Bob McKillop praised his team’s work-rate and commitment after watching Scotland under-19 record a deserved 30-25 win over much-fancied France at Braidholm and believes the result will bolster the teenagers’ confidence levels.
Heading into the match, France under-19 were the favourites after chalking up two recent victories over South Africa and took the lead after just seven minutes through a penalty from Jules Prisson.
But Scotland responded magnificently and collectively seized control of the game with Duncan Weir in outstanding form and, despite a late scare, clung on to secure a just victory – much to the delight of head coach McKillop.
McKillop said: “I thought we were outstanding against a big, athletic French team. The boys were outstanding – not just in terms of their guts and commitment, but also in terms of the quality of rugby showed.
“We could have scored a couple more tries there, so we are really pleased. We’ve go some outstanding individuals in the team, but it is the collective effort shown by the squad which was fantastic.
“The coaching staff and the players bonded really well and, if I do have one regret, it is that we don’t have another game next week.”
Scotland equalised after their first attack of the match on nine minutes with Weir slotting over a penalty and he replicated that feat five minutes later to put the home side ahead.
But France responded straight away with a clinically executed drop-goal from Prisson to restore parity on the scoreboard.
Nevertheless Scotland struck back with devastating aplomb with a superb try scored by wing Kerr Gossman – punching a huge hole in the French defence with a slick passing move.
McKillop credited the players for formulating that backs move and believes the team’s decision making throughout the match was awesome.
He added: “I thought our work-rate was superb. I’m really pleased with the move selection shown by the boys.
“The Kerr Gossman try was a move that the boy came up with themselves. It worked against Italy and it worked again today. It wasn’t just the execution of the moves, but also the selection of the moves which was really pleasing.”
After adding the conversion, Weir then contributed a stunning drop-goal to keep the scoreboard ticking over and on the 33 minute mark swept over another penalty to put Scotland up 19-6.
But a rare lapse in concentration by the home side handed France a lifeline just five minutes before the half-time break when Pierre Julien bundled his way through to score in the corner.
Still ahead by eight points heading into the second half, Weir’s boot – an instrument of unerring precision – kicked France’s aspirations of a comeback into touch when he nailed another expertly-taken drop-goal.
His fourth penalty quickly followed to hand Scotland a sizeable lead – 25-11 – and the home team looked comfortable.
But France showed great character to claw their way back into the game when Sebastian Vahaamahina scored a try which was converted.
Scotland hit back straight away with a breathtaking run down the right wing culminating in a try for Danny Gilmour.
Again, it seemed as if the outcome of the match had been decided by that score, but France had other ideas and made sure it went right down to the wire with Pierre Berard scoring a late try.
To heighten Scotland’s worries and trigger a nerve-shredding climax, replacement Andrew Kirkland was yellow-carded – leaving the hosts understaffed and under pressure.
But Scotland dug deep and refused to buckle under the pressure – keeping the white shirts away from the whitewash and won by five points.
McKillop believes this result will increase the level of fearlessness shown by the current crop of players towards the task of competing against top-level international opposition.
He said: “The result will give the players a huge boost in confidence. It was a great opportunity for the players to make a name for themselves and if they keep playing like that then there will be plenty more opportunities.
“It is a fantastic result, but it is only a landmark if they can build on it. With the right handling, I firmly believe this crop of players will build on it.”
Scotland under-19: Glenn Bryce (Stirling County); Michael Doneghan (Stewarts Melville), Danny Gilmour (Stirling County), Duncan Weir (Glasgow Hawks), Kerr Gossman (Glasgow Hawks), Stuart Edwards (captain, Stirling County), Steven Turnbull (Hamilton); Nick Fraser (Boroughmuir), David Cherry (Edinburgh Academicals), Steve Quigley (Hull Ionians), Robert McAlpine (West of Scotland), Blair McPherson (Ayr), James Tyas (Brighton College), Robbie Boswell (Stirling County), Cammy Orr (Boroughmuir).
Replacements: Duncan Morrison (North Walsham), Richard Ferguson (Melrose), George Hunter (Glasgow Hawks), Andrew Kirkland (Glasgow Hawks), Lewis Crosbie (Dunfermline), Gregor Hunter (Gala), Fraser Clark (How of Fife), Hamish Watson (Oakham School).