A storm may be brewing off the coast but it was plain sailing for Scotland in Shizuoka as they did the business in emphatic nine-try fashion to keep their World Cup campaign on course for a decisive weekend which is looking likely to be a lot more choppy.
George Horne became the first scrum-half to score a hat-trick of tries in a Scotland jersey and even had a ‘fourth’ chalked off for a forward pass as the Russians were dismantled after the break. In his first World Cup start, stand-off Adam Hastings, who took the No 10 jersey to ensure star playmaker Finn Russell is kept fresh for the showdown with Japan in Yokohama, got the ball rolling with two nerve-settling tries in the first quarter.
He also contributed 16 points with the boot for a total of 26 in what quickly became a stroll for the superior Scottish side. The only downside to his excellent evening was having a last-minute try that would have given him a hat-trick too ruled out for a forward pass.
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A Russian side who had given spirited accounts in their previous three Pool A matches stood up in the early exchanges but were swiftly exposed as a horse whose race was run as the Scotland side, plus bench, Gregor Townsend had selected to get this staging post to the Japan crunch on Sunday ticked off rewarded their coach in handsome style.
It was far from perfect but the Scots had more than enough to set up the widely-forecasted scenario against Japan on Sunday - beat them by four or more match points, without a bonus point while denying them one or with a bonus point while denying them two.
Starting hooker George Turner continued his impressive tryscoring return with a fifth in nine caps as the second half became a breeze, while Tommy Seymour moved one ahead of Stuart Hogg to take sole ownership of fourth place on the all-time Scotland tryscoring list as he notched up a trademark predatory winger’s finish in the right corner.
Back in the opening 15 minutes Russia provided the same stuffy resistance as they had in their previous three pool matches but Scotland made the most of an attacking scrum in the opposition 22. No 8 Ryan Wilson peeled off and provided quick ball which was pinged to Hastings, who hit a good line to make the line without needing the wider backs to his right. He then converted the conversion and Scotland were a quarter of the way there.
Three minutes later and it was halfway as Hastings doubled his account with a delightfully unorthodox score.
The Russian bear had been prodded and looked to lash back but wing German Davydov spilled the ball. The 23-year-old stand-off chipped ahead and let the irregular shape of a rugby ball do its work as the bounce befuddled experienced Russia skipper and full-back Vasily Artemyev and Hastings’ follow-up was rewarded with an easy flop down, which he then converted.
It was near enough job done by the 22nd minute as the Russians hit the self-destruct button from a lineout on their own line as scrum-half Dmitry Perov threw a spectacularly ill-judged intercept pass which was gleefully gobbled up by his opposite number George Horne.
Hastings took his points tally to 11, Scotland were 21-0 up and all was well with the world.
The bonus point couldn’t be bagged by the break but it was clearly just a matter of time and the second half unfolded as a complete turkey shoot.
The livewire Horne, who was shifted to the wing after Henry Pyrgos’s introduction, added two more tries, one thanks to some brilliant set up play by wing Darcy Graham, after the break.
Turner broke through on his first World Cup start the day after his 26th birthday to pile the misery on the Russians before Seymour added another to that impressive record.
The electric and youthful half-back duo of Horne and Hastings were denied a fourth and third respectively but 33-year-old starting captain John Barclay took the final pass from another well-constructed Scottish passing move to crash over for a seventh Test try in what was his 76th cap.
The actual World Cup skipper, Stuart McInally, was given a run out and it was he who added the ninth try, with Hastings fittingly clipping over the final two points.
Scorers: Scotland: Tries: Horne 3, Hastings 2, Turner, Seymour, Barclay, McInally. Cons: Hastings 8.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
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