U20s 6N: slow starting Scotland lose again against England

Kenny Murray's side leave themselves too much ground to make up

England defeated Scotland in U20S Six Nations clash at Hive Stadium. Image: Calum Mackenzie
England defeated Scotland in U20S Six Nations clash at Hive Stadium. Image: Calum Mackenzie

Scotland 17

England 30

ALAM LORIMER @ Hive Stadium

TITLE-CHASING England came to Edinburgh seeking to maintain their position at the top of the Six Nations under-20s table and in the event succeeded with a bonus point win over a Scotland, that initially appeared short of confidence but which grew in stature as the game drew to its close. 

For a second successive Six Nations u20 Championship match at Hive Stadium, Scotland took the honours in the second half, scoring three tries after the interval to suggest that the doomsayers might be a tad off the mark in their assessments.

The final try score was 4-3 in favour of the visitors but, given the resources available through England’s well resourced Premiership Academies, the end result can only be one of encouragement for the young Scots.

Calcutta Cup: Finn Russell calls on cool heads to prevail for Scotland

Six Nations: Calcutta Cup: Scotland v England live blog …

Calcutta Cup: Gregor Townsend delivers disappointing update on Darcy Graham’s injury

Trailing 18-0 at the interval, and then 25-0 five minutes into the second half, it is to the Scots credit that they were able to bounce back and pressure their opponents. However, while the home side deserve huge plaudits for their second half recovery the difficult truth was that England, playing a forward oriented power game, were massively on top in the first half to the point that a hefty defeat for the home side seemed the likely outcome.

Scotland’s coach, Kenny Murray, expressing frustration, summed up his teams disappointing first half, saying: “We just made too many errors in the first half. We never got off to a great start. We dropped too many balls early on. We gave away a couple of penalties at the scrum and we couldn’t win our line-out ball in the first half. That fed their strength in the scrum and gave them a foothold in the game. So that was the disappointing thing for me –  we didn’t get the fast start we hoped for.

“At 18-0 down we didn’t get a try in the far corner [through Murdoch Lock] but we built ourselves back up again. We’ve won the second halves against France and England. There’s definite positives in that. But we can’t give teams an easy 40 minutes,” he added, with mixed emotions.



An admirable feature of Scotland’s play was the way they moved the ball wide, albeit, in the first half at least, from scrappy possession. In fact, Scotland involved their outside backs far more than their much vaunted opponents, who for most of the game looked like clones of their senior side.

Individually, Scotland had a number of top performances, the most eye-catching of which was from flanker Freddy Douglas.

“Everyone was talking about Henry Pollock before the game but the best seven on the field today was Freddie Douglas by a long shot,” observed Murray. “There’s a lot a real positives in this group of young players. There’s a lot of under-19 players. And they’ll be back next season.”

Pleasing for Murray was the assured display by stand-off Isaac Coates, after a difficult game against France two weeks ago.

“He’s only 18 years old. I thought Isaac showed extreme bravery to perform the way he did tonight. His line kicking was good as were his restart kicks,” suggested Murray.

Sootland looked dynamically eager in the opening minute of play pinning England in their own 22 area, only to be replelled by a huge touch-finding kick from the visitors’ scrum-half Archie McParland that bought the England a huge territorial gain.

Then, at the ensuing line-out, Scotland overthrew the ball allowing England to attack and only a brave tackle prevented England’s blindside flanker Nathan Michaelow from scoring. The referee, however, had spotted an offside allowing England to grab three points through kicker Sean Kerr.

The young Scots showed enterprise by opening up from their own 22 to spark a thrilling run by Amena Casqusau. But there was no dividend and in the event England regathered their composure to stretch their early lead with a maul try from hooker Craig Wright .



Scotland then paid the price for a mounting penalty count with another successful kick at goal by Kerr that put England 13-0 ahead. With the tide turning against Scotland, Fergus Watson gave the home fans hope with a stirring 35 metre run, only for the Biggar full-back to be tap-tackled by England’s outstanding openside Pollock.

Further Scots misfortune followed with an injury to Liam McConnell, resulting in the Scotland skipper leaving the field to be replaced by Ryan Burke. Then when Casqusau was sent to the bin for killing the ball it seemed there was little going for the home side.

