Six Nations U20 Summer Series: Scots defence dismantled by dominant Welsh

Kenny Murray's team began their Pool B campaign with a seven-tries-to-three defeat that exposed severe shortcomings in defence

Ollie Leatherbarrow
Scotland's Ollie Leatherbarrow comes up against Ethan Fackrell of Wales. Image:©INPHO/Ben Brady.

Scotland Under-20 15

Wales Under-20 45

SCOTLAND’S difficulties at under-20 level continued with a heavy defeat to Wales at Treviso’s Stadio di Monigo in the first of the Six Nations Summer Series Pool B matches. In punishing conditions of temperatures that hovered around the 33 degree mark, the young Scots were given something of a roasting by a Wales side clearly intent on repairing their own shortcomings in the Six Nations Under-20 Championship earlier this year.

But it was Scotland’s deficiencies that stood out, as head coach Kenny Murray articulated after the match. He said: “At this level you can’t give away cheap tries, you can’t give away cheap penalties and you can’t lose the kick battle or you’ll just get punished. Teams will just capitalise on that and to their credit that’s what Wales did to us”

In fairness it was perhaps expecting too much for the young Scots to turn around a depressing set of performances in February and March in a relatively short period of time and more so against a Wales side that, despite being without their skipper Alex Mann, was reckoned to have strengthened for this Summer Series.

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The Scots did, however, show some encouraging signs of improvement. But these were confined to their forward play, in which Ollie Leatherbarrow showed up well in the first half with powerful and incisive running, and in the second half, where replacement Patrick Harrison did his best to inspire his cohorts with dynamic play.

But for most of the game Scotland could not match the physicality of Wales in the contact area nor the efficiency of the Welsh backs, whose clever passing and attacking running exposed Scottish frailties in midfield. Nor did Scotland make best use of possession and but for the efforts of their forwards, particularly in the second half, the scoreline could have been worse.

Any hopes Scotland had of an immediate redemption after their whitewash earlier this year were dashed when Wales scored with their first effective attack. Ospreys wing Oli Andrew, fielding an accurate kick pass by his stand-off Dan Edwards, spun through the tackle of Ryan Daley to score the opening try.

The Scots, who conceded far too many penalties in the opening minutes, hit back with good carries from Leatherbarrow to earn a penalty just outside the Wales 22-metre area, only to have the award reversed for an earlier incident when Andy Stirrat tried to hurdle his way through a tackle.

Wales, increasingly dominant at the breakdown, then added to their points tally with what seemed a simple try, as prop Rhys Barratt scuttled clear of a ruck to score under the posts, leaving Edwards with a simple conversion kick.

Scotland briefly put a brake on the Welsh points production line with a close-range try by hooker Gregor Hiddleston from a series of pick-and-drive moves following a penalty ten metres out from the Wales line.

Wales quickly put this minor setback behind them and from a clever move in midfield Edwards combined with his blindside flanker Ryan Woodman in midfield before openside Ethan Frackrell finished the move with yet another try between the posts, Edwards adding the extra points.

Three minutes from half-time Wales struck again, this time using their backs to give wing Harri Houston his side’s bonus-point try for a 24-5 interval advantage. The pain continued for Scotland early in the second half as Andrew took a floated pass for his second try, expertly converted by Edwards.

Scotland were able to respond with a Harrison try from a driven line-out, but Wales were not to be put off their scoring rhythm, scrum-half Morgan Lloyd dummying over from five metres and replacement back-row Morgan Morse bursting from a maul to score his side’s seventh touchdown, both tries inflated by accurate conversion attempts from replacement stand-off Josh Phillips.

Then three minutes from full-time Scotland made the scoreline look less damaging after Harrison repeated his driving maul skill to bag a second try for the final points of the first of four matches, each of which will yet again ask difficult questions of Scottish rugby at this level.


Teams –

Scotland:  K Clark; K Johnston, D Munn, A Stirrat, R Daley; C Townsend, M Redpath; A Rogers, G Hiddleston, C Norrie, J Taylor, M Williamson, L McConnell, R Tait (captain), O Leatherbarrow.  Subs used: P Harrison, I Carmichael, G Scougall, J Spurway, T Brown, B Afshar, E Cunningham, G Jones, M Deehan, E Groenewald, B Salmon.

Wales: C Winnett; O Andrew, M Grady, J Hawkins (captain), H Houston; D Edwards, C Hope; R Barratt, E Daniel, N Evans, C Tshiunza, D Jenkins, R Woodman, Ethan Fackrell, B Williams. Subs used: O Burrows, C Jones, A Williams, M Martin, M Morse, M Lloyd, J Phillips, B Bradley, Ellis Fackrell, C Salmon, J Westwood.

Referee: S Tevzadze (Georgia).


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: Hiddleston, Harrison 2.

Wales: Tries Andrew 2, Barratt, Fackrell, Houston, Lloyd, Morse. Cons: Edwards 3, Phillips 2.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-10; 0-12; 5-12; 5-17; 5-19; 5-24 (h-t) 5-29; 5-31; 10-31; 10-36; 10-38; 10-43; 10-45; 15-45.

About Alan Lorimer 360 Articles
Scotland rugby correspondent for The Times for six years and subsequently contributed to Sunday Times, Daily and Sunday Telegraph, Scotsman, Herald, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald and Reuters. Worked in Radio for BBC. Alan is Scottish rugby journalism's leading voice when it comes to youth and schools rugby.


  1. Everyone knows the issues.
    In the whole country 5-10 schools and a dozen club have an outstanding youth rugby program with several more in the outer tiers but fixture lists are only partly based on merit so the youth players we produce are very raw (or just not good enough) and they enter the professional game late in comparison to peers.

    It’s not looking good. We’ve never been world beaters at U20 but in the last decade we’ve usually been competitive say 1 year in 2 and in the last 7 years have been ranked no.5. That now seems to have come to an end and we’re a ‘gimme’ for other sides.

    It’s difficult to believe this won’t start to impact the senior side. It needs to be addressed.

    • For whatever reason not many players from these schools/clubs get selected for Scotland age grade teams and the rest are either lost in the system or worse are lost to the game. Can we honestly put hand on heart and say that the ones picked are the best players we have, evidence suggests not. You can’t make an exceptional team out of mainly average players. Yes we can see one or two standout players (Letherbarrow and Harrison have shone through) but mainly lots of endeavour but nothing exceptional from the rest.
      The system needs to ensure that it monitors, tracks and keeps involved a wider group of players to ensure we can truly identify and nurture the exceptional players.

  2. Iain, always good to read your posts on slow days for hard facts! Of several contentious statements in your comment, you should know that despite general perceptions and occasional claims to the contrary, the SRU did indeed receive many £millions to re-develop Murrayfield stadium. The Union needed that cash, because it had effectively run out of funds, and the issue of even more debentures to obtain additional loan funds was no longer an option. Having had a ringside seat, not to mention personal involvement, I can assure you of these facts.

    Here is the story, to the best of my recall…. Following years of “dialogue” between the SRU and Scotland’s pre-devolution political masters, before moving on to other Westminster posts, former Scottish Secretary Michael (Lord) Forsyth made a commitment to the SRU to provide government financial support for the re-development of Murrayfield stadium in the early / mid 1990’s. That generous commitment was subsequently honoured, to the extreme relief of the SRU, after a little bout of (rather desperate) pushing & shoving, aka “dialogue”.

    It was agreed that some £35 million would be delivered (channelled via Sportscotland) from the late 1990’s, from 1997 or thereabouts, in a series of 6 or 7 substantial annual tranches. So as to ensure that there was no detailed public disclosure (or scrutiny) which might have fuelled outraged claims from other sports with justified calls on government support towards capital expenditure on sporting assets, the funds were to be paid over against slightly cosmetic claims based upon expenditure on “rugby development”. Around the turn of the century, the SRU was far and away the Scottish Governing Body of Sport in receipt of the largest amount of financial support from central sources, dwarfing the funding provided to any other Scottish sport. Sportscotland’s annual reports over the relevant years confirm all of this. There are a few other little-known though lurid tales of a financial nature in Scottish rugby which might give rise to raised eyebrows, if not hands to heaven!

    I was closely involved in those processes, and can attest to the veracity of the foregoing – so, please let us stick to the facts when discussing rugby in Scotland. Even without your clearly well-meaning contributions there is already an excess of erroneous, flawed and speculative commentary that helps no-one, given the deep structural issues and failures impacting negatively at most levels of Scottish rugby’s sporting pyramid – primarily throughout the domestic game and player development.

  3. Having been the father of a child who was in the age grade system I can only agree with Colin Hill in his post. Irrespective if he was good enough or not to make the Age grade national selection, the way him and others like him were treated, was a disgrace. His school coaching ingrained the basics of tackling (properly), handling skills, team work and you want to play you turn up to training and you work hard. He was sometimes picked to start but more times started on the bench and was never really given much game time. One game he didn’t even get game time and when he challenged the coaches was told by the head coach “he forgot he was there”. His school coach also was told by the same person that they only were looking at the biggest forwards to put forward, and to me that was to the determent of the skills I mentioned above. Him and so many others got pretty disillusioned, to the point at getting selected to U18 grade level and just turned it down as he new he would just making up the numbers. He still plays and just enjoys the game and the friendships within the team. I do believe, and also instilled in my boys that if you work hard you will reap the benefits and also sometimes it is just not for you. He is content and loves the game where he plays, but I wonder where the others go from seeing what happens when your not included.

  4. I don’t have any immediate knowledge of young players going to pathway trials, and I do understand that once players are selected for the Academy, they have to be backed with opportunities, but Callum Inglis played nearly every game in the premier title winning Marr team at 10 and has never had a look in at national age grade level because Townsend and Cunningham have been consistently selected. Conor Sutherland is another example – lots of game time at Hawick, never named in a national age grade squad. Hopefully we dont regret having so narrow a door of opportunity that boys give up.

  5. A parent told me his son was selected to go for an U16 trial game. He was told by the SRU coaches to play 10? He is a hooker and guess what he did not get selected for the pathway. No wonder we are a shambles at Under age groups.

    • I know a lad from Borders who really stood out from minis upwards
      Till he got to 15 yrs old .had a trial for u16 s .
      Had 10 minutes that’s all .
      Never had a chance .team was mostly made up of boys from Private schools and previous past Names
      Team was picked already before trial started …..that’s wrong …Coaches are just yes men …there are many young talented guys overlooked out there who have had the same thing happen to them through no fault of their own
      Needless to say the lad was disillusioned .
      SRU need a wholesale clearout of this culture cos it stinks

      • Hush your mouth Colin. It’s run by the wonderful Mr Dodson so it’s perfect. The coaches should probably get a pay rise like their boss!

    • Andrewblyth Murphy.

      He was but he’ll be first choice for next game .
      That’s what’s wrong here .
      nobody else has got a look in over the years in this group because thats it he’s in the system .
      It’s a clique

    • He could not tackle a fish supper and looked scared of contact and crumbled under pressure

    • Strange that Townsend junior was the only back that started every game in the under 20, 6 nations whitewash.
      He also looked fair to poor in all games, no doubt because the pack was usually second.

      • Why did he start every game when he was pish poor
        Can only think they were feart to drop him.
        They’ve had to now or questions would have been asked of management

  6. Super 6 was not set up for U20s development but as a vehicle to bring in more overseas players to play and be seen and also eat up residency time. It was never about developing Scottish players and it is all about keeping Scotland at the senior elite level playing whoever they can so that the SRU elite could stay at the top table and keep our snout in the commercial trough so that the massive Murrayfield wage bill and bonuses can be paid. The clubs who have thrived and then had to fight to survive would have used the miilions spent in wages each year to have amde a real diference at grass roots. The union is supposed to be the representative body of the clubs and work to the betterment of the clubs and not sign away controlling rights for cash to pay for what ever they have fancied especially totaly unjustifiable salary packages.

