Scotland confirmed their place in next season’s World Rugby U20 Championship after scoring six tries to defeat Ireland in this afternoon’s 9th place Semi-Final.
Although it was Ireland who showed the early impetus - with the men in green shooting out to an eleven-point advantage - Bryan Redpath’s side rallied, scoring three consecutive tries, to take a 17-24 lead heading into the break at Perpignan’s Stade Aime-Giral.
And it was only to get better for the young Scots as Guy Graham and Kyle Rowe both crossed the whitewash to cap off a twenty-minute period of dominance and extend Scotland’s already sizeable lead.
Ireland’s Tommy O’Brien dotted down in the corner to breathe life into his side’s fightback, but when number eight Devante Onojaife wrestled over the whitewash with just five minutes remaining, the contest was all but over.
Scotland will now face the winners of Georgia versus Japan for a potential 9th place finish and captain Stafford McDowall believes his side will be full of confidence heading into the encounter.
“This was a pressure game,” admitted McDowall. “And now we’ve got the win, the pressure is a bit off. We can really push on in this last game to get as high a finish as possible.”
With McDowall controlling proceedings in midfield, Scotland were able to play an expansive style of rugby which resulted in a number of line breaks, nifty offloads and, most importantly, tries.
“We talked about it during the week that we could get at them out wide because we’ve got a really dangerous back-three.
“Kyle Rowe’s try in the second-half, following the burst in their twenty-two really finished them off. We knew we had momentum and then it was just about following our structure and playing in the right areas – which I think we did.”
Support play has been something we’ve really worked on during the week. I think we left a few tries out on the field in our three pool fixtures. We trained hard and its really paid off.
After scrum-half Charlie Chapman slotted home a penalty for the first points of the afternoon, Ireland took advantage of some slack Scottish defending to power into a two-score lead.
Stand-off Harry Bryne firstly ducked under a tackle to slide under the sticks, before centre Peter Sylvester collected a well-judged grubber to touch down for his side’s second score in only 21 minutes.
Scotland would hit back immediately, however. With the young Scots driving for the Irish whitewash, prop Finlay Richardson was the man who touched down to put his side within touching distance.
With only ten minutes to play until half-time, and Ireland down to 14-men, Scotland enjoyed their most dominant phase of possession.
Finlay Richardson would firstly finish a slick handling move for his second try of the afternoon, before a clinical offensive drive saw the ball fed out wide to winger Logan Trotter, who finished with aplomb.
Scotland’s dominance would continue into the second-half. With only eight minutes on the clock, Newcastle Falcons’ latest recruit, Guy Graham, took a sumptuous angled line – cutting the Irish defence instantly – and with only a handful of defenders trailing, the back-row collapsed over the line to add an exclamation point to the scoreline.
Although Ireland enjoyed spurts of possession, Scotland were in the driving seat, and on 57 minutes the young Scots scored their fifthand the contest’s finest try.
After winning a lineout in their own half, the ball eventually found the hands of Trotter who broke inside his opposite man, before the winger galloped 50 metres into the Irish twenty-two.
With Ireland retreating, stand-off Callum McLelland showed slight of hand with a delayed pass to Ross Dunbar, who subsequently offloaded to the trailing Rowe. It was a brilliant team try and proved to be the coup de grace.
Although Ireland showed heart with late tries from O’Brien and replacement Jack Daly, Scotland would not be denied. As Onojaife scored his side’s sixth of the afternoon with only five minutes remaining, the young Scots could breathe easy and look forward to a 9th place Final.
Updated 20:37 - 12 Jun 2018 by Hugh Barrow