Rugby World Cup Pool B: Scotland turnaround to survive USA scare
Pool B at this year’s Rugby World Cup continues to be full of surprises, with Scotland having to come from behind to beat the USA 39-16 at Elland Road.
Second-half tries again spared Scottish blushes with Tim Visser, Sean Maitland and WP Nel all going over in a 15-minute spell after the break.
Matt Scott with an angled run and perseverance from Duncan Weir late on, also off the bench, allowed both to find their way over the try-line and give Vern Cotter’s team a bonus point victory that takes them top of the group.
The Eagles crossed first thanks to Titi Lamositele midway through the opening 40 mnutes, and held a 13-6 lead at the interval courtesy of AJ MacGinty’s penalties.
A tense opening 20 minutes saw the lead exchanged between Scotland and the United States. MacGinty with the first of three penalties saw the underdogs get their noses in front but, when the USA scrum crumbled and they were later caught offside, Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell kicked Scotland ahead.
Full back Hogg’s boot and passing radar seemed a little off, though, as he missed another penalty and later failed to find Visser with the Scots in a superb position to score a breakaway try. Such a missed opportunity will be punished by better sides at this tournament.
Grant Gilchrist limped off on 20 minutes and, moments later, the USA pack drove over the line with Lamoistele grounding for a try, which MacGinty converted to make the score 10-6 in their favour.
Russell missed another Scottish penalty, but kicking counterpart MacGinty made no mistake again to give the Eagles a half-time advantage.
Cotter used his bench, bringing Nel and Alasdair Dickinson into the front row to great effect, but it was first winger Visser who atoned for his earlier error and began Scotland’s response. Hogg’s pass found its mark now, with USA frailties from line-outs paving the way for their downfall.
Maitland then crossed for the 100th try of the tournament, with carries from Nel and fellow sub Fraser Brown influential. Russell’s successful conversion had Scotland ahead 18-13.
Josh Strauss handling on the deck allowed the Eagles to close again through another MacGinty penalty, but Cotter called upon captain Greig Laidlaw to take over kicking duties off the bench.
Nel went over under the posts after Strauss’ struggles, with Laidlaw converting for the first of three occasions, allowing Scotland to extend their lead to 25-16.
Russell also came off hurt to remove further gloss from this in the end comfortable victory, but Scott and Weir went over for converted tries either side of American attempts to respond falling short.
Cotter will know his much-changed team, having only played Japan on Wednesday, avoided a potential banana skin here, and now face a crunch clash with resurgent South Africa next weekend.
Scotland’s margin of victory here – ultimately four tries – somewhat flattered them after another less than convincing first-half display. They’re now 7/2 with Coral to still be top of Pool B at the end of the group stage.