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Sean Maitland hails Scotland's X factor players

Published 20/11/2016

Scotland's Sean Maitland, centre, celebrates his try against Argentina
Scotland's Sean Maitland, centre, celebrates his try against Argentina

Sean Maitland believes Scotland are starting to hit all the right notes because they now have the X factor.

The winger says the likes of Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg and new centre Huw Jones have the talent to unlock any defence.

Jones in particular has quickly proven himself to be game-changer in his first two Test starts. He scored a brace against Australia last week and followed up with a sublime assist for Maitland's try during Saturday's narrow 19-16 win over Argentina.

Vern Cotter's men have one final autumn international against Georgia next week before they turn their attentions to the RBS 6 Nations but Maitland is already excited about what lies ahead.

"X factor players you would probably call them," the Saracens back said when asked about the likes of Russell, Hogg and Jones.

"I think our back line, the cohesion and the synergy, is getting top class. Hopefully we'll have Duncy (Duncan Taylor) coming back from injury soon so there is going to be a lot of competition in our midfield and our back three as well so it's only going to be healthy for Scottish rugby.

"I'm sure Vern will have some difficult decisions coming up for the Six Nations."

Scotland looked to be in trouble against the Pumas after allowing Matias Orlando to score the opening try 10 minutes into the second half.

But Jones produced a stunning off-load to put Maitland in for a touchdown in the corner as Scotland hit back immediately.

With the scores locked at 16-16, skipper Greig Laidlaw thought he had allowed a crucial win to slip through his grasp when he smashed a penalty against the post two minutes from time. But he was given another chance deep into stoppage time and made it count as he knocked over the winning kick.

Maitland, though, paid tribute to Jones for providing the spark Scotland needed.

He said: "Our outside backs didn't really see too much ball. It's was just one of those games where you only get a few chances and Huw made something out of nothing. He had the vision to see me on the outside and get me in for a little lollipop try so it's always good to get over the line and score.

"The conditions were really difficult. We always knew it was going to be one of those tight games but we hung in there.

"In the first half we lost a lot of ball to the conditions. But we played better in the second half."

The win now moves Cotter's men above Argentina in the world rankings and up to eighth.

That could yet prove crucial to Scotland's 2019 World Cup hopes but it also restored belief after they lost to a similarly late kick against the Wallabies the week before.

"We've talked about the Australia game all week and how we respond to setbacks," said Maitland.

"The big thing was not to panic when Argentina scored. There was plenty of time on the clock and we were only a converted try behind.

"The main thing was that Greig got the boys around him and made sure we just started again.

"We composed ourselves really well. There are always momentum shifts throughout a game and after the try it came back to us.

"We started hammering their line and it's good to finally come out on the other side of a tight game."

Cotter will likely give some of his fringe men the chance to impress against the Georgians at Kilmarnock's Rugby Park next Saturday.

After that, the New Zealander will have five games left to shape his Scotland legacy before handing over the reins to Gregor Townsend.

And Maitland admits his players are determined to give him a positive send-off.

"Everyone is a bit gutted that Vern's leaving but that's footy," he said.

"It's a business at the end of the day and we want to leave him on a high. We've developed our own brand under Vern of how we want to play the game and we're improving game by game."

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