Scotland Under-20s secure morale-boosting win versus Spain

Kenny Murray's side run in seven tries in Zamora

Liam McConnell led from the front as Scotland Under 20s defeated Spain. Image: © Craig Watson -
Liam McConnell in action for Scotland Under 20s against Spain last year. Image: © Craig Watson -

Spain 20

Scotland 43


SCOTLAND UNDER-20s ran in seven tries against Spain to comfortably win their last match before next month’s World Rugby Trophy tournament.

At the Ruta de la Plata Stadium in Zamora, the young Scots won the warm-up contest 43-20 as they get ready for the important event in Kenya which will run from July 15th to 30th.

Head coach Kenny Murray is set to name his squad for the second tier Trophy event soon and the Scots will likely head to Africa as favourites to win the event.

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Promotion back to the World Rugby Championship is really required for Scotland at the first time of asking  they were relegated in 2019  and to do that Murray will need his big players to step up in Africa. And, for the most part, in this match in Spain the big players did step up, which was encouraging.

Co-captains Liam McConnell and Ben Afshar looked sharp and scored one and two tries respectively, while the second-row pairing of Eddie Erskine and Jake Parkinson worked well together. Jonny Morris looked good at openside and new face Jonny Smith was solid at No 8.

Stand-off Richie Simpson is a key man for this team and he got the backline moving well before he was forced off with a knock before half-time while Kerr Yule at 12 has bags of potential.

Scotland got off to the perfect start when a strong lineout drive saw hooker Corey Tait going over for a try. Simpson could not convert. A penalty from Spain made it 5-3 after 12 minutes.

Scotland then had plenty of possession and, in the 19th minute scrum-half Afshar went over for a try under the posts. Simpson converted and it was 12-3.

After 25 minutes, back-row Jonny Morris scored an unconverted try to make it 17-3 and the Scots were in control.

Spain needed something to spark them – and the crowd  into life and just before the half hour mark it came. They got got their first try on the board, the unconverted effort a long-range effort with the finisher showing good pace.

Afshar then showed good pace himself to outstrip the defence and score his second of the night. Simpson converted and it was 24-8. Then came a blow when Simpson went off before a try by McConnell, converted by Afshar, made it 31-8 at the break.

Winger Finn Douglas scored Scotland’s sixth try in the 54th minute and sub Andrew McLean’s conversion made it 38-8. Douglas played well for Edinburgh Rugby A and the Southern Knights in the recent Super Series Sprint and he should be a useful outlet in Kenya assuming he makes the cut.

With both sides making a number of changes and the game becoming a bit fractured, Spain took advantage with two tries before Scotland’s seventh try at the death came via replacement Jerry Blyth-Lafferty.

In the eight-team Trophy event in Kenya, Scotland will be in a Pool with Zimbabwe, USA and Uruguay while Spain will be in another with Kenya, Samoa and Hong Kong China.


Scotland: D King; F Douglas, B Salmon, K Yule, G Gwynn; R Simpson, B Afshar ©; C Davidson, C Tait, C Norrie, E Erskine, J Parkinson, L McConnell ©, J Morris, J Smith. Subs: J Blyth-Lafferty, R Deans, O Minnis, R Hart, S Derrick, F Burgess, F Thomson, A Mclean, F Duraj, M Surry, K Johnston.

Scotland scorers: Tries: Tait, Afshar 2, Morris, McConnell, Douglas, Blyth-Lafferty. Cons: Simpson 2, Afshar, McLean.

Scoring sequence (Spain first): 0-5; 3-5; 3-10; 3-12; 3-17; 8-17; 8-22; 8-24; 8-29; 8-31 (h-t) 8-36; 8-38; 13-38; 15-38; 20-38; 20-43.


Man-of-the-Match: Ben Afshar, Corey Tait and Jonny Morris were all in with a shout, but Liam McConnell gets it for carrying hard and leading by example, a nice birthday present for the Boroughmuir Bears man who turned 19 on game day.

Talking point: This win will boost confidence, but the Scotland players will need to get used to the mindset of being favourites for matches as the World Rugby Trophy approaches. They haven’t been used to it and it brings its own pressures. The will be the big guns that teams will want to shoot down in Kenya, so they have to embrace that and use it as a positive.

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About Gary Heatly 463 Articles
Gary has loved rugby ever since he can remember and since 2004 he has covered the sport and others in a professional capacity for many publications and websites and runs his own company, GH Media.


  1. Congratulations to the Scotland U20s team on this victory. The players did what was asked of them & played to the level they’re presently at as a team.

    It will be interesting to see how the SRU intends to bridge the widening chasm (short & long term) between our team & those teams in the higher tier of the RWC competition, otherwise demotion will quickly follow any promotion we get this year. We just don’t appear to have anywhere near the same physicality and cohesion to be competitive with the top teams. It’s time the SRU issued for public scrutiny a detailed & funded plan on how they’re going to achieve this, including timescales & the ways they’re going to measure success on an ongoing basis. SRU secrecy helps no one.

  2. Looking at the dates of the World Trophy fixtures, the last round of games are being played on the 30th of July. The thing that puzzles me is that the first Super series ‘Futures’ (primarily the Scotland u20 players) fixture is scheduled for the 28th of July? The players can’t be in two places at once, who’ll be getting drafted in to replace the 28 u20 players that will be in Kenya?

    • My understanding is that the team in the Super series will be focused on the U20 squad for season 23/24. More than half of the squad for the Spain warm-up will not be eligible and as such it’s about blooding the group.

      • If that’s correct there is no way they will be able to compete physically with the current Super 6 teams because that means the players involved will be 18/19 and as you suggest many of the current crop will be too old. I don’t see the logic in putting a team of 18/19 year olds in against teams like Ayr who have consistently picked their strongest team and will be far too strong. It’s actually quite dangerous in my opinion..

      • Grob, is the physicality of the U20 from the likes of Ireland and France not going to rival if not better that of the best Super 6 teams? This is exactly what they need.

        There are plenty of examples of young 18/19 years olds competing at full pro level, this is only semi-pro.

  3. Played some good stuff, got away with some careless stuff. If Spain are the best Scotland are expected to face in the World Trophy they must be looking to win it comfortably, as they weren’t up to much. I was trying to think where that Spain side would fit into the Scottish National League set up in terms of ability – my guess would be lower Nat 1 (maybe), no higher.

  4. Not morale boosting at all Gary. The old adage, that you can only play what is in front of you is apt because it appears they can’t. It appears Scotland have had heads up rugby coached out of them, due to fear of being dropped probably. I saw a safe performance, some players doing little to nothing just to ensure their holiday to Africa. Last line defenders slowing down to avoid tackling the oppo isn’t a good look. It appears not all the subs were used, for the one lad how does that sit with him or the extended squad left at home who would have liked the opportunity to show their worth. Sooner SRU get John Fletchers philosophy on coaching across all age grades the better otherwise we will always be Tier 2. Not seeing his style coming through yet at all. Are his hands tied?
    Don’t write off USA and Zimbabwe either, at altitude in similar temperatures, it’s not a given. 4 games in 15 days! Squad of 28 not 30 like the Tier 1 tournament. You will need lads who don’t mind getting stuck in, those who can set the tone early on.
    Interestingly, what is the consequences for the coaches if they don’t win the Trophy? Well for two of them it has already been decided, a sideways move into Fosroc Futures. Kenny will likely remain as Head of Transition employing his ‘who you know, rather than what you know’ philosophy for contracts. Make them accountable SRU or move them on like you are do to the players.
    Lastly really feel for Richie Simpson, he wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t hide. Give me a player like that any day over one that hides. If that’s what it looked like last night I hope he has some time out, comes back well and is looked after in that time.

  5. Crikey that match report doesn’t jibe with what I watched. We were barely better than a tier 2/3 side who made multiple line breaks, nailed us in a scrmnl n line out n drew second half after dominating territory n possession. Earlier in day watched Wales NZ with two sets of pro ready n frankly obviously pro experienced players who were light years above our guys who get to watch 32 year olds from another country lumbering about in pointless S6 games before getting subbed on for 6 min n never touching a ball. Our age grade players are being deliberately developed to be 2nd tier so we have to buy abroad. Sure the Dodson fan boys will claim this as an astonishing victory…but they’re no more convincing than the Ocean Gate CEO on safety.

    • for me it wasn’t a great display. Should be good enough to get promoted back with the bug boys but that display was hardly encouraging.

      But saying they are being deliberately trained to be 2nd tier is of course utter utter nonsense of the sort only a Trump conspiracist could believe


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