The Scottish Mail on Sunday


Townsend era be­gins with a bang as Scot­land put on the style in five-try rout of Ital­ians

- From Rob Robert­son IN SIN­GA­PORE

THE Gre­gor Townsend era kicked off with some of the Scot­land head coach’s patented panache. Now he wants more.

Five tries in the vic­tory over Italy in Sin­ga­pore was a sig­nal of the new man’s in­tent.

But, with Aus­tralia up next in Syd­ney, Townsend knows his play­ers must step up another level if they are to end a run of three straight — and ex­ceed­ingly painful — de­feats to the Wal­la­bies.

In fact, the last time the Scots en­joyed that win­ning feel­ing against the Aussies was on their trip Down Un­der in 2012.

Since then, two Mur­ray­field de­feats sand­wiched that dra­matic 2015 World Cup quar­ter-fi­nal loss at Twick­en­ham.

At least yes­ter­day they started this sum­mer tour in some style, al­though there is most def­i­nitely room for im­prove­ment, es­pe­cially in de­fence.

‘The ef­fort was out­stand­ing against Italy as we knew the con­di­tions were go­ing to be tough and took a lot out of our play­ers,’ said Townsend, who took over from Vern Cot­ter af­ter the end of Glas­gow War­riors’ do­mes­tic sea­son.

‘Italy were a tough op­po­nent but we man­aged to open up their de­fence with our fast speed of ball that helped us get the tries.

‘I am very pleased we came away with the win but we still have im­prov­ing to do as we face Aus­tralia next up.’

Only 8,000 tick­ets were sold for the 55,000-ca­pac­ity Sin­ga­pore Na­tional Sta­dium in a match that failed to cap­ture the imag­i­na­tion of lo­cals.

Most of the fans were ex-pat Scots and it was only when Scot­land got into their stride late in the first half did their singing re­ally be­gin and the piper got go­ing.

What thrilled the sup­port­ers more than any­thing and got the big­gest cheer was the sight of Ross Ford cross­ing the white­wash — twice.

His first came from a ball back from cap­tain John Bar­clay from close in with him show­ing pace and power to get over the line.

His sec­ond was far slicker and came from a su­perb break from Dun­can Tay­lor that saw him off­load the ball to Finn Russell who put in a sweet short pass that Ford ran onto to dive over to a huge ova­tion from the Scot­land fans.

There were also other mo­ments to savour with Ali Price and Tim Visser scor­ing two late first-half tries that Townsend would have been proud to score in his play­ing days.

The brace came af­ter a poor open­ing 35 min­utes with the only scores com­ing from a penalty from Russell that was can­celled out by Tom­maso Alan.

The tide turned when Price scored his ter­rific solo try.

He picked the ball up at the break­down, played a quick pass to Al­lan Dell, got it back and ran round the Ital­ian de­fence to score.

Visser’s try soon af­ter showed the un­der­stand­ing the Scot­land winger has with Russell who put over a chip kick that he dived over to touch down.

The scor­ing was com­plete for Scot­land late on when Damien Hoy­land squeezed in at the cor­ner near the end of the match.

Five tries in his first game in charge is a good start for Townsend, es­pe­cially as he had his game plan dis­rupted just be­fore kick-off.

Open­side flanker John Hardie in­jured his back in the warm-up which forced him into a ma­jor re-shuf­fle.

Ryan Wil­son was pro­moted from the bench to play in the back row with winger Rory Hughes tak­ing his place among the re­place­ments.

Townsend’s plans were fur­ther dis­rupted when Dell had to go off for nearly 10 min­utes for treat­ment to a blood in­jury that brought Gor­don Reid on to the field un­til he had re­cov­ered.

The Price touch­down and the Visser one just be­fore half-time put Scot­land in the driv­ing seat but with Russell off for treat­ment on a head knock, it was Dun­can Tay­lor who con­verted the sec­ond one.

The early stages in the sec­ond half be­came the Ross Ford show with the Scot­land hooker go­ing over for his two tries ei­ther side of Ital­ian lock Dean Budd be­ing yel­low-carded for per­sis­tent of­fences.

Fif­teen min­utes from time cen­tre Michele Cam­pag­naro, who won the Aviva Premier­ship ti­tle with Ex­eter Chiefs this sea­son, was al­lowed to run through the Scot­land de­fence fol­low­ing poor de­fend­ing.

Italy also lost his re­place­ment Abra­ham Steyn to a yel­low card af­ter he took out Henry Pyr­gos off the ball.

Scot­land took full ad­van­tage of the ex­tra man with Tay­lor play­ing in Hoy­land to score in the cor­ner. Italy went up the op­po­site end and scored in the same place with a pass from Carlo Canna find­ing An­gelo Es­pos­ito who dived over out wide.

Apart from Ford, there were top per­for­mances from Visser and Hoy­land with Price a real livewire be­hind the scrum.

Bar­clay made sure his side kept their dis­ci­pline but he will know there will be a tougher test ahead when his side play the Wal­la­bies next Sat­ur­day.

For Townsend, his team kept to his tac­ti­cal plan to play fast, high­tempo rugby from the start, but he will be wor­ried at some of the han­dling er­rors un­der pres­sure.

Over­all it was job done and, with old-stager Ford hog­ging the lime­light, it was a Scot­land vic­tory build on youth and ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘As a bit of fun ear­lier in the week I asked John Bar­clay and Ross Ford to com­men­tate on their tries dur­ing their re­spec­tive Scot­land ca­reers,’ con­tin­ued Townsend af­ter­wards.

‘John had a few op­tions but Ross just had the two — but that changed tonight.

‘Ross has been out­stand­ing since I be­came Scot­land head coach and he works re­ally hard.

‘He is our vice-cap­tain, our most ex­pe­ri­enced player and got his re­wards with those two tries.’ Bar­clay also praised the role Ford had played in the win and the role he was play­ing on the tour.

‘He is a hugely in­flu­en­tial player and as we have a rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced squad on tour he makes a big dif­fer­ence be­ing here,’ said Bar­clay.

‘It is great to have some­one like Ross, af­ter all th­ese caps, still set­ting great stan­dards for th­ese guys. He never lets those stan­dards drop and it was great to have him score two tries tonight.

‘I was happy with the win but like Gre­gor said we know we have to do some im­prov­ing to en­sure we have a chance against Aus­tralia.

‘We have started the tour well but need to keep the mo­men­tum go­ing.’

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 ??  ?? ROOM FOR IM­PROVE­MENT: Gre­gor Townsend knows Aussies are tougher
ROOM FOR IM­PROVE­MENT: Gre­gor Townsend knows Aussies are tougher

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