Scotland defeated by Flying Fijians
Scotland U20 were defeated by Fiji in this afternoon’s 11th place play-off and as a consequence will drop into next year’s World Rugby U20 Trophy competition.
Fiji were ultimately too good on the day and although Scotland threatened with five tries in the encounter, it wasn’t enough as the South Sea Islanders were able to convert a number of scintillating end-to-end tries.
Scotland rallied late in the second period and cut the gap to just 11 points with less than 10 minutes remaining, however Fiji were able to score two further tries in the closing stages to seal the comprehensive win.
Head Coach Carl Hogg gave an honest assessment following the game and said: “It is very disappointing. We were never able to control the speed of Fiji’s ball and we just got pulled apart by their pace, stepping and offloading game.
“Ultimately, we’ve lost five games. We’ve lost games against New Zealand and South Africa, who are good strong sides. We got squeezed around set-piece and the kicking game against Georgia and Italy, and today Fiji came out with ball in hand and pulled us apart.
“So, we’ve got to take stock of ourselves, individually and collectively, and decide how we address that going forward.
“This group have developed, but at the same time, the teams we have been up against have developed as well.
“I think the main thing for our group is to go back and focus on individual core skills, whether that is ball retention, or taking opportunities in two-on-one and three-on-two situations, or staying robust and resilient in defence.
“There is no doubt that when we get the freedom to play, we can be excellent with ball in hand, but so much of rugby at the top level is about getting the fundamentals right before the game has opened up.” Head Coach Carl Hogg
A lively opening five minutes of action saw Fiji take the lead. And in truth, the score had been coming with stand-off Caleb Muntz missing a straightforward penalty in front of the sticks in the build-up to the opener.
With Fiji winning a turnover inside their own half, a slick counter-attack saw the ball shifted wide and with Ratumaitavuki running a clever support line, the centre was able to dive over for the first score of the game. Muntz converted. [0-7]
Scotland were able to strike back almost immediately, however, and it was Ross Thompson who got the age-grade side on the board. The stand-off stuck a well-aimed penalty to make it 3-7 with less than 10 minutes on the clock.
That three-pointer appeared to spur the young Scots into action and soon thereafter they had their first lead in Rosario.
With the pack inching towards the whitewash, the ball was quickly recycled out wide and with winger Blain – who has proved so dangerous in close quarters this competition – waiting in anticipation, the Heriot’s man was able to dance over for his side’s first score of the encounter. [8-7]
Fiji had looked so dangerous with ball in hand in the opening stages of the match and soon showcased their ability to score from anywhere. With impressive winger Rasaku making a scintillating break inside his own half, the ball was eventually offloaded to Veresa Tuqovu who powered over. [8-14]
Muntz would add another penalty to extend his side’s lead [8-17], but Scotland continued to display fight up-front and soon had their second score of the game.
With the ball only metres from the Fijian whitewash, and the South Sea Islanders’ defence spread thin, full-back Matt Davidson spotted an excellent gap in midfield to power over. Thompson converted to make it just a two-point game with 10 minutes to go until half-time. [15-17]
If the match had been close up until that point, then Fiji were about it to blow it out the water with typical swashbuckling style.
Firstly, full-back Osea Waqa was able to turn a well-timed cut into five points as he raced in from distance [15-24] before winger Rasaku finshed a scintillating end-to-end break only moments later [15-31].
The Flying Fijians then added their fifth of the first period on the stroke of half-time. Osea Natogo was the man to add the finishing touches to yet another rapid counter attack and with Muntz converting they led 15-38 at the break. Scotland were shell-shocked and had it all to do in the second-half.
Carl Hogg’s side came out into the second period all guns firing and with a true ‘nothing to lose’ attitude.
Scrum-half Roan Frostwick went close only to have his try ruled out with a knock-on in the build-up to the score, before hooker Ewan Ashman barrelled his way over the whitewash minutes later for the first try of the second period. [22-38]
It had perhaps been the story of the match – Scotland score and Fiji answer straightaway – and soon that theme repeated itself.
The Fijians answered almost immediately and fullback Waqa was the man to score following patient build-up play and slick handling from the Fijian pack. Muntz converted to once again stretch his side’s lead. [22-45]
Although the match seemed out of reach, Scotland continued to press and almost adopted the Fijians’ carefree style of attack. As Thompson angled an accurate cross-field kick to Blain for his second of the match, the age-grade side were crawling back into the encounter. [27-24]
As had been the story in previous matches, Scotland were often at their best when chasing the game and soon they had their fifth try of the fixture.
Ashman was again the man score and it was his third brace of the tournament. With seven tries in total, the Sale Sharks’ hooker jumped to the top of the Championship’s scoring ranks, but rather more importantly, gave his side a lifeline. As Thompson converted, it was just an 11-point game with just over 10 minutes remaining. [34-45]
With Scotland pushing numbers forward, the game was as open as it has been all afternoon, giving Fiji a chance to bring on fresh legs. And soon those replacements would pay dividends.
Firstly, replacement Anasa Qaranivalu would shirk off a number of attempted tackles to stretch his side’s lead [34-52] before substiture Ilaisa Droasese collected his own chip-and-chase to race in from 80m [34-59].
They were two world class tries in the space of two minutes and now unfortunately Scotland must face relegation from the competition for the first time in their history.