BIG scorelines against England have become the norm for Scotland’s Under-20 side and last night at Netherdale the trend continued.
Scorers: Scotland U20s: Tries: James, Dean. Cons: Cooper. Pen: Chalmers. England U20s: Tries: Purdy, Kibirige (2), Tompkins, Stephenson, Itoje, Chisholm. Cons: Burns (4), Olver. Pen: Burns.
The margin of victory, however, masked what was at times a good performance by the young Scots who managed to put pressure on England but against a side composed of young Premiership players there was always going to be a gap in pace, physical conditioning and mental sharpness.
Nevertheless Scotland can reflect on good displays from man-of-the-match Damien Hoy-land and replacement Chris Dean, who converted his experience on the international sevens circuit into sharp play in the XV arena.
Amongst the forwards, skipper Tommy Spinks led by example, No 8 Magnus Bradbury, carried ball well and, in the front five, there was a genuine contest between the two sides.
“This was another learning curve for the boys,” said Scotland coach Sean Lineen. “We couldn’t live with the speed and intensity of the English game.”
It was Scotland who opened the scoring with a first-minute penalty goal from stand-off Ben Chalmers but that lead was brief as England quickly showed the power and the skill of their back line to score two tries by wingers Henry Purdy and Zack Kibirige, stand-off Billy Burns converting the second of these touchdowns.
Having being hit hard by England’s try-scoring ability, Scotland recovered enough to display enterprise of their own, sparked by a tapped penalty from scrum-half Ben Vellacot and a clever kick to the blindside touchline by Chalmers. The Scots put further pressure on England with a strike against the head only for the home side to lose possession with a knock-on.
Scotland’s hopes of capitalising on ball retention were dashed when England gained possession by charging down a kick, resulting in a try for centre Nick Tompkins and the conversion by Burns. At the other end skipper Tommy Spinks almost turned the tables with a charge down but the flanker was beaten to the ball over the line by England’s back three defence. The Scots, however, were not to be short-changed and gained their reward with a try in the corner by hooker Sam James.
Scotland won further plaudits from the Netherdale crowd when Hoyland gained possession from a high kick before combining with his centres. But the potential scoring pass to the supporting Glen Young went astray. Just before the interval England stretched their lead with a Burns penalty to give them a 22-8 half-time cushion.
A try by centre Tom Stephenson just after the break and the conversion by Burns added to England’s points tally But Scotland quickly bounced back after Jamie Farndale made a vital incision to give replacement Dean the Scots second try, converted by fellow sub Ben Cooper.
England replied quickly but it was with a wicked bounce flipping over the head of Hoyland that Kibirige grabbed his second try converted by replacement Sam Olver. The scoreboard rolled over once more as the England forwards drove a penalty line-out before mauling their way to the tryline to create a score for second row Maro Itoje
Scotland enjoyed a period of pressure on the England line but the Scots were unable to pierce the English defence. Then, when England broke away, replacement flanker Joel Conlon looked on course for the line but an admirable chase and tackle by Dean saved the situation.
England, however, made amends with powerful forward play that ended with No 8 James Chisholm crossing for the final score of the match to give the visitors a sumptuous win.
Scotland U20s: R Young (C Deans 39); J Farndale, B Hutchison, N Herron, D Hoyland; B Chalmers (B Cooper 44), B Vellacot (M McAndrew 44); J Cosgrove (J Malcolm 64), S James (C Barnes 79), D Rae (P Cringle 44), A Cramond, G Young (L Carmichael 56) B Richardson, T Spinks, M Bradbury.
England U20s: N Earle; Z Kibirige, N Tompkins, T Stephenson (H Packman 48) H Purdy; B Burns (S Olver 45), C Braley (S Townsend 65); D Hobbs-Awoyemi (A Lundberg 45) , J Walker, P Hill (T Wolstencroft 62), M Itoje, C Ewels, R Moriarty (T Ellis 50), W Owen (J Conlon 65), J Chisholm.