Scotland 29-20 Japan

Scotland completed their Autumn Nations Series with a third victory from the four test matches, but they had to work exceptionally hard to see off a resilient Japan at BT Murrayfield this afternoon.

Scotland’s margin was four tries to one – through Duhan Van Der Merwe, Stuart Hogg, Dary Graham and Stuart McInally – and while it never seemed they were in danger of losing, they were once again on the wrong end of the penalty count. Discipline will clearly come under the microscope as the coaches plan for the 2022 GUINNESS Six Nations Championship.

Head coach Gregor Townsend had said at the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation anniversary dinner last night that Scotland reckoned their driving maul had proved fruitful and so it proved today with two of the four tries originating from that facet of their game.

Hogg, winning his 88th cap, and already secure in his place in the game’s folklore, wrote an epic new chapter by breaking Scotland’s all-time try scoring record. He now stands alone with 25 tries for his country, surpassing the previous milestone held jointly by Tony Stanger and Ian Smith.

Stuart Hogg: Scotland’s chart topper with 25 tries -

Year-by-year

2012 v France (h)

2013 v England (a); v Italy (h)

2014 v France (h); v USA (a); v Arg (a) ; v Arg (h); v Tonga (h)

2015 v Wales (h).

2016 v France (h); v Ireland (a); v Georgia (2) (h)

2017 v Ireland (2) (h); v France (a); v Samoa (h)

2018 v Italy (a).

2019 v Italy (h).

2020 v Italy (a).

2021 v Wales (2)(h); South Africa (2)(h) and Japan (h)

Japan kicked off towards Roseburn Park and Finn Russell had an early touch. The visitors then recycled through 18 phases – largely within their own territory – before scrum-half Yutaka Nagare, a livewire throughout, opted to launch a box kick, but his colleagues were in front.

First penalty to Scotland then and another soon followed under the sticks around 18 metres out and Russell right-footed the ball to the East Stand touchline.

Scott Cummings, on his return after injury, won the ball and the Scotland maul had its first outing of the afternoon. Japan held firm initially, but from the secondary surge Duhan Van Der Merwe muscled over for his ninth try for Scotland. Russell’s conversion came back off the post (5-0, 6 mins).

Japan were certainly going through the phases and when Scotland were pinged for going to deck, stand-off Rikiya Matsuda, landed their first points with a penalty. (5-3, 10 mins).

Four minutes later Chris Harris loitered after a tackle but from a tight channel on the East Stand touchline Matsuda pushed his kick wide.

At the first scrum, in the 16th minute, Scotland put down a marker with a concerted heave which bequeathed a penalty. Lineout won by Grant Gilchrist and subsequent maul set up possession for Ali Price and Sam Johnson’s chip through was pursued by Harris only for left wing Siosaia Fifita to cover in the nick of time.

Harris made two pulverising tackles as Japan continued to have the majority of ball and from a long-range break from Kotaro Matsushima, Scotland conceded their sixth penalty of the afternoon thus far. Matsuda goaled (5-6, 25 mins).

Scotland were stung into response and captain Hogg was at its heart. Firstly, he blazed left to right and found Harris’ long-striding support . Scotland kept their composure and with Gilchrist providing a vital link, Russell dispatch Hogg for his record-breaking 25th Scotland try, a wonderful moment for the most capped full-back in the world game. Russell converted (12-6, 27 mins).

Scotland ended the half strongly too. Russell’s dexterity, first hinting at a pass and then firing through a kick, set up a scrum for Scotland. Price and Josh Bayliss interchanged, and Russell then arced menacingly in space to release Darcy Graham. The winger had to check momentarily to collect but his finish was class, his tenth try for Scotland. Russell converted (19-6, 40 mins).

Half-time: Scotland 19 Japan 6

Scotland were continuing to earn the referee’s displeasure with two early penalties on their debit column on the restart. From the second of which Jamie Bhatti was sin binned for not rolling away. Matsuda’s goal gave the visitors their first score of the half (19-9, 42 mins).

A Russell kick over a flat defence was gathered by the Japanese who then strung together a blistering attack, which Scotland did well to withstand. Referee Pickerill deemed the hosts offside, and Matsuda landed again (19-12, 46 mins).

An offside penalty this time against Japan enabled Russell to fire Scotland to within five metres. Stuart McInally, just on for George Turner, hit Gilchrist with the throw and then got on the end of the driving maul for a rather tasty introduction to the game – his 11th try for Scotland. Russell converted (26-12, 54 mins).

In amidst the usual flurry of substitutes, Japan kept themselves just about in contention. Ryoto Nakamura’s rousing touchfinder – a 50/22 – seemed initially to have been pirated by Cummings but the ball was regained by Japan and Tevita Tatafu crashed over for an unconverted try (26-17, 64 mins), verified by the TMO.

The impression that the game was still not yet secure was confirmed as Matsuda thumped over his fifth penalty. (26-20, 72 mins).

As the clock ticked down the chance fell to Scotland to put some daylight between the teams and Russell’s penalty took him beyond the 200 points mark for his country (29-20, 78 mins).

Full time: Scotland 29 Japan 20

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) CAPTAIN; Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan Van Der Merwe (Worcester Warriors); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ali Price; Jamie Bhatti, George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Scott Cummings (all Glasgow Warriors), Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson (all Edinburgh Rugby), Josh Bayliss (Bath Rugby).

Subs: Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) for Watson (48 mins) and then for Bhatti (53 mins), Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby), for Turner (53 mins) Javan Sebastian (Scarlets) for Zander Fagerson (62 mins), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) for Cummings (71 mins), Dylan Richardson (Cell C Sharks) for Watson (71 mins), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) for Ritchie (61 mins), George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) for Price (61 mins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) for Graham (62 mins)

Yellow card: Jamie Bhatti (42 mins).

Japan: Ryohei Yamanaka; Kotaro Matsushima, Shogo Nakano, Ryoto Nakamura, Siosaia Fifita; Rikiya Matsuda, Yutaka Nagare; Craig Millar, Atsushi Sakate, Asaeli Ai Valu, Jack Cornelsen, James Moore, Michael Leitch, Pieter Labuschagne CAPTAIN, Kazuki Himeno.

Subs: Kosuke Horikoshi, Keita Inagaki for Millar (61 mins) Shinnosuke Kakinaga for Ai Valu (61 mins), Ben Gunter, Tevita Tatafu for Leitch (61 mins) Naoto Saito for Nagare (71 mins), Yu Tamura for Yamanaka (61 mins), Dylan Riley for Nakano (40 mins).

Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand). Assistant Referees: Paul Williams (New Zealand), Andrea Piardi (Italy). TMO: Stuart Berry (South Africa).

Attendance: 67,144

Deliveroo Player of the Match: Chris Harris (Scotland)

live commentary 1:00 PM Saturday 20 Nov 2021

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