RWC23: Scotland v Tonga: Scotland player ratings

Finn Russell pulled the strings as official man-of-the-match Duhan van der Merwe made good yardage on the left wing

Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe was official man-of-the-match against Tonga. Image: © Craig Watson -
Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe was official man-of-the-match against Tonga. Image: © Craig Watson -

15. Blair Kinghorn – 7

A mixed bag from the full-back who should have scored a try in the second minute of the match and will be relieved it didn’t matter in the end. He kicked turnover ball away in the opening 40 when the Tongan defence was at sixes and sevens and threw one forward pass after the break but he also picked some brilliant lines in the second half, scored a try and came close to grabbing a second (but for Pita Akhi). He made 109 metres with the ball in hand, second only to Duhan, while proving just how quickly he covers the ground!

RWC23: Scotland v Tonga reaction: Gregor Townsend questions ‘Bunker’ system

RWC23: Stuart McInally to fly home less than a fortnight after call-up

RWC23: Scotland v Tonga report: Scots get the job done

14. Kyle Steyn – 7

A good showing by the ‘other’ big Saffa winger who took his try well, went looking for work and nailed all the basics.

13. Chris Harris – 6

This was Harris’ big chance to stake a claim for the 13 shirt that was once his by right but he simply didn’t do enough to make it stick. He almost scored a first half try and we know he makes his tackles but he might have been better off starting on the bench and making a late appearance when the game was breaking up.

12. Sione Tuipulotu – 7

Very much back to his old self against the land of his father. The entire midfield was granted the luxury of time to weave their magic and the Aussie/Tongan/Scot had one of his most convincing games. He carried hard, defended well and Scotland were at their most threatening when he popped up as first receiver with Russell looping in behind him to open up numerous options.

11. Duhan van der Merwe – 7

Duhan started badly, losing all the collisions and failing to prevent Salesi Piutau’s offload that sent Solomone Kata over the Scottish line, but he improved markedly, took his try well and almost had a second. He made George Horne’s score on 53 minutes, enjoyed that long run straight from the kick off (following Kinghorn’s try) and ended up man-of-the-match.


10. Finn Russell – 8

A little wayward off the tee but Russell kicked superbly from hand throughout, including one 50-22 in the opening 40, pinning Tongan deep inside their own half. His distribution was back to its best with the time and space afforded the Scottish playmaker by the Tongan defence. He expertly picked out Kinghorn’s clever angle for the full-back’s try. Missed a try-saving tackle on the man mountain that is Tameifuna but I am not convinced that that was a fair contest.

9. Ben White – 6

A mixed bag from the little scrummy who still hasn’t found his Six Nations form. One excellent break in the first half only resulted in a Tongan turnover and he kicked well from hand, but you can’t help but feel there is more to come.



1. Rory Sutherland – 6

Conceded an early scum penalty which gave Tonga their opening points but was pretty dominant thereafter. He also made one excellent line break in the first half. He offers a dynamic alternative to Pierre Schoeman, will Townsend take it?

2. George Turner – 7

Much improved line-out so credit to the hooker for some accurate arrows. Turner also popped up with the first try of the match following a driven maul where the hooker showed oodles of patience. A good performance.

3. Zander Fagerson – 6

A long shift from the big fella, Fagerson played for about three quarters of the match. The tight-head did his set-piece duty but was perhaps a little quieter than we might have expected around the park.

4. Richie Gray – 7

An utterly reliable line-out option where Gray dominated, the big guy also carried with conviction when the opportunity arose.

5. Scott Cummings – 7

He did the needful at the sidelines and was prominent all over the park but the penalty he conceded early in the second half was a black mark, leading indirectly to Ben Tameifuma’s try.

6. Jamie Ritchie – 5

Impossible not to feel sympathy for the Scotland skipper as he had his bell rung late in the first half and was never seen again. It looked like a nailed down red to me but not to the match officials. A couple of wayward passes count against him but no one questions his endeavour.

7. Rory Darge – 7

By his own high standards, the openside flanker was relatively quiet with the ball in hand but still managed to score a good try in the opening half and fulfil his defensive duties admirably making 15 tackles in all, the most of any Scot.

8. Jack Dempsey – 7

The Aussie eight started slowly but came onto a good game, improving as the match progressed. He almost scored in the first half and his footwork/vision sent Duhan on that long mazy run in the second half which probably should have resulted in a try around the 70 minute mark.



16. Ewan Ashman – 6

Came on, played well but threw one squint throw at the sidelines.

17. Pierre Schoeman – 5

Late replacement for Rory Sutherland. He won a scrum pen but also conceded one at a breakdown.

18. WP Nel – 5

Late arrival for Zander. Solid.

19. Sam Skinner – 6

Played well when he got the opportunity.

20. Matt Fagerson – 6

He was an early replacement for skipper Ritchie and proved his usual industrious self throughout.

21. George Horne – 7

The little scrummy is a real asset late in the game, scoring a try and bringing heaps of energy but his big mouth cost Scotland 10 yards and referees watch videos as well as players.

22. Huw Jones – 6

Late replacement for Harris but didn’t contribute a huge amount. He lost the ball in contact following Duhan’s long run.

23. Darcy Graham – 7

Perhaps stung by criticism of his performance against South Africa the little winger was a bundle of energy when he replaced Steyn. He scored a cracking try and was always front and centre of the action.

