DAVID BARNES @ Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa
JOB DONE with minimum fuss and maximum professionalism. Scotland dismantled a Russian outfit who appeared to have fought themselves to a standstill in their three credible outings against Japan, Samoa and Ireland earlier in the pool stage of this World Cup, scoring nine unanswered tries along the way.
Gregor Townsend’s team now move on to their final pool match against Japan knowing that they must pick up at least four match points more than their opponents. That means a straight win with no bonus point whilst depriving the host nation of any bonus points, or a bonus point win and limiting Japan to one bonus point. If Japan win, draw or pick up two losing points in defeat then Scotland are out.
That game is scheduled to be played in Yokohama on Sunday, but with meteorologists predicting that Typhoon Hagibis [aka Hurricane Haggis] could hit the south of Japan over the weekend, there was rumours circulating during the hours leading up to this match that the game could either be relocated or pushed back until the start of next week. The second of those options would mean World Rugby breaking their own rules about World Cup matches having to be played on the day scheduled, but it would certainly be a preferable option to the game being declared a 0-0 draw – which would mean Scotland finishing third in Pool A and thus being knocked out the tournament.
There would, of course, be a knock-on consequence of a postponement, with World Rugby presumably keen to get the tournament back on schedule for the following weekend’s quarter-finals, which would mean the winner of Scotland v Japan – as well as Ireland, France and England, who could end up in a similar boat – having 24 to 48 hours less crucial recovery time.
Adam Hastings got the ball rolling in this match when he floated past three tacklers and in for the first try in the 13th minute, and the stand-off doubled his – and his team’s – account five minutes later when his own speculative kick ahead spooked Russian skipper Vasily Artemyev and led to an easy run in.
A precocious piece of opportunism from George Horne brought in try number three for Scotland when the scrum-half latched onto Dmitry Perov’s pass from a caught line-out near the Russian line and dotted down.
It took until the 44th minute before the bonus-point was wrapped up, when Darcy Graham fielded a kick on his own 22 and slalomed past three Russians caught in quicksand, before sending George Horne in for his second and the team’s fourth score.
George Turner broke from a line-out drive and over the whitewash for try number five on 50 minutes as Scotland continued to turn the screw, and Tommy Seymour hunted Blair Kinghorn’s delicate toe-poke in behind for number six with the clock on 55 minutes. Hastings nailed the touchline conversion for good measure.
It was still two minutes shy of the hour mark when George Horne snatched his hat-trick when he finished off sweeping attack up the left which he had also started, with brother Peter and Henry Pyrgos also contributing, but he was deprived his fourth try a few minutes later when the TMO belatedly pointed out that Magnus Bradbury’s pass had floated forwards.
Russia showed some fighting spirit when they tried to breakout from their own 22, but when Scotland won the ball back, the exhausted men in red did not have the energy to get in John Barclay’s way as the old warhorse galloped home from 40 yards.
Stuart McInally went over in the corner to complete the scoring and compound Russia’s misery with three minutes left on the clock. It could have been worse for the beaten side, with Hastings being deprived his hat-trick in injury time by another forward pass, with Seymour the culprit on this occasion.
The ease of the victory allowed head coach Townsend to rotate his squad to keep as many front-liners as fresh as possible for Scotland’s crucial final pool match, with Fraser Brown – usually a hooker but playing at openside on this occasion – hauled off on the half hour mark.
Scotland: B Kinghorn; T Seymour, D Taylor, P Horne, D Graham (H Pyrgos 52); A Hastings, G Horne (C Harris 65); G Reid (W Nel 59), G Turner (S McInally 65), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 40), S Cummings (G Gilchrist 59), B Toolis, J Barclay, F Brown (M Bradbury 30), R Wilson.
Russia: A Artemyev (Y Kuchnarev 63); G Davydov, A Ostroushka (Y Kuchnarev 37-40), D Gerasimov, C Sozonov; R Gaisin, D Porov; A Morozov (A Bitiev 63), S Seleskii (S Chernychev 63), K Gotovstev (V Podrezov 63), A Ostrikov (Garbuzov 68), E Eligin (B Fedotko 66), V Zhtotov T Ga dzhiev, N Vavilin.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Scotland: Tries: Hastings 2; G Horne 3, Turner, Seymour, Barclay, McInally; Cons: Hastings 8.
Russia: No scorers
Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0 (h-t) 26-0; 28-0; 33-0; 35-0; 40-0; 42-0; 47-0; 52-0; 54-0; 59-0; 61-0.