England quickly made their extra man pay, moving the ball to the backs after a driven line-out, in a move ending with replacement stand-off George Makepeace-Cubitt delivering a clever overhead pass to give Kerr a try in the corner.

Scotland came desperately close to scoring when scrum-half Lock intercepted and scuttled up the left touchline for what at first sight appeared to have resulted in a try. The replay, however, showed an elbow in touch leaving England relieved and going into the break with a 18-0 advantage.



England’s powerful start to the second half looked ominous, confirmation of which coming with a close range try by the visitors’’ skipper Finn Carnduff, and the conversion by Kerr.

Fortunately for the game and for Scotland morale, the home side finally put real pressure on England that forced two penalties. From the second of these Scotland opted to charge for the line, the ploy ending with Euan McVie running a good line to crash over for the Scots’ first points of the match, Coates adding the extras.

The reply by England was another display of power that brought a try for No 8, Zach Carr, via  a front-of-the line-out move, to bring their tally of points to 30.

Carr’s score might have sapped the Scots’ resolve but it didn’t. Coates put Scotland into a strong position with a penalty kick to the corner and from the resultant line-out Scotland’s forwards executed an accelerating maul that ended in a try for Douglas.

England had a try chalked off for a forward pass and this seemed to give the Scots encouragement to go for broke. And they did, Coates doing the initial damage with a long pass and then Jack Hocking emulating his stand-off to put Geordie Gwynn over for arguably the try of match, the final points in a game that Scotland may have lost but from which they should have greater self-belief going forward.


Teams –

Scotland:  F Watson (J Hockijng 51); K Johnston (J Ventisei 60), G Gwynn, K Yule, A Caqusau; I Coates, M Lock (E Davey 60); R Deans (C Smyth 51), J Blyth-Lafferty (G Parry 71), C Norrie (R Whitefield 73), E McVie, R Hart, L McDonnell (R Burke 23), F Douglas, J Morris (T Currie 60)

England: I Jones; T Cousins, B Redshaw, S Kerr, A Wills; R Taylor (G Makepeace-Cubitt 18), A McParland (B Douglas 68); A Opoku-Fordjour (S Kirk 63), C Wright (J Oliver ), B Sela (A Fasogbon 45), J Bailey, F Carnduff, N Michelow, H Pollock, Z Car

Referee: Ben Breakspear (FFR)


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries; McVie, Douglas, Gwynn: Con: Coates.

England: Tries: Wright, Kerr, Carnduff, Car;r Cons Kerr 2; Pens: Kerr 2.

Scoring Sequence (Scotland first): 0-3;  0-8; 0-10; 0-13; 0-18 (h-t) 0-23; 0-25; 5-25; 7-25; 12-30; 17-30.


Yellow cards –

Scotland: Casqusau (29 minsP

Six Nations: Calcutta Cup: Scotland v England live blog …

About Alan Lorimer 352 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. Watching the game the other night ( yes I was there). We’ve strengthened up no doubt but the English lads particularly the pack are enormous… there is no way Scotland can match that level of beef, it’s simply numbers of participants and pro clubs, they must be growing (identifying) them from a very early age and there must be access to weight rooms absolutely everywhere and shall we say “nutritional” programs… but the one thing I’d say is after about 50-60 mins they were all blowing out of their proverbials, I genuinely fear for their hearts at such a young age to be so muscular and massive cannot be safe…I see so much action on head injuries that may affect later life, but nothing on this topic… to see the English front rows literally staggering off to be replaced by even bigger slabs of beef…is a dangerous path 🤔

    • Due to the SRU’s historical one-system-fits-all youth selection policy covering any & all positions (with it mainly based on Backs attributes & favouring kids who have matured early, been on S&C, & been well coached, which makes kids from private schools prime candidates) kids that could develop into very large “beefy” forwards have usually been excluded from the start of the SRU pathway development programme due to them not passing the SRU’s selection criteria. And if you don’t get in at the start then your chances of getting in later is only if & when there’s a blue moon!!!! Have you never wondered why Scotland has an abundance of good backs, flankers & hookers ………. it’s because the selection criteria has been aligned to these positions (i.e. Backs & failed Backs who are then turned into highly mobile hookers or flankers ………. okay, there’s always exceptions!). That said the SRU has eventually woken up to this issue & is taking steps to address it as evidenced in the latest revision of their ‘Blueprint’ strategy on youth development & their stated intent. But don’t expect quick results from this as it’ll take probably 4+ years for this new strategy & processes to become implemented & fully effective.

