It has been a tough few matches for Scotland fly-half Dan Parks. After he missed a makable drop-goal against Argentina in this past year's Rugby World Cup that would've helped put Scotland in a better chance to advance, many felt Parks would be crucial in last night's Calcutta Cup against bitter-rival England.
Parks' night opened strongly for Scotland, as his two penalties paced the Scottish side to a 6-3 halftime lead. Parks and Scotland did not have much time to remain positive as his clearance was blocked by Chris Hodgson and recovered for and England try.
If this had been Parks' only mistake, Scotland fans would be still calling for this replacement. His unimaginative game plan, however, made him the primary recipient of postgame consternation from a variety of sources. Often criticised as dull, Parks' momentum-killing style is frequently cited as the reason for Scotland's scoring troubles.
Hodgson expressed empathy for Parks after the game. "I know how it feels," Hodgson said. "Every fly-half has had a kick charged down." Yet, Parks well documented troubles extend far beyond last night's contest.
Still, Parks should not be considered the scapegoat. In the 44th minute, for example, Scrum-half Chris Cusiter brought the ball back to the Scotland 22 before kicking the ball out and giving England a throw at the 22 and another scoring chance. Cusiter was only saved by an obstruction call on England No. 4 Mouritz Botha.
But the finger remains solidly pointed at Parks as his replacement, Greig Laidlaw, was burst of energy for the Scottish side in the second half. After coming fingernails away from a try, Laidlaw was creative in his distribution of the ball and routinely put Scotland in scoring chances.
As Parks and Scotland get ready to travel to Cardiff next week to face a talented Welch side, coach Andy Robinson should determine if his regular fly-half is the answer.