Scotland U20s 17
England U20s 21
DAVID BARNES @ Myreside
A CONTROVERSIAL late try from centre Connor Doherty gave England Under-20s their first win on Scottish soil since 2014, but when they get over their initial disappointment the home side will be able to take huge encouragement from their own performance as they start to build towards their next match away to Italy in two weeks’ time, which could be a pivotal occasion for Sean Lineen’s side, who have shown lots of promise in both matches so far but are still hunting for their first win in this Six Nations campaign.
The Scots battled into the lead on three separate occasions, but ultimately lost out when Doherty streaked under the posts with 10 minutes left on the clock, and Manu Vunipola – cousin to Billy and Mako – converted to secure the away win. It was a particularly bitter pill to swallow because there appeared to be a very clear forward pass in the build-up to that score. However, with no TMO, the referee was totally dependent on his own and his assistants’ eyes picking it up in real time.
“I’m so proud of the boys and the way they got stuck-in, both in attack and defence,” said Lineen. “But like the game against Ireland last week, we paid a price for a just a few lapses which were punished by their classy players and left us too much of a mountain to climb.
“But I can’t emphasise enough that the effort all of them put in – guys like Rory Darge, Connor Boyle, Ewan Ashman and Cammy Henderson – was phenomenal. Ollie Smith, too, ran it back really well from full-back. They never gave up and we blooded a lot of Under-19s players out there as well. We just ran out of puff at the end.”
Lineen acknowledged that his side did not get the rub of the green with a few refereeing decisions later in the match but resisted being drawn into using that as an excuse. “I suppose it evens out for both teams over the course of the whole game,” he shrugged. “I’m too long in the tooth now to be worrying about the ref. That’s not the reason we lost. There was a couple of basic errors when we knew where they would be coming and didn’t defend it well enough.”
Scotland couldn’t have hoped for a better start, with one early passage of play setting a promising tone, when Boyle stole the ball on the deck in midfield, Smith angled an excellent grubber into the corner, Henderson pilfered the line-out and Matt Currie went to within a few yards of the line on a mazy run – but a knock-on in the next phase let England off the hook.
The young Scots kept the pressure on, and after several minutes of excellent continuity play, they earned a penalty under the posts, and boldly opted for the scrum – which proved to be a good move because the home side got the upper hand to squeeze another penalty, which gave them an important psychological boost.
Rather than scrum again, this time Scotland took the three points on offer through the trusty boot of Nathan Chamberlain, but then, frustratingly, conceded an offside penalty straight from the restart, which was kicked to the corner for a line-out from which visiting hooker Theo Dan scuttled in for a try.
It was a frustratingly soft score, but Scotland showed their resilience to bounce right back by kicking a penalty of their own to the corner then powering the maul over the line for Ashman to get the try.
Scotland were dominating the scrum and sharper at the breakdown, but they struggled to establish territorial foothold, and suffered a blow three minutes before the break, when England finally managed to build up a head of steam and after putting the squeeze on through their pack, their powerful three-quarters made good ground down the left for full-back Freddie Steward to go over for a try which was again converted by Vunipola to make it 10-14 at the turnaround.
Once again, Scotland fired out the blocks after the break to take a strangle-hold of the match during the third quarter, and they finally got their reward in the 57th minute when England were forced to concede a penalty-try against a line-out drive which was marching relentlessly towards their own line. Visiting second-row Ben Donnell was sent for ten minutes in the cooler for good measure.
It was looking good for Scotland until Doherty got that decisive try. The Scots tried desperately to rescue the match as it moved into overtime, but in a long passage of play they could not escape their own half, and a holding-on penalty eventually brought the curtain down on home team’s dream of a famous victory.
Scotland U20s: O Smith; H Paterson (M Priestly 77), M Currie, R McCallum, J Henry; N Chamberlain (C Scott 75), R Frostwick (K McGhie 55); T Lambert (A Maxwell 68), E Ashman (R Jackson 77), M Wilson (G Breese 63), K Watt (J Campbell 56), C Henderson, J Hill (G Brown 50), C Boyle, R Darge.
England U20s: F Steward; G Hamer-Webb (O Sleightholme 55), C Doherty, M Ojomoh (G Barton 66), T Roebuck; M Vunipola, S Maunder (J Van Poortvliet 55); J Whitcombe (E Iyogun 67), T Dan (B Atkins 63), H Beaton (L Green 55), G Hammond (H Tizard 59), B Donnell, R Capstick, J Tonks (J Gray 66), R Tuima.
Referee: Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy
Scotland: Tries: Ashman, Penalty Try; Con: Chamberlain; Pen: Chamberlain.
England: Tries: Dan, Steward, Doherty; Cons: Vunipola 3.
Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 8-7; 10-7; 10-12; 10-14 (h-t) 17-14; 17-19; 17-21.
Yellow cards –