      • Great thoughts those, IMG.I pretty much think Props in particular mature so much slower than all other positions that you should keep them all on file…and keep monitoring… yes I know there’s the PONI system, the weight of numbers In the English set up is quiet astounding. I know of one 18 year old Lock that would be playing under 20’s for us for sure, but he’s only in club rugby getting experience ! Not sat in an academy not playing 🤔

  2. Some overly hash views of the young lads on here imo.
    The platforms for success for England and Scotland are vastly different… yet our lads give it their all.
    Huge difference from last year to this in our u20s….they are physically looking stronger…still a ways to go for it to be apples to apples …but you can see the improvements.
    We have some players there who look stars of the future.
    We do have to improve our pathways systems ,coaching and development …but there are signs of real talent imo. We just have to do better with that talent.
    try encouraging them instead of being overly critical of them…you wouldn’t talk aboutyour own that way…or I hope not anyway.

    • Yet last years Scotland u20s beat Wales who had Winnett, Hennessy and Ackerman playing, amongst others who, many of which are playing in the URC now.
      The difference, Scotland started really well, set the tone defensively and choked Wales into conceding yellow cards. Scotland could have been out of sight before halftime if they had slung the ball wide. Notably Wales went to the JWC that summer and came 5th under a new coach – Mark Jones.
      The week before, Scotland should have beaten England but for poor defending in the first 20 and a 6/2 bench did for them in the end. Questionable team selection.
      What I’m saying is, every year Scotland produce good talented players, just please manage their development better.
      Too much reliance on one man’s opinion, you get my point, without naming names.

    • The Pathways)Development programme is the issue.
      Currently it is a test of how dedicated a player is to attending training, not a development platform or a system to develop real talent.
      Pretty sure even Finn Russell as an 18 year old would not get through the current system.

  3. It’s easy to criticise the players and their performance and there’s lots of it from too many people who think they know who could play better. The boys are immensely proud to be involved and have to compete for their places, we should stop personalising the criticism and get behind these guys – some of them will go on to play at senior level and all should be encouraged. As a parent I know what’s involved and the dedication needed from players and families to support these guys. Lots of those criticising will be parents too – stop and think before you comment. We all have high aspirations for our kids, the best will make it, sometimes it’s doesn’t happen when we want it to.

  4. Why oh why did the BBC inflict on us that absolutely awful, incessant noise from a woman uttering tripe for the entire match – again? I hoped that comments about the drivel after the last game might have registered with them.
    As for the match, we performed better than feared but made too many errors.

    • Cliche after cliche sounded more like a 6th Form Media studies effort – I know it isn’t easy but someone surely should mention ‘less is more’ and a bit more decorum.

    • @Peter Fraser, – Why not just say you found teh commentarty annoying fact it was a a woman is not relevant – at all.

    • Agree , female commentator is awful , by far the worst I’ve heard, the quality of the comms is so poor and the chat is so childish. Lawson is actually normally quite good but even he was being drawn into the numerous childish cliches being spouted by the female commentator.
      Does the girl think she has to fill every second with chatter , really detracted from the spectacle of the game itself.
      Surely a professional organisation like the BBC must recognise good and bad quality commentary. The public are not concerned with them meeting their quotas so let’s get some decent commentators for remaining fixtures please

    • I eventually turned the sound down to a level I could barely hear. Some tripe about a marvellous mullet blowing in wind was the last straw…

  5. Results so far show we still struggle to produce either a sufficient quantity of players for this level, or a few outstanding players in key positions.
    But the frustration must be that the S6 competition will not be in place for the next crop, and the results this year may well be the high water mark for this age group, rather than the beginning of Scotland actually competing again at u-20 level. The SRU better have a plan in place for youngsters before the next 6N or we will go back to being battered each game.

