Belfast Telegraph

Home Sport Rugby

Johnson absolves Hogg

Scotland head coach Scott Johnson refused to condemn Stuart Hogg despite the full-back's reckless red card at the Millennium Stadium sabotaging the Australian's final game in charge.

Wales racked up their best ever win against the Scots after Hogg was dismissed 23 minutes into the final RBS 6 Nations match of the season for throwing his shoulder into home fly-half Dan Biggar's face.

Warren Gatland's men enacted their own ruthless revenge as they ran in seven tries in a 51-3 win as Hogg's absence allowed the floodgates to open.

But Johnson - who will be replaced by Vern Cotter this summer as he becomes Scotland's new director rugby - insisted British and Irish Lion Hogg's act of stupidity was out of character.

He said: "Stuart might be many things, and one of them is a great character, but he certainly isn't a dirty player, that's for sure. He's already been in to apologise to Dan Biggar and the referee. Its so totally out of character for him.

"He's really down about it. He's taking it tough. He's an emotional lad and that emotion is a good thing, and in this case he is feeling he has let the boys down. He's got to face reality that he has been caught doing something, he's got a proper tribunal to front and show his case. So he's in a dark place but that's just life. He has got to confront it."

Scotland were already one try down following Liam Williams swan dive in the corner when Hogg became just the third man ever - and first since Scott Murray in 2006 - to be sent off while wearing Dark Blue.

But they slumped to their biggest-ever losing margin in the tournament as George North and Jamie Roberts both scored doubles to add to the touchdowns recorded by Taulupe Faletau and Rhodri Williams.

Asked if the sending-off was the turning point, Johnson said: " It wouldn't have been the same result, as in the scoreboard. I thought we were in the contest but full-back is a hell of a position to fill for that length of time. If it's a forward you can cover it but it's harder to cover a back division player, and once they were on a roll they played some pretty good rugby, too. But it felt like there was a lot of field to cover and was difficult for us."

Hogg was initially shown a yellow card before French referee Jerome Graces saw the incident on the big screens and upgraded his punishment to red.

But Johnson refused to take umbrage with that unusual decision.

" I work on the theory that they are paid to do their job," he said. "As soon as I saw the yellow I was thinking of something else. I can only do what is put in front of us there, so the judicial stuff I'll leave - my job is to compete on the back of that. He's a good referee and a good adjudicator."

Johnson has already presided over the dismal 28-6 defeat in Dublin and mortifying 20-0 loss to England this year.

But Saturday's defeat was the final kick in the teeth for the long-suffering Scottish support.

However, Johnson did his best not to heap further flak on his battered squad.

He said: " I won't question the character of the boys, I just won't do it. They're tough lads and they're character is undeniable.

"We said at half-time if we can just keep hold of the ball and just work at attacking their uncertain edge, and I thought we showed resolve there.

"Wales are a quality side with good players and they moved the ball with good skills. Fair play to Wales they scored some lovely tries, but it was a tough old day."

Skipper Kelly Brown went off after nine minutes with a head injury to exacerbate the Scots woes but his understudy Greig Laidlaw admitted they had let Johnston down.

"As a group of players we are extremely disappointed to let him go on this one," said the scrum-half. "He's been good to us and he deserved a lot better, so we're absolutely gutted with the way today has turned out."

Wales's record-breaking win was tainted by a dislocated shoulder to skipper Sam Warburton that will rule him out of their summer tour to South Africa.


From Belfast Telegraph