Hast­ings and Horne run riot but Scot­land’s de­cider left in doubt

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby World Cup - At the Shizuoka Sta­dium Ecopa

By rack­ing up nine tries against Rus­sia, Scot­land thought they had taken fate in their own hands – only to later dis­cover that it in­stead lies with World Rugby and its weather fore­cast­ers. Af­ter be­ing elim­i­nated from the last World Cup by a mis­take by ref­eree Craig Jou­bert in their quar­ter-fi­nal de­feat by South Africa, it would be an in­tol­er­a­ble act of cru­elty if Typhoon Hag­ibis causes their win­ner-takes-all clash against Ja­pan to be can­celled.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter the game, Gre­gor Townsend, the head coach, was still un­der the im­pres­sion that the worst-case sce­nario would be for the match, sched­uled to be in Yoko­hama on Sun­day, to be moved. If the game is can­celled, then Scot­land would be elim­i­nated should Ire­land beat Samoa on Satur­day. They can only hope and pray.

Cer­tainly they could have done noth­ing more against Rus­sia. Their sec­ond-string team wrapped up a bonus point inside 46 min­utes and went on to reg­is­ter their big­gest World Cup win since their 89-0 thrash­ing of Ivory Coast in 1995. Gavin Hast­ings racked up 44 points in that game and was present to see son Adam score 26 points, in­clud­ing two tries, while scrum-half Ge­orge Horne reg­is­tered a hat-trick.

For a team who had proved such ob­du­rate op­po­nents for Ire­land, Rus­sia were sliced apart with ease. Maybe it was a game too far against what Rus­sia head coach Lyn Jones de­scribed as “su­per­sonic rugby”.

No player in­flicted as much dam­age as Darcy Gra­ham, the sole sur­vivor from the Scot­land side who beat Samoa 34-0 last week. The wing beat eight de­fend­ers and made 151 me­tres be­fore he was wisely re­placed af­ter 47 min­utes. How Scot­land will need his danc­ing feet against Ja­pan. Just as en­cour­ag­ing was a sec­ond suc­ces­sive shutout, a feat last achieved in 1964. Of course, Ja­pan will rep­re­sent a step up in class but, from Townsend’s per­spec­tive, this fi­nal tune-up could not have gone any bet­ter.

“What the play­ers have done since the Ire­land game is all you can ask of them,” Townsend said. “To beat Samoa 34-0, they’ve al­ways been a dif­fi­cult op­po­nent for us and are a very good side, and then to de­liver a per­for­mance like that against Rus­sia, who have been tough to break down, does give you en­cour­age­ment that the play­ers are ready to play their best game on Sun­day.”

The open­ing try came as, from a scrum, Dun­can Taylor’s hard line trans­fixed the Rus­sian de­fence, al­low­ing Hast­ings to glide be­tween three would-be tack­lers. If that score was soft, their next two tries were gifts. Hast­ings, who kicked exquisitel­y from hand, recog­nised a lack of back-field cover and prod­ded ahead, out­paced flanker Ta­gir Gadzhiev be­fore touch­ing down af­ter Vasily Arte­myev hor­ri­bly mis­judged the bounce.

Worse was to come. Win­ning line-out ball just in front of their own try line, scrum-half Dmitry Perov’s long pass was eas­ily picked off by Horne. The Rus­sians had taken an AK-47 to both feet.

Just af­ter half-time, Perov’s box kick was too long, the kick-chase was too ragged and Gra­ham was too elec­tric. The wing stepped and slid his way past sev­eral de­fend­ers be­fore pro­vid­ing the scor­ing pass to Horne.

Scot­land ap­peared able to score at will. Hooker Ge­orge Turner spun off the back of a maul to go over be­fore wing Tommy Sey­mour latched on to Blair Kinghorn’s kick. Livewire Horne, now shifted to the wing, got his third and the rout was com­pleted by John Bar­clay and Stuart Mci­nally. Now their fate is in the lap of the gods.

Scores Scot­land

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