Scotland’s summer tour: A rollercoaster ride

Will Thompson
27 June 2018

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With two wins and a narrow defeat, Scotland endured ups and downs on their summer tour of the Americas.

Glasgow Warriors

June began in the perfect way for Gregor Townsend and his men as they powered past Canada 48-10 in Toronto before surrendering a 21-6 lead against the USA to lose 30-29 in Houston.

But they responded well and came out fighting against Argentina last weekend, surging past the Pumas 44-15 for their largest ever margin of victory against a top-tier side away from home.

YOUTH IMPRESSING

This tour was the perfect chance for Townsend to experiment with his squad and blood some fresh faces, which is exactly what he did.

Four players made their debut in the first game against the Canadians, with Edinburg Rugby’s Lewis Carmichael scoring on his debut.

Two more claimed their maiden cap the following week against the Americans, with Glasgow Warriors’ George Horne and Matt Fagerson joining their older brothers as Scottish senior internationals.

It didn’t take long for the younger Horne brother to leave his mark on the team either, combining with his sibling effectively against the USA to touch down on his debut.

The scrum-half then ripped up the Argentinians to cross the whitewash twice the following week, with his clubmate Adam Hastings also impressing at fly-half on his second appearance.

Townsend said: “That was a huge challenge for our guys on their second starts for Scotland but they played with so much positivity, they went for gaps they knew were there, which shows they were confident, they thrived in that environment. It was really encouraging for the future.”

Warriors full-back Stuart Hogg said: “The younger boys are pushing us and it’s great for Scottish rugby. They’re coming in full of energy and ready to learn. It’s only going to put us in good stead.”

 

LEARNING FROM MISTAKES

The United States’ victory was their first over a top-tier nation and completely unexpected after the Scots led 21-13 at half time.

Scotland had looked comfortable in the first half but switched off and couldn’t front up to America’s aggression in the second half.

Letting the hosts back into the game highlighted weaknesses in the Scottish squad and their inexperience cost them.

However, to put that game behind them and win so emphatically against a strong Argentina side displayed how they learnt from their mistakes in Houston.

They attacked from the off, with George Horne touching down within two minutes, then refused to take their foot off the gas for the rest of the match.

Instead of letting up in the second half, they continued their dominance and their younger charges demonstrated mature game management beyond their years.

George Horne said: “Obviously, we were fairly disappointed.

“We knew we had to come out and be physical and aggressive, and I think we did that.

“It was class. We put on a good show. It was great going up by 20 points at the start. It put us in a great position to play the territory game.

“When the rain came down, we just had to play smart, play in the right areas, and we did that really well.”

Edinburgh’s Stuart McInally said: “The first half; we did everything we spoke about and we were accurate and a lot of our attack, and our defence was a step up.

“It was about going back to basics and to what we know we do really well, which is be accurate, play with tempo, and be physical in defence.

 

LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS

With only 15 months to the World Cup in Japan, Townsend was using this tour to build a platform to work from in future.

Scotland face the Pumas again in Autumn, along with Wales, Fiji and South Africa, so can use what they’ve learnt and put it into practice against some top sides that will pose a tough challenge.

The physicality and potency in attack shown in the last game highlights the strong foundations and the Autumn internationals will provide the perfect opportunity for the youngsters to gain vital Test experience.

Townsend said: “We took players that we believed could be part of the World Cup squad.

“Some of them might have to fight really hard and have a great season because they’re up against guys who are probably pencilled in to the World Cup squad if they play as well as they have in the last few years.

“Everyone knew this was an opportunity, the first opportunity in the next 12 months, to say: ‘pick me’.”

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