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