    • Prior to S6 our u20s were 5th at RWC….the actual tournament not the wee consolation one. It’s S6 that’s has caused the problem alongside a terrible development system.

      • Please explain exactly why Super Series was the problem. Surely the existing Academy systems and coaches are the problem! Seriously you have no clue Rugby fan which you clearly aren’t!

  6. Watched this last night .
    Not very good for Scotland again .
    Some changes needed in team and behind scenes in most of SRU hierarchy.
    Give the back up squad members a chance on pitch .nothing to lose now .
    Stand Off obviously must have no back up competition .nobody else is getting a look in.
    picked every game so far .that shouldn’t happen .
    its not under 12 mini’s .
    this is pro rugby .no hiding place .
    .how did Health & Safety pass this stadium
    Scotland player runs back in own goal area .dives to touch ball down .momentum takes him out of in goal area ended up under a fixed metal railing .
    Someones going to be severely injured here

    • Regarding H&S it’s been like this since the stadium first opened. Sadly it will take a serious injury before anything is done.

    • Andy McLean played stand-off for Glasgow Hawks in the Prem last season and I’m pretty sure he got in a couple of teams of the week. No idea why he hasn’t been given an opportunity.

    • You really don’t like the 10 do you Colin. He was superb tonight. Only someone with a personal axe to grind come come up with yet another attack on a very promising player who did everything well tonight and rammed your myopic views from last week right back into your craw 😢

      • Not necessarily agreeing with the hate for Coates but has to be said why has McLean not got a shot, Coates wasn’t great last week and others deserve a shot. McLean has caps last year at 10 and 15 and hasn’t been involved at all. Same goes for Findlay Thomson who started some games in the trophy, doesn’t seem to get a look in for the one dimensional Yule. These are also two young men who got to super 6 on their own merit after good performances for Hawks and Musselburgh rather than getting into the team via senior academy contract. Has to be said it seems convenient that all the boys in the starting 15 this week are English or have senior academy contracts. It looks like boys that didn’t get them aren’t deserving of a start. Muirhead and McLean both quality at 15 and McLean at 10 and don’t get a look in. Thomson also has starts at 12 and doesn’t get a look in. As for Mcalpine assuming he must be injured but is a quality 9 in the super 6. Looks like senior academy boys have priority, Eric Davey the only lad without a contact playing and that’s only because of a Hector Patterson injury…

      • @Fraser I think you’re spot on with much of what you’ve said. Those with the senior academy contracts are going to be backed all the way. Coaches have made the call on these players, so they have to back them all the way now or admit they’ve made mistakes, which they won’t do. End result, in my opinion, in some instances there are better players sitting at home watching the u20’s games on tv. I hope I’m wrong, but it looks like the door is probably shut for 18-20 year olds that aren’t established in the set-up already – that’s madness.

        On Yule. He’s pretty effective at bashing through the middle, that’s his thing – the centres aren’t the best at opening up play. He’ll likely go far though.

  7. While results are important in sport and I feel for the young lads out there the U20’s as their title implies are a development team. If 3/4 out of the team that played yesterday go on to win senior international honours then they have done their job.
    I do have worries, this team has had a season to prepare with its inclusion in the S6 series, no other team has had preparation like that yet basics like lineouts still malfunction. If memory serves me right ( I’m getting no younger) this has been an issue before. I also worry where are these lads going to get the game experience they enjoyed this season again, a huge hole to be filled.
    The next 2 games are going to be massively tough, watched the Italians last night and as well as their expected physical attributes they are developing as a team.
    I do think some of yesterdays team will rise to the top but future generations getting proper level game time is an issue and a lot of thought must be put into this.

