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