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England 31-12 Scotland

A combative display from Scotland ultimately proved in vain this afternoon, as England emerged with a 31-12 victory in the 2021 U20 Six Nations.

It was the men in white who would race out of the blocks the quickest, crossing for the opening try with just two minutes played. With advantage in hand after a Scottish infringement at the maul, captain Jack van Poortvliet darted over with a classic scrum-half snipe to touch down next to the posts. Fin Smith converted, giving England an early 7-0 lead.

Yet Scotland’s response was both immediate and ideal. After an English hand conceded a penalty at the breakdown, the resulting lineout saw the maul driven at a rate of knots towards the try-line. Jamie Drummond’s breakaway was cut down inches short, but Christian Townsend was on hand to collect the offload and dive over for the score. Cameron Scott was unable to add the extras from a tricky angle, but the game was well and truly on.

The match was being played at breakneck speed in the opening quarter, as it was now the turn of England to hit back. Another penalty advantage inside the Scotland 22 saw van Poortvliet and Sam Riley combine well to send Smith over out wide, the Worcester Warriors fly-half converting his own try to extend his side’s lead to 14-5 with 15 minutes played.

England were beginning to get on top of Sean Lineen’s men, recycling the ball at impressive pace to stretch the Scottish defence. Their third score arrived on 21 minutes from first phase ball, as Deago Bailey beat his opposite man on the outside to sprint home from 30 metres after slick build-up play. Smith was off target from the tee for the first time in the championship, but the scoreboard now read 19-5 in England’s favour.

The set-piece, though, was belonging to Scotland as the half drew to a close. Drummond in particular was revelling in cleaning up loose English throwing, whilst a steal from Ayrshire Bulls team-mate Rory Jackson brought about the conclusion of a frenetic opening stanza.

The second half began in a similarly all-action style, with Ollie Leatherbarrow coming up with a crucial turnover on his own five-metre line to deny an English attack before Drummond followed suit just moments later to continue an eye-catching display at hooker.

England eventually found their way through for the bonus-point on 51 minutes, however; a stretched Scottish defence was unable to stop hooker Riley from identifying an outside break to burst over from the 22. Smith was wayward with the conversion, but England led 24-5.

Back came Lineen’s men once more, piling on the pressure inside the English 22. A barrage of carrying towards the line from Ben Muncaster and Rory Jackson earned successive penalties, with the referee eventually sending Riley to the sin-bin as his patience with the men in white evaporated.

England’s numerical disadvantage was worsened just moments later; a counter attack from Ollie Melville was cut short by a high tackle by Lucas Brooke, the officials deciding the offence was worthy of a red card following a review of the head-on-head contact.

Straight away, Scotland went on the offensive. Only excellent defensive work from Harry Taylor denied Leatherbarrow a score under the posts, the Gloucester man holding the ball up at the crucial juncture.

The English defence was creaking, and eventually Scotland’s pressure told. Another turnover by Drummond and a surge from Muncaster took Lineen’s side to within a fingertip of the whitewash, with Leatherbarrow the man to apply the finishing touch. Scott added the extras as Riley returned to the field, meaning Scotland trailed by 12 with as many minutes to play.

Against the run of play, however, England responded with a try of their own. With advantage in hand, Smith sent a perfectly-weighted cross-kick into the hands of Arthur Relton, the winger beating the last man to scamper over for the score. Smith’s conversion made it 31-12, his final act before departing the field for the final nine minutes.

Scotland refused to go down quietly, however. Some subtle handling from Townsend sent Adam Scott racing clear down the touchline, before Max Williamson and Alex Samuel continued the attack. Only a despairing tackle forced Scott King to tread on the touchline in the act of scoring, yet it signified the positives with which Scotland will move into Thursday’s clash with Italy as they go in search of a first win in this year’s championship.

live commentary 2:00 PM Friday 25 Jun 2021

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