Junior World Trophy: Scotland overcome early jitters versus USA

Kenny Murray's side play final pool match against also unbeaten Uruguay next

Jonny Smith on the charge for Scotland. Image: World Rugby
Jonny Smith on the charge for Scotland. Image: World Rugby

Scotland 40

USA 13

AFTER a lacklustre first half in which they dominated territory and possession but passed up a handful of clearcut scoring opportunities, Scotland Under-20s ruthlessly dismantled the USA during the second period, to secure a comfortable win which keeps them on course to top Pool A of the Junior World Trophy in Kenya.

Their final group stage match against also unbeaten Uruguay is next Tuesday, and is likely to be the young Scots’ toughest challenge yet.

“I was very frustrated coming up to half-time,” said Scotland head coach Kenny Murray afterwards. “We didn’t really stick to our game-plan, we probably tried to win the game in the first 10 minutes using a few line-out options we’d hope to use later on in the game, so there is a learning in that for some of our decision makers at nine and 10.

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“We also missed a couple of tackles to hand over cheap points, so we need to be more clinical there. But at half-time we spoke about respecting the ball, getting into corners and using our drive, then getting off the line in defence. So, we put ourselves under a bit of pressure and it was a really good learning for the boys to find a way to win. We pretty much dominated them in the second half, which was really pleasing to see.”

“I think it was about realising that we don’t need to force things, we don’t need to win games in the first 10 minutes, it is about backing our game-plan,” he added. “I don’t think we kicked well or managed the game well enough in the first half, but I thought Ben Afshar kicked really well in the second half. So, our game management in the second half was excellent, our drive was good and we were just much better connected in defence, so we’re pretty happy with that.

Uruguay found themselves 14-0 down against Zimbabwe after 25 minutes of their game earlier in the day, before the South Americans blasted their way through 51 unanswered points to lay down their own marker ahead of next Tuesday’s shoot-out for a place in the following Sunday’s tournament final.

“We got through the game well today with new fresh injuries to worry about,” concluded Murray. “They [Uruguay] are quite a big team up front but watching that first game they played against the USA, I thought they tired a lot in the second half, so our game-plan and strategy needs to be based around making them really work.”

Scotland survived a couple of early scares against the USA –first when winger Corbin Smith broke up the right touchline, then when another sweeping attack created an overlap on the opposite touchline which required some desperate defence from Dan King to force a knock-on of the final pass by Iosefa Toia’ivao – before eventually taking the lead on 15 minutes when an attack down the short-side from a line-out maul gave Finn Douglas the chance to skip past his man and scamper home, with Afshar adding the first of his five conversions.

USA bounced back almost immediately when Aisake Tukuafu pierced the Scottish defensive line and sent Smith over for a try which was converted by Hugh O’Kennedy, who then kicked a not-rolling-away penalty against Jonny Morris on 27 minutes to edge his team into a narrow lead.

Scotland thought they had recaptured the initiative when, after several phases of driving play on the USA line, the ball was eventually sent out to stand-off Andy McLean, who threaded a lovely grubber into the corner for Logan Jarvie to pounce on, but the try was chalked off for an illegal clear-out by co-skipper Liam McConnell earlier in the move.

Jarvie came close again just a few minutes later when Jake Parkinson rampaged up the middle of the park, before McConnell and Eddie Erskine combined to create an opportunity on the right, but Ben Salmon‘s long pass fell short and the bounce wasn’t kind.

Instead, the USA struck again when loose handling and a side entry penalty conceded directly in front of Scotland’s posts allowed O’Kennedy to kick three more easy points.

The USA’s six point lead didn’t  reflect the balance of play, and Scots pressure did eventually pay off with just 30 second of that first half to play, when the young thistles kicked a scrum penalty to the corner, then bashed their way over with Findlay Thomson hitting the line hard to apply the finishing touch.


Scotland fired out the blocks at the start of the second half and quickly stretched their lead when forward power marched the USA back to just short of the own line, creating the opportunity for co-captain Ben Afshar to pick up from the base and scuttle over.

The scrum-half struck again 10 minutes later, once again sniffing breaking from the base after Scotland’s totally dominant maul had taken play to five yards short of the USA line, then McLean demonstrated his eye for a gap – not for the first or last time in this match – when darting in for try number five with just under an hour played.

Corey Tait rounded off the scoring when he applied the downward pressure following another powerful line-out maul which the USA simply had no answer to.


Teams –

Scotland: D King; L Jarvie, B Salmon, F Thomson ( K Yule 60), F Douglas; A McLean (M Reid 70), B Afshar (H Patterson 69); R Deans (C Davidson 53), C Tait, C Norrie (O Minnis 53), E Erskine (F Duraj 70), J Parkinson (R Hart 54), L McConnell, J Smith, J Morris (S Derrick 65).

USA: R Santos; C Smith, A Tukuafu, D Besag (S Pongi 62), I Toia’ivao; H O’Kennedy (O Cline 61), S Williams (C Saint 59); J Wilson (J Vinter 55), C Crist (J Brooks 71), C Devos (L Best 71), H Duke (D Fortune 45), W Sherman, L Ballinger, H McKay (J Cain 71), A Christians.

Referee: Sylvain Mane (Senegal)


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Douglas, Thomson, Afshar 2, McLean, Tait; Cons: Afshar 5.

USA: Tries: Smith; Con: O’Kennedy; Pens: O’Kennedy 2.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 7-5; 7-7; 7-10; 7-13; 12-13; 14-13  (h-t) 19-13; 21-13; 26-13; 28-13; 33-13, 38-13; 40-13.

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About David Barnes 3995 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.


  1. Good to get the win. I’m going Nat 1 standard at best for that USA side today – think I’m being generous though!


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