Talent Of Tomorrow Sets New Benchmark

While Scotland under-20 hopes of a triple crown – and an outside chance of an under-20 RBS 6 Nations title – ended at the Sixways Stadium in Worcester on Friday night, there is certainly a justified air of optimism in the squad camp.

Without a single win at their level since the re-categorisation from under-21 in 2006/2007, a fourth place finish in the 6 Nations is a notable achievement for any Scottish age-grade squad – and is a reminder of the 2001/2002 under-19 squad that reached the highest ever world-ranked placing for that group, in which current under-20 coach Eamon John played a significant part.

 

While Scotland under-20 hopes of a triple crown – and an outside chance of an under-20 RBS 6 Nations title – ended at the Sixways Stadium in Worcester on Friday night, there is certainly a justified air of optimism in the squad camp.

Without a single win at their level since the re-categorisation from under-21 in 2006/2007, a fourth place finish in the 6 Nations is a notable achievement for any Scottish age-grade squad – and is a reminder of the 2001/2002 under-19 squad that reached the highest ever world-ranked placing for that group, in which current under-20 coach Eamon John played a significant part.

Now with the first victory and the most encouraging 6 Nations campaign behind them, and the under-20 World Cup just three months away, there is little time to reflect on a successful age-grade campaign which has set a new point of reference for all Scottish age-grades, and one of which the players and management can be proud.

Scotland 18 – 17 Wales

Scotland’s campaign began with a dramatic win in a well-contested match against Wales at McDiarmid Park, Perth.

With unerring accuracy, full-back Peter Horne struck six penalties to ensure Scotland defeated Wales for only the fourth time in 26 matches at either under-20 or under-21 level.

France 30 – 3 Scotland

A stark contrast from the previous elation at getting the historic victory, the trip to the Stade Leo Lagrange proved how tough playing French opposition in France can be.

Horne again scored all of Scotland’s points from a penalty kick and despite going in at half time just three points adrift, the Scots could not continue their dogged defending for the entire 80 minutes – failing to emulate coach Craig Chalmers’ famous Scotland B (18-12) victory over the French at the same location in 1988.

Ashleah McCulloch takes on the Italian defence 

Scotland 14-10 Italy

A dramatic fight back saw Scotland under-20 snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in front of an ecstatic home support at Dens Park in Dundee.

After an early exchange of penalties it was Italy who were first to cross the whitewash before holding off waves of Scotland attacks until late in the game.

Three Scotland miss-kicks threatened to spoil the hosts’ attempts to find even ground but unrelenting Scotland pressure forced the Italians to give away a penalty on their 22.

With four missed kicks so far in the match the crowd sat silent in anticipation before erupting as substitute Robbie McGowan’s boot put the Scots ahead for the first time since the early exchanges of the first half.

Soon after, the Italians were again at fault giving away another kickable penalty – McGowan’s boot clinched the victory that was so deserved but seemed so unlikely just moments before. 

Scotland 35 - 20 Ireland

Scotland’s third and final victory of the campaign came in dramatic style against an unbeaten Ireland team.

From the outset Scotland gave the unbeaten Irish no quarter; playing controlled, attacking rugby while focussing tactically on quick ball to nullify the formidable Irish forwards.

An early exchange of penalties, scrum-half Henry Pyrgos picked from the base of a ruck five metres from goal, jinked round the Irish number 8 and dove over for the score before flanker Struan Dewar crashed over for Scotland’s second before the interval.

Open-side Chris Fusaro added a third to Scotland’s tally with some excellent pressured back-row spoil play and while Ireland managed two converted efforts of their own the home side saw out the match with a McGowan penalty late on to go into the final match looking to complete the Triple Crown.

England 20 - 6 Scotland

With three wins from four, Championship front runners Scotland, France and Ireland all travelled for their last game of the tournament to make their bid for the title.

Scotland had to defeat the English on their own patch if they were to have a chance of winning the RBS 6 Nations under-20 title and Triple Crown – a feat which has always eluded Scotland at under-20 and the old under-21 level.

However it was not to be as an experienced England side ended the Scots’ hopes at Sixways Stadium in Worcester.

Despite taking the lead through the boot of McGowan, England responded with two tries in the first half.

Scotland continued to battle hard but the experienced English maintained their lines and were quick to capitalise on turnover opportunities and kick any resurgent attempts from their 22 back into Scotland territory.

A third England try came in an error-stricken second-half for both sides which was battled out in the middle of the park – though credit is certainly due to Scotland for standing toe to toe with a very experience, and largely professional, English outfit.

Scotland under-20 head coach, Eamon John, said: “The 6 Nations is exactly that, a campaign with six teams, it’s not about one game and I think that we’ve set milestones at this level so they can very proud, but there will be the lessons we can learn.

“This group has a lot to look forward to, we can take a lot of confidence from the campaign into the World Cup but moving forward into the bigger picture I am sure there’s some players here that’ll raise Murrayfield in future years and hopefully they’ll be successful there too.

“There are no easy games in a World Cup competition but we’re pleased with the group because we’ll face two teams outwith the 6 Nations which is good for the team’s experience and development.

“It’s exciting to be drawn against England, and Japan will certainly be doing their best to go all out in their own back yard. We’ve won and lost against Samoa so I expect the game to be tight and will likely come down to who gets their rugby right on the day.”

 

RBS 6 Nations under-20 table

 Diff Pts 
France  150 53 97 
Ireland 8688 -2 
England 94 72 22 
Scotland 76 97 -21 
Wales93 109 -16 
Italy 557 137 -80 

IRB Junior World Championship 2009 Pools
Pool A: New Zealand, Argentina, Ireland, Uruguay
Pool B: England, Samoa, Scotland, Japan
Pool C: South Africa, France, Italy, Fiji
Pool D: Wales, Australia, Canada, Tonga

IRB Junior World Championship 2009 match schedule (times are local)
Friday 5 June – Samoa v Scotland, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo (kick-off 5pm)
Tuesday 9 June – England v Scotland, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo (kick-off 5pm)
Saturday 13 June – Japan v  Scotland, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo (kick-off 3pm)