Scotland under-20 head coach Colin Robertson saw his team match their original pre-tournament seeding by finishing in 10th position in the IRB Junior World Championship and says the players have progressed as a result of the whole experience. After being reduced to 14 men just 20 minutes into the ninth place play-off match against Ireland at Rodney Parade, Scotland produced a gutsy display but were powerless to prevent their opponents from winning 39-12.
Scotland under-20 head coach Colin Robertson saw his team match their original pre-tournament seeding by finishing in 10th position in the IRB Junior World Championship and says the players have progressed as a result of the whole experience.
After being reduced to 14 men just 20 minutes into the ninth place play-off match against Ireland at Rodney Parade, Scotland produced a gutsy display but were powerless to prevent their opponents from winning 39-12.
Nevertheless Robertson believes the squad has benefited from their involvement in the competition and the experiences will stand them in good stead for their future careers in the game.
Robertson said: "I think that has been some progress over the course of the tournament. Moving forward it is important that all the players have learned from the experience and become better in terms of coping with the physical intensity of games. There is no question that playing five games over a three week period is a challenging and intense environment for everybody. It is great, but it is also hard work. There were no bad teams in the tournament and all the sides were capable of playing some good rugby.”
“The fact we scored 13 tries over the course of the tournament shows that we have got an attacking edge. That is certainly something that I'm pleased about. It has been a real rollercoaster ride for both the players and the coaches; we’ve had a lot to deal with. For me, the highlight was being forced to deal with the physical hammering we got against South Africa; in terms of injuries and players having to be drafted in as replacements.”
“That was a difficult period for the team, but the players stuck together and we prepared really well and responded against the USA where we scored six tries. That was a good turnaround for us and that speaks volumes for the preparation work and the spirit in the squad. We lost five players during the tournament through injury and we had to bring four guys in."
Before kick-off, lock Alex Wukovits was drafted into the 22-man squad after Josh Brown was withdrawn after suffering concussion during a training session on Friday. As a result, Neale Patrick was promoted into the starting line-up as Scotland chased a third consecutive victory.
But Ireland raced into a 13-point lead at half-time and Scotland s plans of staging revival had been severely dented when winger Tom Bury was red-carded after just 20 minutes.
Ireland extended their advantage to a 20-point gap soon after the re-start when Eoin O Malley scored, but Scotland reduced the deficit through a try from replacement Ruaridh Jackson. Nevertheless the added burden of being a man short took its toll on Scotland and a handful of players were forced to leave the pitch; paving the way through for Ireland to rack up a sizeable advantage.
With 11 minutes remaining, flanker Andrew Rose crossed the whitewash to add to Scotland’s points total with James Murray adding the extras.
But the damage had been in the first half and Robertson admits it left a huge mountain to climb.
He added: “As soon as you go down to 14 men, especially when it is an outside back on a hard pitch, then you are really up against it. That was very much the case in the game. We had some good moments; in the first half and the start of the second half. But the fact we only had 14 men made it an uphill battle. Then we started to pick up a number of injuries during the course of the game because of fatigue which didn t help us.”
Robertson says the National Academy structure helped the players cope with the physical and mental demands of the tournament.
He said: “I think the National Academy benefits the players because it enables the guys to deal with several factors; not just physically but also mentally as well. There is an ongoing challenge that the National Academy have to perform well at these tournaments and show how good they really are.”
Scotland under-20 squad (team sponsor Martin Currie) for the IRB Junior World Championship play-off match match against Ireland at Rodney Parade, Newport (21 June 2008, kick off 1pm)
15 Murray Allan (Loughborough University)
14 Lee Jones (Selkirk)
13 Paul Loudon (Durham University)
12 Stevie McColl (Dunfermline and National Academy)
11 Tom Bury (Boroughmuir and National Academy)
10 James Murray (Leeds Carnegie and Edinburgh Academicals)
9 Ross Samson (Newcastle Falcons)
1 Gary Strain (Glasgow Hawks and National Academy)
2 Adrian Duncan (Stewarts-Melville FP and National Academy)
3 Lewis Niven (Edinburgh Academicals)
4 Fraser McKenzie (Heriot s and National Academy)
5 Neale Patrick (Dunfermline)
6 Andrew Rose (Hartpury College)
8 Craig Simmonds (Heriot s)
7 Lewis Calder (Newcastle Falcons) CAPTAIN
Substitutes: Niall Shannon (Aberdeen Grammar FP for Kinloch on 71 mins, Gavin Cameron (Ellon and National Academy) for Niven on 51 mins, Alex Wukovits (Begles-Bordeaux) for Patrick on 36 mins, Jonny Baird (Watsonians) for Simmonds on 62 mins, Peter Jericevich (GHA and National Academy) for Samson on 49 mins, Ruaridh Jackson (Glasgow Hawks and National Academy) for McColl on 34 mins, Peter Horne (Howe of Fife) for Allan on 49 mins.
Tries: Jackson (52 mins), Rose (69 mins)
Conversion: Murray (70 mins)
Red card: Bury (20 mins)
Yellow card: McKenzie (56 mins)