Scotland chalked up their first victory of this year’s 6 Nations under- 20 championship with a spirited perfromance against Italy at Netherdale, Galashiels, writes Stuart MacLennan.
A nervy opening 15 minutes witnessed errors from both teams, with the Scots in particular failing to commit to high balls and Italy unable to recycle anything that resembled quick ball. An Italian penalty goal was cancelled out instantly thanks to a serene step and try from South-African based Scotland fly-half Tommy Allan who converted to make the score 7-3 to the home side.
Some sterling back row graft from the likes of Will Bordill and Adam Ashe allowed Scotland to form a base with which to mount sustained attacks and a further penalty from Allan on the stroke of half-time was minimal reward for a few exciting passages of play; tormentor-in-chief Mark Bennett was at the heart of much of it, breaking and snarling through the gain-line at will.
The half-time score was Scotland U20 10-3 Italy U20.
The second forty minutes began in the same fashion as both sides struggles to settle quickly, with driving rain adding to the difficulty of conditions. Allan again stretched Scotland’s lead with a three-pointer and a 58th-minute sin-binning for Italy’s replacement Marcello Violi allowed the Scots’ number 10 to take it to 16-3. Roughly 800 spectators were eagerly willing Scotland to put the game to bed before Italy could restore a full compliment to the pitch and the home side duly delivered.
Scotland’s Damien Hoyland popped up on the right wing to finish of a confident play which was the least he deserved following a disallowed first half effort. Replacement Alex Hagart landed a tricky conversion to make it 23-3 after 65 minutes.
The final stages combined tiredness and desperation from both sides to force a result and although captain Jonny Gray’s deserved 79th minute try was sanwiched by two Italian whitewash crossings, the Netherdale crowd were treated to a convincing and mature win for Scotland’s young warriors. Bennett received Man-of-the Match for his industrious display and few could argue with that decision.
FULL TIME Scotland U20 30-17 Italy U20.
Report by Stuart MacLennan
And here are some highlights of the match, courtesy of the good folks at Borders Rugby TV: