After an error-strewn opening half, Scotland found their rhythm as they ran in five tries to earn a bonus point with South Africa up next
In the first-half some aggressive defensive hit from the Eagles unsettled Scotland and a well-worked try from young Saracen Titi Lamositele that was the difference between the sides. In the second-half, Vern Cotter made a series of tactical substitutions to wrestle the game back in their favour. Between the 41st and 64th minute, they scored four tries to take control of the match with Tim Visser, Sean Maitland, WP Nel and Matt Scott crossing the whitewash. Their only concern will be an injury to pivot, Finn Russell, with the Springboks just six days away.
Vern Cotter’s tactical nous
At half-time, Scotland were in trouble, 13-6 down to USA, poor in execution and losing the collisions, so he immediately brought on first-choice props, WP Nel and Alasdair Dickinson, to give them solidity up front. WP Nel scored within minutes of his introduction. Early in the second-half, he also brought on Greig Laidlaw to replace Henry Pyrgos in the backline. His introduction saw Scotland settle down, and he took over kicking duties from Finn Russell who was struggling from the tee. The substitutions turned the game.
USA’s aggressive first-half defence
Several times in the first-half, the blitz defence employed by the Eagles rattled the lightweight Scottish backline. Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and Henry Pyrgos were all stopped in their tracks and driven backwards by Samu Manoa, Cam Dolan and Tadzuka Ngwenya. It disrupted Scotland to an extent that the Eagles went in a the break with the momentum and the lead.
Strong second-half showing
In the first 40 minutes of both World Cup games, to date, Scotland have struggled to contain supposed inferior Tier 2 opposition. It’s worth pointing out that if they continue to start so slugglishly, they will surely be made to pay. However, in the second-half of both World Cup games Scotland have been a side rebore. Resolute in defence, full of enterprise in attack and clinical crossing the line with 10 tries in those two games. It is a pat on the back for their conditioning team.
The most glaring example of this was Stuart Hogg’s poor pass at the hip of Tim Visser after a superb break, which saw the ball scuttling off into touch with the try-line begging. It wasn’t the only occasion the ball was wastefully thrown on the deck. Mark Bennett and Hogg – Scotland’s most dangerous runners – were culpable and showed their frustration. It all felt a little bit rushed. Thankfully for Scotland fans, it improved immeasurably in the second-half.
Scotland’s defending their line
In their first two games Scotland have been unable to repel the attacking team from close range. First Japan peeled away from a well-worked lineout move to barrel over from close range, and against USA, they folded with some quick phases from the Eagles which saw Titi Lamositele to burrow over. Stiffer resistance is needed on their own try-line if they are to progress in the knock-out stages.
Breakdown missing link
For all the opprobrium that has rained down on John Hardie route into the Scotland side, he is a natural openside and his increasing importance was underlined as his team-mates lost seven turnovers. Compare this to only one from USA. Scotland will be punished by better sides if they can’t compete better on the deck.
USA edged Scotland in metres carried, 351 to 344 metres
Scotland beat 22 defenders to USA’s 11, and turnovers 13 to 4
Chris Wyles was the game’s top carrier with 64, with Stuart Hogg second with 58
Alasdair Strokosch was the game’s top tackler with 14, ahead of Ross Ford on 12 and Samu Manoa (12)
Scotland: S Hogg, S Maitland, M Bennett, P Horne (M Scott), T Visser, F Russell (D Weir), H Pyrgos (c) (G Laidlaw); R Grant (WP Nel), R Ford, J Welsh (A Dickinson), R Gray, G Gilchrist (T Swinson), A Strokosch, R Wilson, J Strauss
Replacements: K Bryce, F Brown
Tries: Tim Visser, Sean Maitland, WP Nel, Matt Scott, Duncan Weir
Penalties: Hogg (1), Russell (1)
Cons: Russell (1) Laidlaw (4)
United States: C Wyles (c), T Ngwenya, S Kelly, T Palamo, B Scully, AJ MacGinty, M Petri, S Manoa, A Durutalo, Al McFarland; Greg Peterson, H Smith; T Lamositele, P Thiel, E Fry
Replacements: Z Fenoglio, O Kilifi, C Baumann, C Dolan, J Quill, D Barrett, Shalom Suniula, F Niua
Try: Titi Lamositele
Cons: MacGinty (1)
Pens: MacGinty (3)
Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg
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