An under-strength Scotland under-20 side were reminded of the physical intensity of international rugby at Fort Matilda, Greenock today when they were beaten heavily by Ireland (48-7).
The friendly – played out over three periods of 30 minutes – was arranged in preparation for the Junior World Cup next month in Japan and was the first time the sides had met since Scotland’s 35-20 win in this season’s 6 Nations at McDiarmid Park.
PICTURED: Former Wanderer, Grant Anderson - pictured in action against ireland in this season's 6 Nations - returned to Fort Matilda in the blue of Scotland
The fixture was a major showpiece for hosts Greenock Wanderers and featured as a climax to a whole day of community rugby activity from skills zones to passing drills organised by club development officer Ian Forster.
The match also saw the return of Scotland sevens internationalist and former Greenock Wanderer Grant Anderson – now of Premiership Division One Champions Ayr – who took to the field on the wing.
Anderson said: “The result obviously didn’t go our way but it was a nice feeling to return to the club where I learned to play and love the game, and to see my Sevens World Cup and under-18 jerseys hanging on the wall was a nice touch.
“Greenock Wanderers provided the foundations for my rugby and, while I’ve gone on to continue my learning with the Scotland age-grades, Scotland sevens, the National Academy and Ayr; I’ll never forget the contribution the club, especially Dougie Sloan and John McDougal, made to my rugby career.
“I love coming back here. It’ll always have a special place in my heart.”
Despite the kick-off not going the distance, Scotland started brightly, maintaining possession and position in the Irish half as captain Richie Gray powered into tacklers and flanker Struan Dewar offered his usual dynamic turn of pace to pick the lock of the opposition defence.
The home side’s first real attacking threat came after ten minutes when Dewar collected the ball in support, sliced his way into the Irish 22 and offloaded to Gray who thundered his way for the line.
The lofty lock ignored the calls to send it wide and backed himself to power over the short distance that remained only to be stopped bolt upright at the five metre line by two solid Irish defenders.
While Scotland continued to threaten it was the Irish who were first to score after 24 minutes.
The visitors took quick ball from the top of the line-out and sent the ball to their fly-half who stepped his opposite man before steadying his footing, drawing the last defender, and sending his supporting outside centre in for the converted score.
The visitors registered a second score one minute from time as a well driven maul piled over the Scots’ line for an unconverted try to the end the first period, 0-12.
It was back to business for Ireland after the break as they crossed the whitewash after just five minutes for an unconverted try.
Scotland then registered their first and only effort when Gray touched down out wide.
Scrum-half Peter Jericevich took a quick tap and darted forwards, immediately putting the Irish on the back foot and scrambling to defend.
The Scots recycled quick ball and spun it wide to Gray who crossed the line unchallenged.
Anderson then marked his return to Fort Matilda by adding the extras with a well struck conversion.
It was not, however, the beginning of a come back for the Scots as the Irish notched a further two tries in the second period, before scoring three further unanswered efforts in a disappointing third.
Scotland under-20 coach Rob Moffat said: “It was a game which we definitely needed and was a good trial from some of the new players.
“Some of the boys haven’t played a game in a few weeks – some have been playing sevens or concentrating on exams – so naturally they’re going to be rusty.
“That game was a wake up call for us. We had a pretty good 6 Nations but that’s past now so what we’ll do is learn from this experience and make sure we do not perform like that again in an international.
“Rugby is a simple game and we just didn’t do the simple things well today. Ireland really took charge of the break down, they were more physical and they were a bit more streetwise as well.
“Our organisation in defence was, in the main, fine but we fell off too many tackles.”
Scotland rotated almost two full teams over the course of the three 30 minute periods offering a host of fringe players the opportunity to stake a claim for a more prominent position however too few stood up to that challenge.
“We had about four or five players not playing and we struggled to cope with that today. The guys who were not playing have a big influence on how we play and that was very obvious.”
The Scotland under-20 squad leave for the IRB Junior World Championship in Japan on Friday (24 May) where they will face Samoa, England and Japan in Pool B.
Scotland under-20 squad v Ireland under-20 at Fort Matilda, Greenock (24 May, kick-off 2.30pm)
Peter Horne (West of Scotland)*, Grant Anderson (Ayr)*, Ashleah McCulloch (Aberdeen Grammar FP)**, Robbie Johnston (Leeds University and Leeds Carnegie), Alex Dunbar (Selkirk)**, Robbie McGowan (Stirling County), Peter Jericevich (Glasgow Hawks)*, Gavin Cameron (Boroughmuir)**, Finlay Gillies (Heriot’s)**, David Morton (Bridgwater & Albion), Robert Harley (West of Scotland)*, Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Struan Dewar (Heriot’s)**, Stuart McInally (Watsonians)*, Chris Fusaro (Heriot’s)*
Replacements (all used)
Ryan McConnell (Peebles)**, Dougie Orr (Haddington)**, Grant Shiells (Kelso), Grant Gilchrist (Stirling County)**, Ryan Wilson (London Scottish), Alex Black (Leeds Carnegie), Matthew Scott (Currie), James Knight (Bedford), Steven Aitken (Aberdeen Grammar FP)**, James Johnstone (Watsonians)**, Tom Brown (Edinburgh Accies)*
* Denotes a contracted Academy player
** Denotes a Institute of Sport supported Academy player
IRB Junior World Championship
(Pool B – Tokyo, Prince Chichibu Memorial)
Friday 5 June: Samoa v Scotland, Tokyo, kick-off 5pm
Tuesday 9 June: England v Scotland, Tokyo, kick-off 5pm
Saturday 13 June: Japan v Scotland, Tokyo, kick-off 3pm