Scotland under-20 finished one place above their seeding today with a dominant three-try win over Tonga in the IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship ninth place playoff.
Having already secured a place in the top 12 – required to compete in next year’s top-tier championship in Argentina – a 39-26 victory over Fiji set them up for the Tonga match which they dominated, with tries coming in from number eight Stuart McInally, exile centre Robbie Johnston and wing Grant Anderson.
However despite getting three tries the Scots were unlucky not to be streets ahead, crossing the line on three other occasions only to lose the ball in contact as they went for the touch-down.
A strong start from Scotland saw them dictate the game but not the scoreboard as an early exchange of kicks saw Tonga 3-6 to the good after 15 minutes, but a slick Scotland took the lead just three minutes later.
Scotland worked the ball into Tongan territory before earning a scrum on the five metre line. The under-20s controlled the movement of the set-piece and allowed McInally to pick his moment from the back of scrum and bulldoze over the line for the side’s first try. Horne made no mistake with the well-struck conversion, 10-6.
The lead then changed hands twice as the Tongans scored their first converted try of the match before Scotland regained the lead with Johnston’s try.
Replacement hooker Alun Walker chased a searching high ball from exile scrum-half Henry Pygros and put a great tackle and turnover in on the receiving Tongan full-back. The ball was then quickly recycled by his support and fed to Johnston to run in for the score. Horne added the extras, 17-13.
Half time: 17-13
A Peter Horne penalty stretched the Scots’ lead after nine minutes before Anderson crossed the line for his fourth of the championships 22 minutes into the half.
Several well-worked passages of play allowed for some good running from centre Alex Dunbar who made problems for the Tongans and space for the Scots before passing to Walker who fed Anderson to score the unconverted try out wide, 25-13.
Tonga threatened to make a late comeback with two tries and a conversion late in the game but a penalty from replacement full-back Robbie McGowan ensured the Scots kept their deserved lead and, ultimately, the win.
Full time: 28-25
Scotland under-20 coach, Rob Moffat, said: “We scored 28 points today and created a lot more try-scoring opportunities which was very positive – the only disappointment from today is that we didn’t take those other opportunities.
“One thing the players have got to realise is when a team is ready to break. At 25-13 another score would’ve killed it and we could have gone on to score a lot more points.
“We’ve seen a big development and a lot of positives over the course of the season. We’ve won six games out of ten including the 6 nations which is a reasonable return but what’s more important is the standard of players that are coming through to play pro rugby because there will be some of them and they will be good players.
“Another positive is that there were six under-19 players on the field for the last 25 minutes (four forwards, two backs) and I think that’s the sort of thing we should celebrate and encourage.”
Scotland team v Tonga
Peter Horne (Glasgow Warriors); Grant Anderson (Ayr) *, Robbie Johnston (Leeds University and Leeds Carnegie), Alex Dunbar (Selkirk) **, Ashleah McCulloch (Aberdeen Grammar) **; Andrew White (Glasgow Hawks) **, Henry Pyrgos (Wimbourne); Grant Shiells (Kelso), Finlay Gillies (Heriot’s) **, David Morton (Bridgwater and Albion), Rob Harley (West of Scotland) *, Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors), Ryan Wilson (London Scottish), Chris Fusaro CAPTAIN (Heriot’s) *, Stuart McInally (Watsonians) *
Replacements (all used)
Alun Walker (Currie) on for Gillies, Dougie Orr (Haddington) ** on for Shiells, Grant Gilchrist (Stirling County) * on for Gray, Struan Dewar (Heriot’s) ** on for Wilson, Peter Jericevich (Glasgow Hawks) * on for White, Robbie McGowan (Stirling County) on for Horne, Tom Brown (Edinburgh Accies) * on for McCulloch