Scotland’s Under-20 side got their 2022 U20 6 Nations campaign underway against England at Edinburgh Rugby’s DAM Health Stadium on Friday night.
On paper, the visitors were probably the favourites to take the win, but Scotland had a new management team behind them, so nothing was set in stone.
Early on though, that stone looked as if it would crumble as England set up camp inside the home 22 for the first seven or eight minutes, winning a couple of penalties and using their pack to try to roll the Scots back over their line.
However, Scotland were more than up to the task and the early pressure was weathered well, and they eventually won the ball back through a penalty.
Then they proceeded to push England back through a combination of forward play and a well worked passing and running through the backs. Within a short period, they were set up on the left of English try line and the pack set to work.
Some rucking and mauling and a penalty advantage, or two, saw the the ball over the line in the hands of No. 8, Ollie Leatherbarrow for the first of his two – with another disallowed – tries for 5-0.
Another penalty soon after the restart saw full back, Robin McClintock, rattle the post with a long-range drop goal attempt under advantage.
An advantage Scotland couldn’t take was from their subsequent line out which went somewhat awry, handing the ball back to England for a scrum.
A couple of quick passes infield from there, along the 5 meter line, left full back, Henry Arundell with ‘only’ 95 metres to the line… Well, once he had cleared the first couple of defenders, the way opened up and a superb display of outright speed catapulted the young English player through for a superb try and the equaliser for 5-5 after 22 minutes. ‘Try of the Match’, though? There were to be contenders for that…
However, Scotland weren’t phased and in the following period of play, they were up hammering away again at the English line.
The pack were, at this point, clearly on top of their counterparts and, in a series of rucks, mauls and penalties, they soon had Leatherbarrow over the line for his ‘second’ try. However, the TMO had a long look and the ball was deemed ‘held up’, so another penalty it was.
With the English pack under pressure, Scotland went for the 5-metre scrum and, from the back, Leatherbarrow, lifted the ball and powered over for his ‘actual’ second try and 10-5. Christian Townsend then followed up with the conversion for 12-5 with eight minutes left on the clock.
As the half drew to a close, England were making some progress through the backs, but it was to be their pack that came roaring back with a try as they deceived the Scots from a penalty line out with a ball went to the front and they powered over into the corner for 12-10.
Early in the second half, Scotland extended their lead with their third try on the night.
Picking up an an English mistake, winger Ross McKight broke clear, but was foiled in his attempt by Arundell, but the ball came back and a string of passes and carries had the ball on the other side of the field. A quickly set up ruck left space which the other wing, Ollie Melville, exploited to fight through and stretch over the line for 17-10 after 45 minutes.
A couple of minutes later it was 17-13 as England won a penalty within kicking distance and substitute, Jamie Benson slotted the ball home for the points.
Four minutes later, England, in the guise of Arundell, scored their second ‘Try of the Match’. The ball was slung across to the full back deep inside his own 22 and spotting a gap in the advancing line, nipped through and took off. He made it as far as 10 metres short, but he was run down by one of the Scottish defenders. But, following up was scrum half, Tom Carr-Smith, who collected the inside pass to trot over for the try. With the conversion added, it was now 17-20 after 56 minutes.
The match then settled down for a while as both teams tried to get the upper hand, but it was to be a yellow card for Scotland sub, Olujare Oguntibeju, after a string of penalties had the referee hand out a warning.
Less than five minutes later, it was 34-17 as first, Toby Knight powered over from close range, followed up by England’s third ‘Try of the Match’!
Sub, George Hendy started it all off from, again, England’s 22. He evaded a couple of fairly desperate tackles from a, tiring, Scots’ defence to run the length of the pitch, only relinquishing the ball in the final few metres to inside centre, Ethan Grayson. Both were converted and Scotland had a mountain to climb.
Then it was the host’s turn to come back, A powerful break down the centre by lock, Max Williamson had Scotland inside the opposition 22. The ball then came loose, but swift reactions first saw a kick through from centre, Duncan Munn, who followed in to dive on the ball in the goal area,
But, it was all for naught as another TMO decision went against the young Scottish side when the ‘loose ball’ was adjudged to have been lost forward, so it was ‘no try’.
What wasn’t a ‘no try’ was England’s final score in the 76th minute when their Tom Litchfield fired in from close range. With the extras, it was 42-17 with less than four minutes left.
Or, maybe that should that have been ‘less than seven minutes left’, as the home side made a last onslaught on the English line with their forwards crashing along the line in overtime. Eventually a slew of penalties and a yellow card allowed Gregor Hiddleston to burrow over for the try and a match bonus-point. Townsend then converted for a final score of 24-42.
Images from the match will appear here over the next few days.