Scotland U20s v Wales report: no silver lining at end of tough Six Nations campaign

Fifth defeat on the bounce condemns Sean Lineen's side to a demoralising whitewash

Scotland’s Ollie Melville manages to get the ball away in contact. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Scotland’s Ollie Melville manages to get the ball away in contact. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

Scotland 24

Wales 32

PROGRESS of a sort for Scotland but, really, failing to pick up even a losing bonus point against the second weakest team in this Six Nations tournament, who played most of the second half with 14-men after the 48th minute red-carding of replacement flanker Harri Deaves, is simply not good enough.

There will be some sort of review after this championship whitewash. It will be internal. And any published findings will be vague and point in any direction away from Murrayfield. That’s the way it works. But one thing we can say for certain right here and now is that until we find a serious way of increasing the critical mass of youngsters playing the game at a decent standard then we are destined to continue being the poor relations of this competition, and far more vulnerable than our Six Nations rivals to vagaries such as injury and Covid lockdowns.

Tackling this problem won’t be easy, but it needs to be the absolute priority because, fundamentally, running a successful national sport is a numbers game, and aggressive overseas recruitment to mask the lack of volume coming through our own pipeline is an exercise akin to putting lipstick on a pig.


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The players deserve praise for their resilience in adversity throughout the campaign, for continuing to front up despite being hopelessly out-gunned on several occasions in this championship, and we hope that the experience boosts their future development – but wouldn’t it have been great for them to have been given a fighting chance of being truly competitive. There is nothing wrong with the raw materials in Scotland – they deserve better.

“The boys were working hard, created some opportunities, so we can’t fault the effort,” said had coach Sean Lineen afterwards. “We’ve seen improvements in behaviours off the field, improvements in how they train, how they warm-up – we’ve seen really good improvements there – but the next stage is obviously in the game. It is called a Test match for a reason.

“I thought Finlay Callaghan, again, did okay. I though Alex Clayton at 15 ran the ball back well. We scored three tries which is positive. Ollie Leatherbarrow did okay, and collectively the effort was really encouraging. But I just hope they continue to grow as individual rugby players and understand what it takes to win games.

“We’ve definitely improved. If the tournament was starting now, we would be in a better place to compete, but it’s not, and the guys who are lucky enough to be back next season will have learned an awful lot. We as coaches have learned an awful lot as well.

“There is a lot of hard work to do,” he added. “The lack of rugby, the lack of an under-18s programme for a lot of these lads, the lack of prep time, the accessibility to certain players, and we’ve gone about the injuries to some of our players long enough, all of that does affect us.

“I’m just happy they came together as a team tonight and the boys are gutted in the changing room. You can see that they were trying but just too many things went wrong.”

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Scotland started in lively fashion, punching up the middle of the park with some aggressive running off scrum-half Murray Redpath, to get in range for Cammy Scott to fire home an offside penalty with barely three-minutes played, but Wales bounced right back and took the lead when the imposing Chris Tshiunza bowled his way over from close range to set up a conversion which Scarlets stand-off Sam Costelow had no problem converting.

This pattern continued for the next 20 minutes. The Scots recaptured the lead when hooker Patrick Harrison burst from the back of a maul and over for his third try of the championship, the pendulum swung back the other way when Welsh inside-centre Joe Hawkins treated Scott like a road bump on his way to the line, then Scotland inside-centre Michael Gray showed plenty strength of his own when riding four tackles to reach the whitewash, before Welsh loose-head Cameron Jones got in on the act to make it 17-19 to Wales with only 24 minutes played.

At this stage, it seemed like a basketball score was on the cards. Full marks for attacking intent, but both teams seemed to ave taken the view that defence is an optional extra, and the inability of the two sides to control possession from the restart must have had the coaches tearing their hair out in frustration.

The scoring did, however, dry up for the remainder of the half, and then there was a scare at the start of the second half when Welsh winger Carrick McDonough landed awkwardly after going up for a high ball and  had to be stretchered from the field. It looked serious so it was a relief to see him back on his feet and looking in pretty decent shape towards the end of the game.

 

Wales were then reduced to 14 men after eight minutes of the second half when Deeves tried to jackal Michael Jones on the deck but got it all wrong and ended up with a finger making contact with the prop’s eye-area.

Scotland initially took advantage with a converted Ben Muncaster try, but Wales weren’t done yet and were soon back in front when a hard-hitting passage of rugby culminated in a penalty try and a high-tackle yellow-card against Ollie Melville.

Costelow then banged home a 45-yard offside penalty to stretch the Welsh lead to five points, and with Scotland’s set-piece beginning to struggle it looked like the writing was on the wall for Sean Lineen’s side.

To their credit, they did weather that storm and once back to full strength they came close to going ahead again when Euan Ferrie was held up over the line following a powerful midfield surge from Muncaster.

They had a few more opportunities to snatch the win, but lapses in composure at key moments cost them, and another long-range penalty from Costelow killed the game off.

 

Teams –

Scotland: A Clayton; F Callaghan, S King, M Gray (T Glendinning 75), O Meville; C Scott (C Townsend 64), M Redpath (E Cunningham 48); M Jones (C Lamberton 41-42, 60), P Harrison (J Drummond 48), C Bowker (G Breese 35), E Ferrie, A Samuel (M Williamson 48), O Leatherbarrow, H Morris (r Tait 53), B Muncaster.