    • Without seeing the game stats for these lads Iain I’m still certain they did not play that much, which may highlight some issues

    • There can’t be many who would disagree with your closing comment “future generations getting proper level game time is an issue and a lot of thought must be put into this”.
      The question is where, S6 was never the equal of the competition that our oppositions are exposed, it was a faux competition and the standard across the board was questionable.
      In any progression there has to be continuity and increasing intensity, I didn’t see this in S6, I do see it in the Club systems of our opposition just look at the Clubs they play for, perhaps in lesser fixtures or on the Bench to come on at an appropriate time, but not against an opposition such as was Super 6 and even if S6 was a standard above the top Scottish Clubs, which I’m not sure about, it certainly wasn’t comparable to the English Championship for instance, what S6 side would live with Ealing, let alone London Scottish who sadly sit a neglected entity at the foot of the Championship.
      You had the benefit of the continuity of the Amateur game where the SRU could organise competition or representative rugby above Club level and the reason being that the vast majority of support for Club and Country stemmed from voluntary support from running the Bar to the Coaching, now that everybody from the Bar Staff to multiple coaching staff and physio require payment you can’t just impose S6 or a faux competition, it is costly and of questionable value.
      In the amateur day you had School to Club to District/Representative to Trials to the Jersey, the trouble is you can’t put the old amateur values on top of the professional game it’s a bit like darning an old sock the New material doesn’t sit well with the Old.
      From a distance and with admittedly only a reasonable memory of the old game I do feel like an old Alikadoo with the ‘in my day’ type of advice sitting at the bar, but from a distance in time and miles I struggle to understand why we can’t improve the grassroots club rugby rather than offer up S6, just how much did that cost? Just how much benefit could the grassroots clubs have got from that financial input?
      That as you suggest is the conversation that is required and PDQ.
      A last thought if our Lads are a development Team, they are not developing as successfully as our oppositions, the system is the only thing I can think of to blame, Italy were not exactly a hot bed of Rugby as dare I suggest the Borders, there’s more dead wood than Dodson needs to realise their coats are hanging on a shoogly peg.

    • You’re absolutely right that performances and individual’s development is far more important than results at this level. But we should also be clear that we are setting up for future failure if we don’t prepare our youngsters to enter the professional game at the same level as their peers in other countries. We’ve been lucky in the recent past that the mess Italy and Wales have made, and even England to some extent, in transitioning players from u20 to senior rugby has allowed us to close the gap and supplement our senior teams with players from outside our system. But this isn’t a sustainable approach and it is urgent to make sure the relative progress of our u20s isn’t lost now super 6 is scrapped. Going back to the system of the past will just mean we regress further.

  8. The old cliche about winning halves is really clutching at straws as a team performance level in the second half can obviously be influenced by the outcome of the first. This game was again over as a contest by half time. England 25 points up just after half time , make numerous changes so claiming some sort of morale victory “ by winning the second half” is just rubbish.
    Scotland need to be in these games at half time if we can realistically suggest any sort of improvement. For me the opposing teams thus far have not been as strong as last season and I suspect that Ireland and Italy are probably going to be much sterner tests.
    The Scotland back line consistently looks surprised to win ball and lack composure. Douglas is a real dog of a 7 who is very good at the breakdown but I fear for these lads bodies given the horrible positions they have to put themselves into at breakdowns , the jackal is a truly awful concept and needs to be removed from the game. England were tactically very poor particularly the replacement 10 who chose very few correct options.

    • The proper/honest comment should be that there’s little point in ‘winning’ the second half of games, we have to make sure that we don’t let teams kill us off by halftime.

      Worth noting, going back to the French game, that by early on in the second half the French were pretty much fielding their ‘B team’.

  9. Scotland benefitted to the tune of 14 points due to inconsistent refereeing – England denied a great try for a marginal forward pass given against them in backfield . The pass was borderline forward however there was no pressure on the pass and I was disappointed to see a great try chalked off. When a pass is so far in the backfield and has no material effect on the game ( no pressure at all on the initial pass ) I would like to see a bit of latitude with these decisions. There are enough stoppages in the game without giving marginal decisions like this. Fair enough if this is a scoring pass or maybe even within the attacking half but a borderline pass made fielding a deep kick in their own half is questionable.
    The scoring pass in Scotlands last try was 2 metres forward but allowed to stand.
    If refereeing teams are going to pull this stuff up it needs to be consistent …..

  10. A team and individuals who have improved greatly over the last 12 months. So many positives despite the result against a good English team. These lads need more playing / game time but we are going in the right direction

  11. Memo to 6 Nations – can we have a 2nd half champions table please? Think we will skoosh that one.

    The next two matches for the U20s look particularly difficult. It’s right to highlight the things the team do well and not buckling in the second half is a great trait, but it’s about winning matches not game segments.

