Scotland v Tonga

Scotland topped 50 points for their second successive BT Murrayfield international as they accounted for Tonga by ten tries to one this afternoon.

The big difference, of course between Italy in the Six Nations last March and today was the return of a crowd and how the 32,371 lapped up every piece of invention and no shortage of bludgeon too from the home charges.

Ultimately, Scotland blooded eight new caps and saw Kyle Steyn mark his first start with a four try haul, Rufus McLean notch a try brace and fellow debutant Pierre Schoeman also cross the whitewash. George Turner, Ollie Kebble and Nick Haining weighed in with tries for good measure.

It said much for Tonga that they had jumped through all the global Covid mitigation hoops to get here and at least there remained some sentiment, as they crossed for a second-half try.

Steyn thus became the first Scot to score four tries in a capped Murrayfield international, given Kenny Logan did score five in a non-cap match against, from memory Portugal, in the late 1990s. The original flying Scot, Ian Smith, had completed the feat of four tries before the home of Scottish Rugby was opened in 1925, while Gavin Hastings did it in the opening match of the 1995 Rugby World Cup against Ivory Coast in Rustenburg.

The torrential rain of the last few days had relented and there were sunny skies above BT Murrayfield to welcome the Scotland team back before their faithful support for the first time in 19 months after five matches behind closed doors because of the pandemic.

Olympic swimming gold medallist Duncan Scott delivered the match ball and a minute’s silence was observed in memory of the legendary Sandy Carmichael who had died earlier this week.

Tonga performed the Sipi Tau and the crowd were oh so eager to get into the action as the visitors kicked off towards the railway end of the ground.

Some typical twinkle toes from Darcy Graham enlivened the early exchanges and then some rather more direct running by the Tongans on their left in response, before Scotland successfully defended a penalty to win one of their own.

They didn’t dilly dally with their own lineout and were quick to trigger a thumping break from Steyn. Scotland recycled and with Hamish Watson displaying his usual belligerence, ball went loose for McLean to scoop up and rush in for a debut try, verified by the TMO. Blair Kinghorn converted (7-0, 7 mins).

Tonga pulled back three points through a James Faiva penalty after Scotland were pinged at breakdown (7-3, 13 mins).

Scotland’s riposte was breath-taking, a fitting score to bring up the 150th try of Gregor Townsend’s four year tenure as Scotland head coach. Jamie Hodgson was the source at the lineout, Watson released and after some midfield inter-play Kinghorn’s long pass simply compelled McLean to take it at full-tilt. The Glasgow Warrior did that and cut inside the Tongan full-back deliciously to grab his try brace. Kinghorn converted imperiously from the left touchline. (14-3, 16 mins).

Faiva slotted his second penalty after Scotland infringed at a ruck (14-6, 21 mins) but it was a momentary interruption.

From a scrum on the Tongan 22, Scotland’s half-backs went right and Sione Tuipulotu was set free for the centre to unleash Steyn who marked his first Scotland start with a try of his own. Kinghorn missed the conversion. It was a grand moment for Steyn who had made his debut off the bench against France back in 2020, the last game before lockdown. (19-6, 25 mins).

The pattern continued as Faiva, this time from longer range, landed another penalty (19-9, 28 mins) but immediately from another of Kinghorn’s restarts, where he gives the ball tremendous height, Tonga coughed up a penalty, Scotland went to the touchline, got the driving maul going, Graham’s dancing feet threatened and then back to the pack with Schoeman eventually pile-driving over for Scotland’s fourth try and a debut score to boot for him. Kinghorn converted (26-9, 31 mins).

The drill was now well-established as from another penalty to touch, Jamie Hodgson rose highest and with Ali Price popping up in midfield support, Steyn’s arcing cross-field run cut clean through the Tongan defence for try number five. Kinghorn miscued the conversion (31-9, 35 mins).

What a way to bring down the curtain on the first-half. Sam Johnson’s pass inside the Scotland 22 was retrieved by McLean who put on the after-burners. He passed outside to Graham, who flirted with the West Stand touchline before cutting inside, Scotland recycled swiftly and Kinghorn’s diagonal kick was perfectly weighted for Steyn to dash past the covering Tongan tight-head David Lolohea to gather for his try hat-trick. Kinghorn’s conversion hit the upright but stayed out (36-9).

Half-time: Scotland 36 Tonga 9

The second-half flow didn’t quite materialise initially, but Scotland hit their straps anew in the 50th minute as George Turner burrowed over in the wake of a driving maul for his seventh try for his country and Scotland’s seventh of the day. The conversion went astray (41-9, 51 mins).

Rob Harley was yellow carded as Scotland impeded a Tongan surge to their line illegally and the South Sea islanders immediately capitalised as Lolohea got the touchdown after a series of close-range drives. (41-14, 60 mins).

Tongan substitute Aisea Halo soon joined Harley in the sin bin after he was carded for taking out McLean in the air. McLean departed for attention, replaced by Scotland’s final debutant off the bench, Marshall Sykes.

Harley returned as the crowd sought a flourish to end proceedings.

Jamie Dobie’s pursuit of his own kick up the touchline off turnover ball secured Scotland a penalty which his fellow new cap Ross Thompson prodded further forward.

Scotland rumbled from the lineout and some choice inter-play between Jamie Ritchie and Sam Johnson enabled Nick Haining to plunder try number eight (46-14, 72 mins).

Another lineout take and then percussive drives set up Oli Kebble for Scotland’s next try and at last the conversion drought was broken with Thompson on target (53-14, 76 mins).

How appropriate that Steyn should once again weave some magic on a midfield intrusion to collect the final try, his fourth, with Thompson adding the extras (60-14, 80 mins).

Full-time: Scotland 60 Tonga 14.

Scotland: Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby); Kyle Steyn, Sione Tuipulotu, Sam Johnson, Rufus McLean (Glasgow Warriors); Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) CO-CAPTAIN; Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner, Zander Fagerson (both Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Hodgson (Edinburgh Rugby), Rob Harley (Glasgow Warriors), Jamie Ritchie CO-CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Subs: Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) for Turner (52 mins), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) for Schoeman (52 mins), Oli Kebble (Glasgow Warriors) for Zander Fagerson (52 mins), Marshall Sykes (Edinburgh Rugby) for McLean (63 mins), Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) for Watson (40 mins), Nick Haining (Edinburgh Rugby) for Matt Fagerson (52 mins), Jamie Dobie (Glasgow Warriors) for Price (57 mins), Ross Thompson (Glasgow Warriors) for Graham (60 mins)

Tonga: James Faiva, Atunaisa Manu, Mailetoa Hingano, Vaea Vaea, Walter Fifita ; Kurt Morath, Sonatane Takulua CAPTAIN ; Loni Uhila, Maile Ngauamo, David Lolohea, Halaleva Fifita, Setofano Funaki, Tanginoo Halaifonua, Fotu Lokotui, Valentina Mapapalangi.

Subs: Suia Maile for Ngauamo (32 mins), Jethro, Felemi for Hhila (49mins), Toma Taufa, for Lolohea (71 mins), Dan Faleafa, for Funaki (69 mins), Onehunga Havili for Mpapapalangi (54 mins), Mateaki Katatolu for Lokotui (60 mins), Aisea Halo for Vaea (49 mins), Navarre Haisila for Morath (49 mins)

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia). Assistant referees: Damon Murphy and Angus Gardner (both Australia). TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia).

Attendance: 32,371

live commentary 2:30 PM Saturday 30 Oct 2021

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Kick-off 2:30 PM

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