Scotland hammered Russia 61-0 as they claimed the crucial World Cup bonus-point win that tees up a do-or-die showdown with Japan on Sunday.
Gregor Townsend’s team needed to take maximum points from their clash with the Bears in Shizuoka to give themselves the best possible chance of making the quarter-finals, and they did just that thanks to a stunning nine-try demolition job.
George Horne became the first Scottish scrum-half to score a hat-trick after Adam Hastings put the Dark Blues ahead with a quick-fire early double.
George Turner, Tommy Seymour, John Barclay and Stuart McInally also scored in a resounding win that now leaves Scotland needing victory over the hosts in Yokohama in four days’ time to seal their place in the last eight.
So long as the Scots do not allow the Brave Blossoms to take a losing bonus point from the clash at the International Stadium, a win will be enough for Townsend’s team to march into the knockout rounds for a likely date with the All Blacks in Tokyo on October 19.
Lyn Jones’ Russians were never in any danger of giving Scotland much trouble. They had conceded 99 points in their three previous Pool A fixtures and were even humbled by Jersey Reds during their tournament preparations.
So Townsend felt he was safe enough trusting his second string to get the job done, making 14 changes to the team which beat Samoa last week.
And the incomers – including full-back Blair Kinghorn, centre Peter Horne, lock Ben Toolis and hooker Turner, who were getting their first taste of tournament action – did not let the head coach down with a merciless display.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 9, 2019
The message pre-match from skipper John Barclay was patience and the first 14 minutes was a tense back-and-forth as Scotland’s opponents continued their habit of kicking almost every piece of ball they got their hands on, while the Dark Blues calmly probed for an opening.
And it was Hastings who found it, darting through a chink left in the Russian lines by German Davydov and Dmitry Gerasimov after Zander Fagerson put in a huge shunt to put the Bears’ scrum in reverse.
Hastings was the man to unlock the Russians again six minutes later. Spotting acres of space in the back field, the stand-off kicked through and hared after the ball.
He beat Gerasimov in the sprint then nudged the ball on again with his foot, getting lucky as the bounce fooled Vasily Artemyev into a slip as the ball was presented on a plate for the Glasgow playmaker’s second touchdown.
Russia were being out-fought as well as out-thought and paid the price for a horrendous mistake on 22 minutes as Scotland struck again.
Dmitry Perov took the ball from the line-out but failed to spot Horne creeping up and threw a suicidal pass on his own goal line, which the scrum-half gleefully gathered before dotting down.
Townsend’s team now had almost an hour to chase down the all-important bonus point and it duly arrived four minutes into the second period.
While the first half had been frustrating for Darcy Graham with three clumsy knock-ons, he more than made up for that with a stunning 40-yard break.
He was almost within touching distance of the try line but, with Davydov closing in, the Edinburgh wing unselfishly slotted in Horne for his second.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 9, 2019
With the extra point secured and the pressure off, the Scots could now enjoy themselves.
Hooker Turner got in the scoring act on 52 minutes, rolling out of the back of a maul to dart over the line, while Seymour produced a sublime finish to get the ball down before Kinghorn’s clever kick through bounced out of bounds four minutes later.
Number seven arrived on 58 minutes and was started and finished by Horne, with assistance from his brother Peter and substitute Henry Pyrgos before he dived over in the corner.
Horne thought he had equalled Gavin Hastings’ Scotland record of four tries in a single World Cup game soon after but had his celebrations cut short when Magnus Bradbury’s scoring pass was ruled to be forward.
But there was still time for Barclay and McInally to expose tiring Russian legs as both forwards powered over in the final few minutes.