  7. Once you are in the age grade system you seem to go through all the way. How many players drop out when “rejected” and are lost to rugby because there is no incentive or development given to improve or encouragement to continue development. Yes two or three good players come through each year but should it not be 15 – 20?
    Something is wrong and has been for a number of years.

  8. I’m not someone who is bitter towards the Murrayfield regime but my one consistent criticism is that they see age group coaching as an extension of the senior game and therefore a post for former (failed??) senior coaches. Time to get guys in with a track record in U20 or Academy rugby. Hi his may come as a surprise but it’s totally different.

  9. The Dodson fanboys are all noticeably quiet here. This is his real legacy and until him and his nepotistic pals are removed this unfortunately will become the norm. He has been a disaster for Scottish rugby and it’s only going to get worse until the club’s grow a spine and drive the corrupt cabal out of our sport

  10. If Scotland A used chile game to prep for Argentina, could pro alignment game not have been used to warm up the 20s? Have your Edinburgh Glasgow but have them play 40 mins each v 20s. Different opposition, time to play together, test combos and controlled for feedback and analysis in between. Super 6 is a pillar for 20s no?

      • A decent chunk of the squad have been playing Super6 throughout sprint series. It’s not men v boys at all.

      • Without being too critical and understanding the generality of your comment here is a quote from days gone by. All Blacks captain Jack Manchester told the travelling Kiwi press: “Tell them back home we lost, but, please, don’t tell them that we were beaten by a pair of schoolboys.” that followed on from Swansea School boys Haydn Tanner and Willie Davis running rings around an otherwise typical NZ touring side, if you’re good enough, your old enough.

      • Up against a second row pairing with a full international cap and pro experience at Exeter between them. Max W for example will be in Warriors pre season as full pro very soon.

  11. This game was clear evidence that young Scots are not getting enough real Pro level game time – looking at their appearance in Super 6 Sprint series it is the odd if any appearance for most and the Super 6 is at best a semi pro level . We need a third Pro side in Scottish rugby to give young aspirants a better chance to test themselves at the highest possible level below international level

    • I totally agree that a 3rd pro team is required and I hope Super 6 could help lead to this. What we have to remember is the appalling way professionalism in rugby was handled at the outset by Scottish rugby who never wanted it to go professional in the first place. We had no real directors of rugby with a vision of the future, the focus was totally on the National team. We ended up in a state of near bankruptcy and had to go to 2 pro sides. There of course were some mitigating circumstances such as we paid for the development of Murrayfield while other countries received government help. However that cannot excuse what happened. From what I see and hear we are now investing heavily in the 2 pro teams and maybe success there will lead to a 3rd pro team.
      There are other issues relating to youth rugby and one I worry about is the still massive drop off of players moving from the youth to the senior game. I question is our season and club structure fit for what young players want. We’ve always struggled at age group rugby and senior rugby for that matter. 3 grand slams in our whole history.