RWC23: Scotland v Tonga report: Scots get the job done

About Iain Morrison 151 Articles
Iain was capped 15 times for Scotland at openside flanker between his debut against Ireland during the 1993 Six Nations and his final match against New Zealand at the 1995 World Cup in South Africa. He was twice a Cambridge ‘Blue’ and played his entire club career with London Scottish (being inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame in 2016). Iain is a lifelong member of Linlithgow Rugby Club. After hanging up his boots, he became rugby correspondent for The Sunday Herald, before moving to The Scotland on Sunday for 16 years, and he has also guest written for various other publications.


  1. Some of these numbers seem a little ticht, and some fairly crusty comments made me wonder if I’d watched the same match. If Kinghorn had scored that try in the first couple of minutes it’d have been amazing work. I thought Harris put himself about pretty effectively, too.
    White line fever? Pshaw! Seven tries is a pretty decent return. Sure, they’ve got to be switched on for 80 minutes… the latest mantra… butbi don’t imagine there’s any lack of effort or concentration. Sometimes, other teams have good ideas!
    So it wasn’t a thrilling game but neither was Ireland’s match against Tonga. In any other group and with a semsible approach to seeding we’d have been through by now. Keep the heid and keep the faith!

  2. I do wonder if we play into Ireland and South Africa’s hands sometimes with our bench options, we play to match them too often rather than try to use our strengths. Have 3 backs on the bench with some flair to try to stretch the game when their backs are starting to tire.

  3. Looking at the match again, BK is no fullback. Maybe 2nd 5/8th for his attacking and kicking skills and rely on flankers to cover his missed tackles? Darge is doing great. Horne must start.

  4. I am amazed at how everyone is thinking we are way off the pace. Ireland against Tonga was very similar. The only difference was them scoring 4 tries in last twenty minutes whilst we only scored 2. We created the chances and just didn’t finish, partly due to a couple of excellent tackles.

    Tonga are a good side. Scotland are a very good side. Yes Ireland are excellent, but there is no reason why we can’t beat them by 8 in a one off pressure game. Ireland will have all the pressure on them in that game as it is a straight knock out game for them:

    Let’s be positive. I thought we were comfortable against Tonga after half an hour

  5. Unfortunately these two matches so far have shown up problems the Irish certainly don’t have. Duhan should have had a score against SA, goes without saying, whether at the end of the day we won or lost. The confidence at that time would have done wonders. Against Tonga BK shuold have scored in the first minute; white line fever. When Duhan broke late in second half to go 50 yards up the touchline and then infield, knowcking on was school boy stuff. White line fever bothe cases. Other chances went begging and Tonga scored more points than they should have. That said, 5 points against Romania and a seriously high score is a must if we can even think about beating Ireland. Not sure what the perms are if SA, Ire and Scotland all end up with 3-0-1; need a calculator but poinys diff must come into it, so 80 minutes of full concentration, and I mean 80 minutes, is a must

    • BK chance at the beginning of the match was not easy and certainly wouldn’t describe as white line fever. He teared up the pitch and was only just going to beat the retreating Tongan players so under considerable pressure and not much time to react. The ball took a nasty deflection, making an already uneven bounce of the rugby ball even harder to predict and he had to try and scoop up the ball while at full pace. We would have been raving about a fine bit of skill had he pulled it off and while definitely an opportunity, IMO not as easy or as selfish as others have stated. Some questions remain over BK’s defensive nouse but same could be leveled at Hogg even in his prime and while a Hogg from 2016/17 would be a nailed on starter, he really struggled last couple of seasons and personally, I think BK at 15 is an improvement compared to that. But all credit to Hogg for realising this and doing what was best for the team – and of course for his fantastic contribution to the national team in earlier seasons.

  6. Both starting props get a 6? I wasn’t sure Fagerson was playing, Sutherland made some great carries as well as holding his side of the scrum up. A 6 fit Harris too? He wasn’t the best player on the park but did what was asked, I think there’s a place for him against Ireland at some stage as Jones isn’t exactly firing and Aki will be asking questions. Is it me or is Darge regressing? We haven’t seen the Mish yet this tournament and we missed his pinball ing yesterday. If we are going to go wide from the get go then Horne should be on at the start. If not then perhaps it’s time to start with Price as White has went a bit meh this tournament.
    Feel for Healy, we should have seen him on in the second half but he’s not even on the bench. Are we really going to risk Kinghorn moving to 10 again if Finn goes off. He showed again how prone to errors he can be these will be compounded against Ireland.

    • Both hookers were hopeless. Turner was poor, but Ashman dithered about like a fart in a trance. The Scouse Avenger must start.

    • 15 Tackles and a try…and you suggest Darge is regressing?? ‘The Mish’ hasn’t pinballed for about 2 1/2 years so I doubt he would offer anything that Darge didn’t. Darge is a very good test level player with the legs to play 80 mins.

      Any centre at the RWC will be up against a very good player in top form in Aki….Jones and Tui are the best we have. Aki is built like the side of a house …imo we’d be better with Redpath backing up centre, than trying to match up Harris, as at least he offers some X factor imo.

      I think it would be madness to not have a quality kicker as backup to Russell v Ireland..every point will matter….Kinghorn is erratic and not a test level kicker. Horne is a pretty decent kicker though…and obviously Healy.

      • When Kinghorne missed the very kickable winning penalty against aus last autumn, Horne – a better goal kicker – was already on the field. Gregor – I hope you are reading this and learning those lessons Scotland always say we are learning.


Comments are closed.