After his double against South Africa, Scotland captain Stuart Hogg strikes again during a 29-20 win v Japan to establish a stand-alone scoring record for his country
Stuart Hogg becomes Scotland’s all-time record try-scorer
Stuart Hogg set a new Scotland record today after scoring against Japan at Murrayfield. The Scotland captain crossed in the 27th minute to register his 25th try for his country – surpassing the 24 scored by Tony Stanger and Ian Smith in the all-time list.
Hogg had drawn level with those two wingers following his double against South Africa last weekend. During that 30-15 defeat, he set a world record for the most Test starts at full-back, his figure of 87 – two of them for the Lions – eclipsing Rob Kearney’s tally of 86.
Hogg’s historic moment came when he made a searing break after fielding a clearing kick and found Chris Harris. The ball was recycled, George Turner moved the ball quickly from the ruck and Hogg took the neatly delivered scoring pass from Finn Russell.
The score, converted by Russell, restored Scotland’s lead (12-10) against the team that had dramatically ended their 2019 World Cup ambitions in the pool stage.
Japan had quietened the crowd in Edinburgh by stringing together 18 phases inside the first three minutes, but they were set on their heels soon after when Duhan van der Merwe capped a series of short-range thrusts by scoring from a pick and go. It was the Lions winger’s ninth try in just 13 Scotland Tests.
But Scotland then endured frustration as they repeatedly fell foul of referee Brendon Pickerill at the breakdown, earning a team warning. Rikiya Matsuda kicked two penalties to nudge Japan ahead before Hogg’s typically decisive intervention.
The hosts breathed more easily when Darcy Graham weaved over just before half-time for a try that Russell again converted. Scotland led 19-6 at the break.
Japan needed the next score and they got it when Jamie Bhatti became the latest breakdown culprit. The loosehead was penalised for not rolling away, just as the likes of Harris and Scott Cummings had failed to do earlier, and Pickerill’s patience had run out. He sent Bhatti to the sin-bin and Matsuda kicked the points, 19-9.
When that quickly became 19-12, Japan had reduced the arrears to one score and Scotland faced a battle to regain the initiative.
However, Japan have struggled painfully against the driving maul this autumn and Scotland took command once again when hooker Stuart McInally, not long on as a replacement for Turner, finished a well-executed drive from a lineout. Russell’s conversion made it 26-12.
The visitors continued to throw the ball around with intent but their only try came from an unlikely source. Ryoto Nakamura’s excellent kick from his own half to the corner gave Japan a lineout under the 50:22 law. The ball was won untidily and replacement Tevita Tatafu thundered through the attempted tackle of Hamish Watson to score.
Matsuda fluffed the kick but landed his fifth penalty entering the final ten minutes to keep hopes of only their second victory over Scotland in nine attempts all told alive.
Those hopes were finally extinguished when Russell slotted a penalty with a minute remaining, the kick taking the Scots two scores clear at 29-20 by full-time.
Harris was named Man of the Match and Scotland are left to reflect on a satisfactory autumn of three wins out of four, defeats of Tonga, Australia and Japan accompanied by defeat against world champions South Africa.
A concern will be their inability to retain possession, with their highest number of phases against Japan just seven. “Scotland aren’t being direct enough,” said TV pundit John Barclay.
Asked about his record-breaking feat, Hogg said: “There is no better feeling than representing Scotland, it’s all I ever wanted to do. I’m still living the dream. To be part of this group is very, very special and something I’ll never take for granted.”
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (capt); Darcy Graham (Blair Kinghorn 63), Chris Harris, Sam Johnson, Duhan van der Merwe; Finn Russell, Ali Price (George Horne 62); Jamie Bhatti, George Turner (Stuart McInally 54), Zander Fagerson (Javan Sebastian 63), Scott Cummings (Sam Skinner 72), Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie (Matt Fagerson 62), Hamish Watson (Pierre Schoeman 49-54, Dylan Richardson 71), Josh Bayliss.
Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka (Yu Tamura 62); Kotaro Matsushima, Shogo Nakano (Dylan Riley ht), Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita; Rikiya Matsuda, Yutaka Nagare (Naoto Saito 71); Craig Millar (Keita Inagaki 62), Atsushi Sakate, Asaeli Ai Valu (Shinnosuke Kakinaga 62), Jack Cornelsen, James Moore, Michael Leitch (Tevita Tatafu 62), Pieter Labuschagné (capt), Kazuki Himeno.
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