Scotland got their 2018 summer tour off to a good start with a confident win over Kingsley Jones’s struggling Canada side.
The hosts had Glasgow Warrrior DTH Van Der Merwe in their ranks but they struggled to involve him in a first half that was fairly close on the scoreboard but which didn’t see Canada enter Scotland’s 22 very often.
The opening moment of note after some early errors from both sides saw Scotland’s lineout maul hit top gear early on and it was purring throughout the game. That was followed by a backsmove 9-10-15 that was typically Scotland even if the personnel – Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Ruaridh Jackson and Blair Kinghorn – were different. All three players had strong halves and Hidalgo-Clyne in particular could pose some problems to the selectors come World Cup time if George Horne, Ali Price and Greig Laidlaw are also in the mix to be involved and he carries on his form.
Scotland had a new look backline with James Lang making a strong debut at inside centre and he was involved in the opening try, his first pass going to no-one but the ball bumbled back to his feet and he picked it off his laces to throw a wide looping pass to Byron McGuigan on the win who did the job to finish.
Canadian hooker Phil Barker was binned for a nasty-looking off the ball hit on Allan Dell’s knee and was yellow-carded after just 17 minutes. Scotland had a kickable penalty but opted instead for the lineout and had to make it count. Hidalgo-Clyne popped it from the base of the maul to Ruaridh Jackson who could only stretch out to place it just short of the line. At the ensuing scrum, referee Shuhei Kubo went against the visitors and the pressure was off Canada.
Neither side was kicking particularly well from hand but the Scots were more confident with the ball and keeping the territory in Canada’s half meant they looked comfortable without dominating completely, and were allowed to get away with the mistakes they did make; plenty of key passes went astray or were knocked on in the tackle.
This could have been why they persisted in playing it tight but the Canadian defence was quite miserly around the ruck and more profit might have been found wider out, particularly given the form of Kinghorn who was a reassuring presence at the back.
Leading the attack well from 10, Jackson eventually got his try with a move from the back of a maul down the short side and a short pass from Hidalgo-Clyne put him over in the corner.
The loss of Fraser Brown will have been a worry in terms of the tour overall but George Turner made a very able deputy with strong carries and clamping himself at the back of the maul. He may have not wanted his scrum half to move the ball when the pack were well in control and steaming towards the line, but he had more opportunities in the second half which he was allowed to take full advantage of.
Half-time: Canada 3-15 Scotland
The first of those came almost immediately into the second half, with a maul storming over the line for Turner to drop down and score.
Canada responded with their best attacking spell of the game with a series of phases in the Scottish 22. Jackson was lucky not to be carded when Canada tapped a penalty close to the line and he couldn’t resist the tackle, but when he went for the interception and missed it earned him a yellow card and a penalty try – automatically converted these days – for the home side.
After a solid debut, James Lang went off following a clash of heads at the restart and Adam Hastings got his first cap in a makeshift backline that also had Mark Bennett (on for Lee Jones) and Chris Harris now on the wing. When Jackson came back on, he played in the centre and Hastings distributed well and almost got through a few half gaps from 10. It was a confident start from the young man, by this time with Ali Price in support but the backs kept coming up short – Blair Kinghorn was held up over the line, where Magnus Bradbury broke through the line for his score with ease.
The best attack of the half was a breakout counter-attack by Price and Hastings with some lovely passing, but Mark Bennett couldn’t get the last pass away to McGuigan in the face of a superb cover tackle by Doug Fraser.
Murray McCallum thought he had a first try for his country but it was ruled out after a neck roll by Harris was spotted. The pack made up for it with another two tries in quick succession for George Turner to secure the hat-trick. Superb work by the pack, and coaches Dan McFarland and Carl Hogg.
Lewis Carmichael got his first cap off the bench and made a late charge for Man of the Match with some super carries, one of which he scored, to round off a good hit out for Scotland.
Townsend has some interesting selection posers ahead of next week, not least of which is who to pick at 9 with George Horne still to come into the mix and both the men who played today in fine form.
Referee: Shuhei Kubo (JRFU)
SRBlog Man of the Match: quite a few candidates here with Kinghorn, Bradbury, Ritchie and Toolis all continuing their fine club form into the tour. Jackson was going well before his yellow card but I’m giving it to George Turner for his three tries and strong defensive work