World Rugby U20 Championship: England have too much firepower for young Scots

Score-line doesn't fully reflect contribution of Bryan Redpath's boys to fiercely contested encounter

Scotland England under-20
England winger Gabriel Ibitoye scores his second try ***Image: Laurent Boutonnet / World Rugby ***

Scotland 10

England 35

THIS third consecutive pool-stage defeat at the World Rugby U20 Championship confirmed a bottom place finish in their pool for Bryan Redpath’s young Scotland team, and means that their final two matches will be in the bottom-tier knock-out section of the competition, where they face the daunting task of playing Ireland next Tuesday and then either Japan or Georgia the following Sunday. They must win at least one of those games to avoid dropping down into the World Rugby U20 Trophy.

In one sense, it could be plausibly argued that the score-line reflects harshly on Scotland’s contribution to this match. They battled bravely throughout the 80 minutes, were well in it when the score was 10-17 at half-time, and although they were under serious pressure in the scrum they had marginally more possession than their opponents – but lacked the cutting edge posed by the likes of Gabriel Ibitoyeand Jordan Olowofela in the England back-line.

Against that, we must recognise that England stand-off Tom Hardwick missed five of his seven conversion attempts, and a little bit more accuracy in that area could have really put a different slant on the final outcome.

Scotland famously defeated England in the U20 Six Nations, but they came up against a far better organised and focussed unit here, and were always playing catch-up.


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“It is disappointing. After the first half we were really in it – that’s what we were saying in the changing room – we were sticking it to them,” said Scotland captain Robbie Smith afterwards. “But we came out [after the break] and made too many errors – and against a team like that they are really going to punish you.

“We’ll come back fighting. We’ve got another game in five days’ time to get it right, so were going to come back and hopefully get as high a place finish as we can.”

Scotland started well, with Sam Yawayawa breaking 25-yards up field straight from the kick-off, and despite the concession of an early try – when quick line-out ball on the left was shipped straight across the park for Ibitoyeto brush past Logan Trotter and Kyle Rowe on his way to the line – they continued to play most of the rugby.

Ross Thompson narrowed the gap with a penalty from in front of the posts with 12 minutes gone. The scores might have been even closer at that stage, but the Scotland stand-off was off target with a slightly trickier shot at goal a few minutes earlier.

Thompson was then rather unfortunate to be penalised for playing the ball on the deck after collecting an English kick into the Scottish 22, when it didn’t look like he had been held in the tackle. The ball was despatched from the corner, and pack power saw English hooker Ben Cutting ground the ball over the line from a driven line-out.

Two minutes later, James Scott rolled once in the tackle to get the ball over the line for England’s third try – and things were looking ominous until England full-back James Grayson (son of former stand-off Paul) – was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Thompson.

Scotland nearly took instant advantage with Ross Dunbar bursting from the line-out drive, and it took a desperate cover tackle from Ibitoye and Ted Hill on James Miller to snuff out a clear scoring opportunity.

The boys in blue didn’t manage to score during that period with an extra man, but they did manage to recover some composure, and then just before the break they capitalised on England’s on-going ill-discipline to grab the reward their resilience deserved.

A penalty against Ciaran Knight was sent to the touchline. A collapsed line-out drive prompted a quick tap-and-go from scrum-half Charlie Gowling, and, after a few more phases, Thompson picked out a gap in the back-field with a wonderfully weighted kick through for Rowe to rush onto for the score.

Thompson nailed the conversion to make it a seven-point game at the break, and having had the lion’s share of possession, the Scots were well in contention.

England started the second half like a runaway train, and they really should have got their fourth try after Olowofelahad swept up field and a long looping pass from Grayson created a yawning overlap on the left, but a poor offload from Aaron Hinkley to Ben Loader derailed that opportunity.

Scotland did exceptionally well to weather the storm for ten minutes, until Ibitoye’s pace and power up the right touch-line once again proved too much for Totter and Rowe. Hardwick missed the conversion but kicked a penalty as the game moved into the final quarter.

Scotland’s replacement number eight Devante Onojaife was sib-binned for a high tackle with just over ten minutes to go, with referee Damon Murphy seeming to apologise to the player before brandishing the yellow-card – but the official had little choice given the zero-tolerance guidelines he is working to.

England capitalised immediately, with Joel Kpoku propelling himself over the line from the back of the subsequent driven line-out; and that seemed to finally knock the stuffing out of Scotland. Replacement wing Matt Williams crossed before the end.

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Teams –

Scotland: L Trotter (S McDowall 62); K Rowe, P Anderson, F Strachan; S Yawayawa; R Thompson (C McLelland 61), C Gowling; R Dunbar (F Hobbis 64), R Smith (F Scott 64), F Richardson (M Walker 55), E Johnston, C Jupp (D Onojaife 61), M Sykes, G Graham, J Miller.

England: J Grayson; GIbitoye (M Williams 61), J Olowofela, W Butler, B Loader; T Hardwick, B White (R Brand 65); C Knight (A Seville 57), B Cutting (G Oghre 40) E Painter (J Heyes 40), J Kpoku, J Scott (J Basham 65), T Hill, A Hinkley, T Willis.

Referee: D Murphy (Australia)

Scorers –

Scotland: Try: Rowe; Con: Thompson; Pen: Thompson

England: Tries: Ibitoye 2; Cutting, Scott, Kpoku, Williams; Con: Hardwick; Pen: Hardwick.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-5; 0-7; 3-7; 3-12; 3-17; 8-17; 10-17 (h-t) 10-22; 10-25; 10-30; 10-35

Yellow cards –

Scotland: Onojaife

England: Grayson

About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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.