Scotland U20s 18-39 England U20s

The scoreline above does not really do justice to what was a vastly improved performance by the Scotland team who could quite possibly (but not easily) have won this game. In the end, England’s wings showed a little more confidence on the ball than the players inside – who handed over a glut of possession to Scotland (some of which was handed straight back) – and finished a couple of simple tries to put the gloss on the score.

It was also England’s wing Yarde who put the initial space between the teams with an interception try from Duncan Weir’s pass. After that Weir – wearing his headband of doom and who had been again trying to win the game himself – settled down, dropped a goal and really started to take command of the game and create space and chances for his talented backs. But Scotland were always playing catch up.

During the second half they exerted real dominance over an England team on paper more experienced and bigger physically. The dogged, aggressive and often scrambled tackling that is Scotland’s trademark these days was well in evidence, as was no small amount of guile in the backs. After coming off the bench last week, Kerr Gossman was hugely impressive on the wing and dovetailed nicely with Mark Bennett on several occasions. I have to admit Bennett had not been amazing on the couple of occasions I watched him during the Six Nations, but I can now see what all the fuss is about over in Clermont/Glasgow. He made several good breaks and offloads, and was narrowly hauled down short of the line after one such opportunity, but showed great awareness not to throw a silly pass when there was no support. A young man with a bright future indeed.

Number 8 James Tyas, after being subdued against South Africa came storming back on to his game at lineout and in the loose (and even Old Whistler marked him out as a top performer).

The best try of the game was scored by Scotland, an end-to-end effort involving a lot of the team (I hope to track down some video, it really was rather good) but finished by Sean Kennedy, and they slowly hauled England to within a score.

Then tiredness kicked in after tackling for 80 minutes against South Africa four days previous, and England emptied their Premiership bench. The new men in white, including George Ford, made the most of their chances – something the team had thus far failed to do, and were able to put the win out of reach with a couple of cheap tries.

A fair bit of criticism was levelled at the team by South African commenters who felt their lot should have put us away by 100 or more like New Zealand were doing to teams (Wales got drubbed 92-0 yesterday): “this Scotland team are very poor” and the like. But actually they are not a bad team or bad players, they are just working with very different resources in terms of money, time and size of player pool to the Southern Hemisphere big guns (and England) and consistently having to punch above their weight against young men who have played rugby at a higher standard for longer.

Heartening though, and if somehow we can keep some of these backs playing together and getting out of the blocks quicker – a failing the senior team (and Andy Murray!) are guilty of – Scotland’s future will be in good hands.

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