Second-half surge completes Italian job

A second-half surge from Scotland under-18 saw them power past Italy to finish fifth in the FIRA-AER European Championships in Poland today (24-15).

Despite having most of the possession in the opening exchanges, it was Italy who opened the scoring with a penalty kick.

Scotland under-18 centre Adam Hastings then levelled matters with a kick of his own.

From there the Scots continued to play a well-structured game, that was founded on clean set-piece possession though, much like the early exchanges of the previous round, Scotland were let down by the final ball as they sought to break the deadlock. 

Half-time: Scotland U18 (3-3) Italy U18

Such was the quality of the performance early on, that it seemed inevitable that Scotland would find their groove and cross the whitewash.

That assessment proved to be the case when, in the first 20 minutes of the second-half, Scotland ran in three tries, two from the consistently impressive wing Ben Robbins and prop Zander Fagerson.

Robbins' first was the product of clean ball and good hands from the backs inside him to put him in space to race in from the 22, while his second – though similar in finish – was first the product of fine turnover ball from the pack.

By contrast, Fagerson’s score was one for the big men.

The pack put in a huge effort to batter their way deep into the Italian 22 and, after repeated pick and goes, the tighthead prop powered over from short range.

With each score converted by Hastings, Scotland had earned a convincing cushion as the game entered its final quarter.

Unfortunately, however, if frustrations are to be sought/taken from the overall impressive win, they can be sourced from the closing stages in the encounter as the clinical edge escaped the Scots and saw errors creep into their game.

These eventually turned into self-imposed pressure and, ultimately, 12 points against.

None of that would affect the result however and, as the final whistle blew, the young Scots banked a well-deserved win and fifth-placed finish in the FIRA-AER European championships.

Head coach Eddie Pollock said: “We’re disappointed that we let them back in the game at the end, which put pressure on us, but overall we’re happy with the result and the performance.

We put Italy under a huge amount of pressure after half-time. We ran them hard, moved them around and opened them up.

“The problem was that we didn’t maintain that throughout the half to put another 15-20 points on the board, which we're more than capable of doing."

Reflecting on the Championships as a whole, Pollock added: “Overall we’ve had some good performances in Poland.

"We’ve scored some really good tries and put together strong, prolonged passages in defence which, in general, is very positive for this group.

"I'd also like to pay tribute to the management team and the medics, who have done an excellent job in supporting this squad throughout the tournament."

Full-time: Scotland (3) 24-15 (3) Italy

Scotland under-18: 15 Ruairi Howarth; 14 Reuben Norville, 13 Adam Hastings, 12 George Taylor, 11 Ben Robbins; 10 Rory Hutchinson, 9 Andrew Manson; 1 Murray McCallum, 2 Jake Kerr *, 3 Zander Fagerson, 4 Jamie Ritchie * CAPTAIN, 5 Andrew Davidson, 6 Scott Burnside *, 7 Matthew Smith, 8 Ally Miller *. Substitutes: 16 Lewis Anderson , 17 Gary Robertson, 18 Callum Sheldon, 19 Callum Hunter-Hill, 20 Lewis Wynne, 21 Hugh Fraser *, 22 Josh Laird, 23 Saul Melvin-Farr (Edinburgh Academy) *

* Scottish Institute of Sport supported player 2013/14


Scotland Under-18 programme

Scotland U18 (6-28) England U18, Dalziel Park

Ireland U18 (26-6) Scotland U18, Ashbrook, Dublin 

FIRA-AER U18 Championship, Poland

Scotland U18 (21-23) Wales U18

Scotland under-18 (35-11) Portugal under-18

Scotland under-18 24-15 Italy under-18 (finished fifth)