Pow­er­ful Scot­tish pack lay plat­form for Sey­mour to bag hat-trick in rout

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - RUGBY - ANDY NEW­PORT

Scot­land 54 Fiji 17

SCOT­LAND extended their im­pres­sive Mur­ray­field streak to 10 wins from their last 11 Tests as Tommy Sey­mour’s hat-trick helped seal a crush­ing vic­tory over Fiji. Allan Dell, Fraser Brown, Sean Mait­land, Jamie Ritchie and Adam Hast­ings also touched down as Gre­gor Townsend’s team re­sponded to last week’s sloppy dis­play against Wales with a sen­sa­tional eight-try drub­bing.

The ex­plo­sive vis­i­tors had threat­ened an up­set when Ed­in­burgh’s Bill Mata and Semi Radradra both crossed over dur­ing a roller-coaster first half.

But Townsend’s team even­tu­ally grabbed con­trol as they built up a head of steam ahead of next week’s clash with South Africa, which should prove to be an much more tax­ing en­counter.

Scot­land had their star fac­tor back as full-back Stu­art Hogg re­turned just seven weeks af­ter un­der­go­ing an­kle surgery to start.

Skip­per Greig Laid­law — who would go on to kick 10 points — and tal­is­man Finn Russell were also back while Ex­eter’s for­mer Eng­land un­der 20s in­ter­na­tional Sam Skin­ner came into the sec­ond-row for his Dark Blues de­but.

Townsend knew to his cost how dan­ger­ous the mav­er­ick Pa­cific Is­landers could be af­ter watch­ing his side suf­fer de­feat in Suva 17 months ago. And there were early warn­ing signs when Radradra’s light­ning burst re­quired a last-gasp in­ter­ven­tion from Hogg to pre­vent the vis­i­tors adding to Ben Volavola’s sec­ond-minute penalty.

But Scot­land got the break­through af­ter 12 min­utes when the for­wards blud­geoned their way to the line, with Dell div­ing over.

The sec­ond came af­ter 18 min­utes but Peter Horne did not get the credit de­spite punc­tur­ing the Fi­jian de­fence. Caught in be­tween go­ing alone or slot­ting in Sey­mour, his in­de­ci­sion cost him as he was halted on the line. Thank­fully for the Glas­gow cen­tre, Sey­mour fol­lowed up smartly to re­cover pos­ses­sion be­fore Brown mus­cled over the line.

How­ever, the hooker was at fault as Fiji hit back five min­utes later. Pe­celi Yato hoovered up the ball as Brown over-cooked a li­ne­out throw be­fore hand­ing over to Mata to power un­der the posts.

The vis­i­tors moved back in front af­ter 28 min­utes thanks to a mo­ment of in­spi­ra­tion from Leone Nakarawa as he found a chink in the Scots de­fence. Ritchie’s at­tempt to steal the ball back only suc­ceeded in send­ing Frank Lo­mani scam­per­ing clear be­fore Te­vita Cavu­bati popped off to Radradra to touch down.

The Dark Blues re­sponded with a for­wards on­slaught. The pressure they ex­erted proved too much for the Fi­jians, who had Cavu­bati and Nakarawa sent to the bin af­ter haul­ing down mauls within sight of the line.

The hosts even­tu­ally let their backs loose in the fi­nal minute be­fore the break and with a two-man ad­van­tage there were too many gaps for Fiji to plug as Russell whipped the ball wide for Sey­mour to score.

It took just two min­utes af­ter the restart for the lead to be stretched as Mait­land ducked over af­ter a swift blue surge. Russell’s prob­ing was forc­ing Fiji to scram­ble for cover. They just about stopped Horne as he raced through again but once more the Scots were quick to ex­ploit the dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion his burst had caused, with Laid­law throw­ing a clever re­verse pass to tee up Sey­mour for his sec­ond af­ter 58 min­utes.

The Glas­gow wing wrapped up his tre­ble three min­utes later as an­other rapid ex­change of passes saw the Scots work the ball from left to right be­fore Sey­mour lunged over for his 19th try from 45 Tests.

Fiji man­aged to stem the flow of points un­til the fi­nal three min­utes when Ritchie fin­ished off an­other bru­tal as­sault from the for­wards be­fore Russell re­leased Hast­ings to can­ter in for Scot­land’s eighth.

Townsend was de­lighted with Scot­land’s big­gest points tally in 11 years but warned his side would have to step up their per­for­mance for next week­end’s visit of South Africa.

“Ob­vi­ously de­lighted, Fiji were al­ways go­ing to be a tough op­po­nent and we saw they could score from any­where. We stuck to our task and got a grip of the game,” said Townsend.

“To stick to what we felt was go­ing to work was pleas­ing and the play­ers built through­out the game, ei­ther through our de­fen­sive per­for­mance, where we kept them to zero points in the sec­ond half, or through our set-piece, where we mauled and scrum­maged re­ally well, and also through our phase play.

“We played a lot of rugby on their line and got two yel­low cards [for Fiji] and a try dis­al­lowed that I can’t be­lieve was dis­al­lowed.

“We kept on with that de­tailed ap­proach around the set-piece which nar­rowed up the Fiji de­fence in the sec­ond half and al­lowed guys like Tommy Sey­mour and oth­ers to score tries.”

Townsend will hope the re­sult breeds con­fi­dence in his side be­fore the clash with the Spring­boks.

“South Africa are a bet­ter team than Fiji, they play Rugby Cham­pi­onship, are in the top five or six in the world and came close to do­ing the dou­ble over New Zealand,” he said. “They bring dif­fer­ent threats, they’re play­ing a tra­di­tional South African game which is very strong ball-car­ri­ers, huge set­piece, ex­cel­lent de­fence, and they have play­ers dot­ted around their team who can score tries out of noth­ing, like we saw when they took on New Zealand.

“We have to rise to that chal­lenge of play­ing one of the best teams in the world but I be­lieve this squad can do that. They’ve shown in the last cou­ple of sea­sons that when the chal­lenge gets big­ger, we get bet­ter.” Scor­ers — Scot­land: Dell, Brown, Sey­mour (3), Mait­land, Ritchie and Hast­ings tries; Laid­law (5), Russell (2) cons. Fiji: Mata, Radradra tries; Volavola (2) cons; Volavola pen Scot­land: S Hogg; T Sey­mour, A Dun­bar (C Har­ris, 49), P Horne (A Hast­ings, 71), S Mait­land; F Russell, G Laid­law (G Horne, 61); A Dell (A Allan, 55), F Brown ( S McI­nally, 52), WP Nel (S Berghan, 55); S Skin­ner, G Gilchrist; R Wil­son (J Gray, 61), J Ritchie, M Fager­son (J Strauss, 30).

Fiji: S Tuicuvu (E Va­si­teri, 24); M Tale­bu­la­mai­jaina (A Veitokani, 63),S Radradra, J Vatubua, V Goneva; B Volavola, F Lo­mani (Se­niloli, 61); C Ma’afu (Mawi, 60), S Matavesi (Dolokoto, 60), M Saulo (Tawake, 50); T Cavu­bati (Tuisue, 68),L Nakarawa; D Waqaniburotu, P Yato (Ku­natani, 63), V Mata.

Ref­eree: A Brace (Ire­land)

Adam Hast­ings scores Scot­land’s eighth and fi­nal try dur­ing yes­ter­day’s clash with Fiji at Mur­ray­field. Photo: Ian Rutherford

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