Wales: M Richards, C McDonough (J Beetham 41), I Evans (B Burnell 77), J Hawkins, T Florence; S Costelow, E Lloyd; C Jones (Z Giannini 50), E Daniel, N Evans (L Jones, 17), D Jenkins, R Thomas (J Fender 71), C Tshiunza, A Mann (H Deaves 45), T Davies (E Lloyd 50).

Referee: Adam Leal

 

Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Harrison, Gray, Muncaster; Con: Scott 3; Pen: Scott.

Wales: Tries: Tshiunza, Hawkins, Jones, Penaty Try; Cons: Costelow 2; Pens: Costelow 2

Scoring sequence: 3-0; 3-5; 3-7; 8-7; 10-7; 10-12; 10-14; 14-14; 17-1; 17-19 (h-t) 22-19; 24-19; 24-26; 24-29; 24-32.

 

Yellow cards –

Scotland: Melville (53mins)

 

Red cards –

Wales: Deeves (48mins)


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About David Barnes 2476 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he 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.

11 Comments

  1. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

    Something isn’t working and we can provide all the excuses/reasons we like as to why we are bottom of the table. We are still bottom of the table.

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    • “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

      Not too sure who defined that. Is it insane to practice again and again and believe that this practice will achieve better results?

  2. People who criticise should try and have a more balanced view. Very often the relative age of the players has a large effect.
    If you watch last year’s match see below
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rz0YPx4lS6g&t=252s
    The Scottish side were magnificent, a number of whom would have played at least for Scotland A if not a full cap against Georgia.

    On the other hand the Wales side of that year were relatively young so we need to keep our feet on the ground. Yes Scotland dont have the same size of player pool but give them a break.

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  3. A spot analysis at the beginning of the article.
    There is something badly wrong with the Fosroc
    Academy system when over 6 years and from
    180-200 player attendees we produce onlyaround 40
    Pros and 10 Scotland players . Poor productivity which
    Leads to the need to buy at a cost seasoned Pros
    for Glasgow and Edinburgh. The U20 results are clear
    Evidence of this failure

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    • There is no getting away for the performances this year, but to jump straight to something being badly wrong isnt right. We need some improvement in the academy/U20s but its not a total disaster.

      Last years group of U20s from the starting XV 10 have gone pro (5 of which would likely have had ‘A’ caps if not full caps this summer), with 2 others (Brown and Currie) still eligible this year but injured, and along with Frostwick have played pro games for Glasgow and Edinburgh. These three, plus seven of the 10 who went pro came through the academy.

      Im not saying questions shouldn’t be asked, but its not the shambles that its made out to be. Last nights game was clear evidence that the Scotland and Wales players have had significantly less game time (in most cases non at all) due to covid, while the other teams have been able to play full seasons.

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  4. Coaches learned too it would seem as kicking it away was replaced with carrying and phase play. We lacked creation and a finisher that’s for sure. In terms of player development the single easiest & quickest thing to do is to have more regional u16 teams competing rather than the four which have some very questionable geographical selection boundaries and selection protocols. Could be done now. At u16 pathway should be North, Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Borders, South. It is clearly the right call.

    • Numbers. I agree. More competition at a younger age needed to prepare them. But how many drop out because they don’t get picked at u16 level? Or even at u18 level?

      More districts means more get the ‘bug’ of competition and are more likely to keep playing. Even if there were second teams for each district. That would at least keep people interested and increase competition for places.

      My general feeling with all Scotland sides, most of the time, is that they are just not match hardened enough, which would change if they played more at a younger age at a higher level.

  5. The phone alerts you and you open up to a headline, another headline, announcing a failure. Next you ask yourself the question, what is it that makes us the ‘whipping boys’ in this tournament, and that on reflection leads inevitably to question the administration of the game and its failures to identify what is and what isn’t the way forward.
    Does the youth of Scotland lack anything in physicality or ambition compared to our neighbours or for that matter Italy, not a natural home of the game? Of course not, the problem lies in the incentive to play the game, the environment of the learning and the opportunity to face the competitive challenges.
    Inevitably two clues are in the article, and the inevitability isn’t some hidden agenda of the author or I suggest the vast majority of the readership, on the contrary the only thing hidden is transparency of the goings on in Roseburn Street: who is responsible for the real priorities? As far as I am concerned, rightly or wrongly, that means the peripheral aspects of the game should as resources are obviously finite be held in abeyance and as regards SRU personnel, who is not proving to be value for money.
    There will be ‘the in house enquiry’ that will have the usual waffle as a response and the anticipation that it will point in any direction other than those in charge: what ever happened to ‘The Buck stops here’.
    Before the game went open there was a clear pathway to an International Jersey for the lad sitting in the classroom, perhaps with the good fortune to have a ‘Bill McLaren’ for a teacher and good clubs to join from School Rugby. Rose tinted glasses? Perhaps but the pathway was identifiable, there seems to be a definite gulf in the game at the present time and shipping journeymen into Edinburgh and Glasgow is adequately described by David Barnes in the article.
    Are there better coaches in the other Home Unions or in Italy or France, are there better facilities, is there more money? I don’t know the answer to all the questions, in truth I’m not sure I know any, all I know is that there is something wrong somewhere and a reminder of a pal of mine who always commented that ‘there’s something Fishy going on and don’t forget a Fish rots from the Head’, and if letting the professionals do their job is your mantra just look at the headline and face up to the truth of the matter that some aren’t as professional or able as you think.

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  6. A strategy to grow the game would be useful, but perhaps admitting “fewer, but stronger” was a poor strategy would be a good start.

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