Heavy defeat for Under-20s in final warm-up match before World Championship

Young Scots learn the hard way against ruthless Ireland

Ross Thomson Scotland Under-20
Scotland Under-20 stand-off Ross Thomson tries to escape Irish clutches ***Image: Calum Mackenzie

Scotland Under-20s 14

Ireland Under-20s 52

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

BRYAN REDPATH’S boys have been left in no doubt as to the size of the challenge which awaits them at this year’s World Rugby U20 Championship when it kicks off in the south of France in just over two weeks’ time, after suffering this heavy defeat in their final warm-up match on the back pitches at Murrayfield this [Tuesday] morning.

Against a bigger, smarter, more accurate and more ruthless opposition, the young Scots paid a heavy price for failing to control the ball when they got into the strike zone. Ireland’s ability to hold on to possession and build pressure through multiple phases was in stark contrast to their opponents, who coughed up possession at crucial moments on several occasions, especially in the first half when they surrendered five unanswered tries.

This result comes hard on the heels of a 41-3 loss to South Africa in Scotland’s only other warm-up match at the same venue 11 days ago, but it is not all doom and gloom for the boys in blue. Although the score-lines make for grizzly reading, they were not completely overrun in either match, and will welcome a number of their most experienced players – currently missing through injury and not being released by English Premiership clubs – back into the fold before their World Championship curtain-raiser against Italy in Beziers on 30th May.

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In fact, a number of those who played in this match were not part of the 28-man-squad named last week for the trip to France, including scrum-half Charlie Gowling, who showed up well having got his chance because Charlie Chapman (not being released by Gloucester until five days before the tournament starts) and Kaleem Barreto (injured) are currently unavailable.

Gowling was born in Shrewsbury and played for England at Under-16 level before switching allegiance to Scotland for whom he qualifies through his grandmother. He developed as a rugby player while on a scholarship at Sedbergh School in Cumbria and signed for the Newcastle Falcons Academy in 2015. After a season there, he agreed a two-year deal with Stade Francais. He was part of Scotland Under-20s’ Six Nations squad this season but didn’t get any game time.

Northampton Saints number eight Devante Onojaife, Leicester Tigers prop Sam Grahamslaw and Saints centre Fraser Strachan have also been barred by their club from joining up with the group at this stage; while Heriot’s back-row Martin Hughes, Ayr prop Euan McLaren, Strathallan School prop Murphy Walker and Edinburgh centre Callum McLelland were other homebased players not involved against Ireland for various reasons.

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The fact that two of the key men from Scotland’s recent Six Nations campaign who were available – in centre Stafford McDowall and second-row Jamie Hodgson – started this game on the bench indicates that Redpath was more concerned with using the game time to learn about all of the players at his disposal rather than simply securing a positive final score-line. And the influence of this pair was evident after the break when the Scots showed greater composure to limit the try-count to 3-2 in Ireland’s favour.

Glasgow Hawks wingers Kyle Rowe and Sam Yawayawa both showed their finishing prowess to dot down for the home team after sustained periods of Scots pressure.

Scotland: Paddy Dewhirst (Ayr): Logan Trotter (Stirling County), Patrick Anderson (Melrose), Cammy Hutchison (Currie Chieftains), Kyle Rowe (Glasgow Hawks); Ross Thomson (Glasgow Hawks), Charlie Gowling (Stade Francais); Ross Dunbar (Boroughmuir), Robbie Smith (Ayr), Finlay Richardson (Edinburgh Accies), Ewan Johnson (Racing 92), Charlie Jupp (Heriot’s), Jamie Miller (Watsonians), Guy Graham (Newcastle Falcons), Rory Darge (Melrose).

Subs: Jamie Hodgson (Watsonians) for Jupp on 40 mins; Stafford McDowall (Ayr) for Anderson on 40 mins; Sam Yawayawa (Glasgow Hawks for Trotter on 50 mins; Marshall Sykes (St Joseph’s College) for Miller on 60 mins; Finn Hobbis (Watsonians) for Dunbar on 62 mins; Finlay Scott (Jed-Forest) for Smith on 65 mins.

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.