      • If I may say Mr. Milne I find the above a bit confusing, not unlike some of the comments coming out of Roseburn Street.
        One question I want to ask you is regarding your ‘hope’ that the Super 6 will lead to a 3rd professional team, what process could there possibly be other than removing the money, some would say wasted, on setting up the Super 6 in the first place in order to support a 3rd professional side, where would it be located, the Borders, how would it be financed?
        That isn’t to say I don’t want an additional professional set up, or even 4 if it could be established. Roseburn St seem to find it easy enough to identify the money for salaries and bonus payments and in other areas that frankly don’t offer a return on the investment at home or abroad.
        Another question would be the financially unrealistic SRU support for finding money to fund a women’s professional squad of players that you have vociferously supported on this platform, not it would seem just for supporting them for the World Cup but on rolling contracts, where do you think the profit is in the women’s professional game when any observance of the men’s professional game shows that hardly any of the clubs are making a profit, why such vociferous support at the expense of the primary objective keeping the men’s game at the top table, something that is increasingly difficult, certainly at Club level and if we are not careful International level as well.
        If I may say before you suggest the catch-all ‘it was the Wuhan Lurgy’ Guv’nor hardly any clubs were making a profit prior to Covid.
        As I have said elsewhere it isn’t misogynistic to question the value of Women’s Rugby as a revenue provider, any investigation shows that it will be a financial drain on resources, and can only be robbing Peter to pay Paula, support the women’s game through the clubs at amateur level by all means and just like the men’s game progressed over the years if there is a growing desire for watching women’s rugby and if it generates revenue to support itself, fair enough, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. As regards your remark about players dropping off there are more than a few comments here remarking that the selection process and the way that ‘Academy’ players are used may well be that it is yet another fault of the governance.
        As for the assertion that Scotland didn’t want the game to go professional in the first instance, as I said at the time ‘be careful what you wish for’.

  12. Coughing up 7 tries vs Celtic cousins in Scotland U-20’s 11th straight defeat is unacceptable.

    First and foremost, this isn’t a criticsm of our valiant players (or coaches), but by definition continuing reverses like this at that level do ask serious questions of the SRU’s failing age-grade & schools development & competition structures and operations – including S6 and “Elite Development” Academies.

    No quick fix, for sure – but who will get a grip, and act effectively to remedy the failings, and when?

    • Our structure for the development of age group players is a joke. Until we get the SRU to agree to have the top state schools and private ones playing in a league we will never get better. Also in English Prem clubs they all run an U20 team

  13. Scotland had more possession and made more metres yet still got trounced. 9 and 10 were awful, no control over the territory and making inept decisions. The u20s current predicament sums up the sru; this insular, stuck up, nepotistic regime is not fit for purpose. They must sponsor the back of chiles shirt, kunstmann.

    • Once you’re in the system you can’t get out .to the detriment of others
      As I’ve commented many times on here it’s who you know and where you come from .
      This has went on in Scotland for yonks and look at where we are now .
      What is the Heed Honcho doing about it ……Nothing ……just taking 1 million pound a year

    • Kunstmann.
      Famous fathers must have helped them get where they are .
      Cos on ability
      Agree they were both p.I.s.h .poor

  14. I was concerned when I watched extracts of the Group A fixtures, I’m even more concerned after the game against Wales.
    Too many mistakes at critical times, no doubt chasing a game after going down to a try in the first 2 minutes didn’t help either.
    There was improvement in the second half but look at the composition of the Welsh side, 14 or 15 players from Ospreys and Cardiff, and it doesn’t get better, with other teams in the PoolB, Georgia have about 14 players playing in the French Top 14 regardless of how little game time they have had from the bit I saw they didn’t look that bad, and Italy looked to be more than a decent squad in the limited view I had of their game against Georgia.
    With the exception of perhaps half a dozen of the Scottish squad what level of the game have they attained? I am sorry but the Super 6 [a misnomer if there ever was one] is not a credible answer in my opinion.
    There was a perfectly good system once, School, Club, District, Possible v Probable and somehow now there is a huge gap between the club game where surely the heart of Scottish Rugby has been for generations.
    What does the SRU offer us? A cobbled together mish mash team that changes on the sniff of a pointless and vacuous trophy, like the instigators of the competition, not worth the money.

  15. The vast majority of them aren’t professional. That’s the problem. These boys are playing for universities, super 6 semi pro or lower league English sides. Coming up against full pros playing at pro.level week in week out.

    • Sorry but I have to say Ealing is not a lower league side it is and has for some considerable time top of the Greene King Championship second only in the past 7 or 8 seasons to the side coming down from the Premiership and only the fact that they have been unwilling to spend on ground improvements has kept them from going up to the Premiership this season.

  16. Changes needed Kenny . Professional sport is brutal
    If you’re not up to it you should be dropped .
    Doesn’t matter who you are .
    Give others a fair crack


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