Seven tries for the Scots in Nice
With so much talk about Scotland already having a mountain to climb to get out of Rugby World Cup Pool B, the team got their first win of the tournament, against Tonga. The 45-17 , bonus-point victory in Nice will calm a few nerves after Ireland’s heroics in Paris.
Pitched into a pool of doom, with world No 1 Ireland and reigning Rugby World Cup champions South Africa, the size of the task for Scotland was never in doubt. But after getting nothing out of their 18-3 loss to the Boks, the Scots had a bye week in which they watch Ireland and South Africa stretch away from them in the pool. Then, last night, Ireland defeated the Springboks in a raucous Stade de France.
The results meant that the Scots faced a tough run: they need to rack up wins in their remaining fixtures against Tonga, Romania, and Ireland, collecting try bonuses on the way.
Well it was job done in Nice, with first Scotland World Cup win on the board and seven tries. In fact, they had the necessary four before half-time. As head coach Gregor Townsend surmised: “You’ve got to be happy with the win but we know we could have been a lot better in the last quarter of the game. It just got a bit loose, we pride ourselves on making sure we stay at the levels we started at and we didn’t do that today, but I’m really proud of the effort that went in.”
He added: “It’s a six-day turnaround to Romania now and we know we’ve got to improve on this performance to get a bonus-point win. Then, we’ve got a shootout against Ireland if that’s the case.”
As alluded to, it wasn’t plain sailing. Captain Jamie Ritchie was kept on the sidelines after failing an HIA following a high shot from – should it have been a Tonga red card? It wasn’t, after a TMO Bunker review. The Tongans led at one point, 10-7, and were first to score in the second half, following a barnstorming carry by big Ben Tameifuna.
The Scots did eventually pull away.
In the second half Duhan van der Merwe set up a score for George Horne after manhandling the defence; Blair Kinghorn made up for a spilled ball on the try-line right at the start of the game with a nice finish; Darcy Graham did Darcy Graham things as he weaved his way to a try.
Finn Russell’s flat passing and his trusted pivot with Sione Tuipulotu also did well to unlock the Tongan defence.
So it’s job done here. But Scotland will want to smooth the rough edges as they play through Romania on the way to the enormous match with Ireland. If Scotland are to get out of their pool, they will have to do it the devilishly hard way.