tribute to his fellow Borderer Geoff Cross, the prop whose father died last week but who chose to stay with the Scotland party for the USA game.

Hogg said: "It was spot on from Geoff. He's had a really tough week and I thought he had a fine match against the USA; full credit to him. We all had black armbands on as a mark of respect.

"Geoff is a great man and we were trying to pick him up as best we could all week. It was just great he could stay, he could play and that he could be part of a winning team."

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