  12. Unfortunately missed most of first half, however from what I did see I would sum it up as, some good efforts from some especially Douglas but as a team the looked as if they had no cohesion, can’t think of another word to describe the performance, it looked at times as if they were a scratch side cobbled together with a weeks coaching and training.
    The English team did look to be a totally more cohesive and practiced side, I don’t think the lads will find Italy any easier I fear.

  13. Agreed, there are some good players in the squad, but how some others have started every game is a mystery to me. The first half was awful, I actually felt sorry for Kenny Murray when the camera focused in on him as the person carrying the can for that first 40 minutes.

    A bit of dignity was recovered in the second half, but I think it’s a bit desperate to talk about ‘winning’ the second half of games, when opposition is already out of sight. Everyone knows that a team will often take their foot off the gas/lose a bit of concentration when they feel that a game is already won.

    Anyway, Italy up next… ‘Same again!’.

  14. Openside n blindside flanker plus the 11 might have potential….all did their best but it’s painfully clear one or two in clutch positions couldn’t handle 2nd team club rugby let alone this which is against full time pros decent amount of whom will be in next year 6n seniors

    • 11 passed up his biggest chance of the game with a dropped pass that he’ll be kicking himself for. Add in a yellow, it was a mixed bag.

      Don’t think a back 3 player has registered a point yet in the competition?

      • I’m coming round to believing your arguments Scotia, weather conditions will have had some part to play in the outside backs not registering a point but with the forwards struggling to generate any quick ball and all the play being off 9 the boys on the wings won’t get much of a look in. The centre pairing doesn’t look like it’s there to move that ball wide at every opportunity and the distribution is pretty laboured. The pack got a bit of a doing last night and the loss of their captain did not help. Kudos to Burke for his line out performance as McConnells replacement and also to Freddy Douglas for another excellent game although Englands tactics in the first half seemed to make him less influential. Have to agree with other comments on here, I’ve seen a lot of this age grade but the boys are victims of the structures they have grown up with and the lack of competition.

    • Might have potential? At least give them the respect of knowing their names. Douglas and mcvie look outstanding, as does caqusau. And it’s a while since the 20s have produced players who look international class. I was very surprised to hear mcvie had played so little rugby. He has not come through private school system, but what about his club? Didn’t he play club rugby for them. But this lack of rugby for the younger group is a real problem

      • Think his club team as a junior were fed partly from state school and partly private sector so struggled to get a line up after a certain age grouping, he’s certainly a good player, the pick of the second rows imho.

      • Very generous on number 11. Dropped pass when it should have been a try; got ran over the top of at one of England’s tries due to poor tackling technique, and picked up a yellow card. I’d doubt the lad himself will have been overly pleased with his night. Credit to him for being involved though, I can’t recall seeing much of the other winger at all over the three games so far.

    • I’ve watched a fair amount of schools, club and age grade rugby over the last few years and the 40 or so in and around the squad are likely to be technically the best available to Scotland . A few excellent talents in there. Scotland seem to lack confidence at start of matches until it dawns on them usually at half time that they can compete at this level. I thought the ref was poor last night. Two tough away games to come for Scotland against arguably two of the better teams at this level. My view is although the results matter , the u20 6N is a platform to develop talented youth players and there are perhaps grounds for Scotland to now provide opportunities to some of the other players in the squad.

  15. Scotland’s performance was again dogged but the result was skewed by the excellent performances of a few players, particularly Freddy Douglas, which compensated for the poor performances (again) of quite a few others. This isn’t any player’s fault as they all try their best, with the SRU’s pathway programme selectors/ coaches/ managers needing to take full responsibility & be accountable for this situation, together with their supervisors. The SRU organisation has a number of excellent employees, but there are far too many who are taking a wage under false pretences. Some would be better employed in horse racing where they could happily continue using their blinkers (or in some cases blindfolds!!!!?). As Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Instead of the SRU Board just ordering one taxi for Dodson, it needs to instead order a couple of buses to ship out the SRU dinosaurs & incompetents, & take them to the asylum.

    • Impossible to be more correct sadly!when cameras cut to Murray you could almost see him writing the excuses….


Comments are closed.