SHIZUOKA, Japan: Scotland will play Japan for a spot in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals after a 26-point haul from Adam Hastings helped them to a nine-try, 61-0 thrashing of Russia on Wednesday.
A Scottish side boasting 14 changes from the team that beat Samoa 34-0 last week easily outgunned a Russian side ranked 20th in the world and which had suffered three defeats in their three previous Pool A games (Japan 30-10, Samoa 34-9, Ireland 35-0).
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend had no option but to rest the likes of big guns Greig Laidlaw, Finn Russell, Stuart Hogg, Blade Thompson and Johnny Gray, with only a four-day turnover before the game against Japan in Yokohama on Sunday.
Townsend’s bet on a largely second-string side producing enough to seal the win paid off, however, with Hastings – son of legendary former captain Gavin – running the show with aplomb at Shizuoka’s Ecopa Stadium.
The result leaves Scotland on 10 points in Pool A while unbeaten hosts Japan have 14 and Ireland – who play Samoa in Fukuoka on Saturday – 11. Only the two top sides will advance to the knock-out phase.
“That’s stage one of a two-stage week completed,” Townsend said.
“We’ve watched a lot of Japan. I know they will have watched a lot of us too. And they’ve had big rests into all their games... we’ve just got to make sure we deliver our best performance,” he added.
“We’ll have to because Japan are a very good team.”
In the first ever Test match between the two nations, Russia were defensively weak against Scotland for the full 80 minutes and fly-half Ramil Gaisin’s touted territorial kicking game failed to mount any real pressure.
The Scottish scrum was solid and when No 8 Ryan Wilson quickly fed George Horne, the scrum-half’s pass found Hastings who stepped back in and rode Dimitry Gerasimov’s tackle for a try he also converted.
Hastings made it a personal double within minutes, chasing up on his own chip past a wrong-footed Vasily Artemyev after winger Darcy Graham had done well to keep the ball alive.
Hastings converted that and also a third try from Horne after the scrum-half intercepted a Dmitry Perov pass from a defensive Russian line-out on the tryline to make it 21-0 at half-time.
Horne made sure of Scotland’s attacking bonus point when he crossed for the team’s fourth try five minutes into the second-half, a willing recipient of the final pass from Graham after the winger had scythed through a non-existent defence from halfway.
With Russia flagging and falling badly off the tackles, the floodgates opened as first hooker George Turner crashed over from a driving maul and then wing Tommy Seymour dotted down in the corner.
Horne, moved to the wing to accommodate Henry Pyrgos at half-back, bagged his hat-trick and had a fourth try disallowed for a forward pass.
A raft of replacements on the hour-mark robbed the game of its momentum, as many of the 16,000 schoolchildren in the stadium headed for buses home.
Late tries from skipper John Barclay and replacement hooker Stuart McInally gave the score some added gloss, but Hastings was denied the final word, referee Wayne Barnes harshly ruling out what would have been his hat-trick of tries for a forward pass.--AFP