All eyes turn to Yokohama on Sunday, after another assured display saw Scotland comfortably dispatch Russia, whilst also keeping their opposition scoreless for the second game in a row.
Russia had built up a reputation as a team that likes to kick possession back to their opponents and soak up pressure, but they began this match looking to keep the ball in hand and run through the phases.
Scotland’s defence comfortably dealt with everything the
Russians had to offer though, and once expected service had commenced, Scotland
scored their opening points.
Having won a penalty against the head, Scotland opted for their own put-in deep in Russia’s 22. Ryan Wilson picked up from the base, passed to George “Horneito” Horne, who then fed Adam Hastings who dummied and scampered over the try-line.
The Scotland stand-off doubled his tally soon after with a slightly fortuitous individual score.
Peter Horne forced the ball from winger German Davydov’s hands in the act of tackling to return possession to Scottish hands. Hastings was given the ball on the half-way line, dinked over the top and chased his own kick, which he then nudged into the goal area. Russian full-back Vasili Artemyev, he of glorious moustache and bizarre accent, seemed to have the danger covered, but an awkward bounce took the ball away from his despairing grasp and allow Hastings the dot down.
The lightning fast speed of Horneito was then given a global
stage, and left egg all over the face of opposite number Dmitriy Perov.
A perfectly weighted touch-finder from Hastings gave Russia the line-out 5m from their own line, and although Russia secured the set-piece safely enough, Perov’s pass back to allow a clearance kick was snaffled by the blue shirted blur. After a slow opening period, Scotland now nearly had as many points as minutes on the clock.
With half an hour played, Magnus Bradbury replaced Fraser Brown, in what was hopefully a pre-planned measure given the short turnaround to the next game.
As with the Samoa game, Scotland were happy to kick deep and force Russia to play or apply pressure at the set-piece, and as with the Samoa game, there was a final chance for Scotland to score with the clock in red. But as with the Samoa game, and a few other times to be fair, Scotland were unable to force their way over with the close quarters stuff.
Half-time: Scotland 21 – 0 Russia
Some early second half sloppiness showed, but it was from an error that the bonus point try was secured.
Cummings knocked on in the carry, but Russia kicked the advantage away. The kick was fielded by Darcy Graham on his own 22 and “The Prince of Hawick” carved through the Russian defence with ease. Once into the opposite 22, he had Horneito, who else, running a support line on his left shoulder to make it 2 tries apiece for the Warriors’ half-back duo.
The gap in class and fitness was starting to really show now. George Turner decided it was time for the forwards to get on the scoresheet, he spun out from the back of a rapidly advancing maul and ran home unchallenged.
Soon afterwards, after Russia had again been forced into a sclaffed clearance from deep, Tommy Seymour raced onto Blair Kinghorn’s perfectly weighted grubber for his first Scotland try in nearly a year.
Try number seven came down the opposite flank just moments later, and it was the hat-trick for Horneito.
With Graham having been replaced by Pyrgos after his earlier lung-bursting run, Horneito had moved onto the wing. He fielded another aimless kick, exchanged passes with Big Bro Pete, Pyrgos carried it on, and as the try-line drew ever closer, Horneito was there to outpace the last man and go in at the corner.
Scotland looked like scoring every time they had the ball now. Hastings squeezed through a gap in midfield and off-loaded nicely to Nel. He rampaged up the park, creating further disarray in Russia’s defence. Quick recycling led Horneito to think he had gone in for try number four, but upon review, the final pass from Bradbury had gone forward. Magnanimously, Townsend decided at this point he’d seen enough from his livewire number 9, who could not have put a bigger stake in his claim for the jersey, not only for against Japan, but longer term in the post-Laidlaw era.
As the game drew to a close, John Barclay sauntered over from nearly halfway, a tired Davydov falling all too easily for the dummy, and the hammering was complete when a superb length of the field move was scored by McInally. Hastings converted from a tough angle for his eighth successful conversion from nine, and a personal points tally of 26 for the evening.
Hastings thought he had also completed his hat-trick of
tries when the clock had gone red, but TMO Marius Joncker spoiled the party by
notifying Wayne Barnes that Seymour’s final pass had gone forward. Nonetheless,
a great individual day for Finn Russell’s understudy.
Now we know exactly where we stand. There are 2 results which will see Scotland qualify; either win and deny Japan a losing bonus point or win with a try bonus point and only allow Japan one bonus point. Fingers crossed for either of them, and that Typhoon Hagibis stays away.
SRBlog MOTM: kudos to Darcy Graham and Adam Hastings, but how could the award go to anyone else other than George “Horneito” Horne. His first try was opportunistic, his other two were classic Horneito, and his speed around the pitch was too hot for Russia to handle.
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU)