Scotland Under-20s have dropped into a relegation fight at the World Championships in France after finishing without a win in Pool B, losing their final group game 35-10 to England.
A repeat of the Six Nations win over the Auld Enemy earlier in the year never looked likely in Beziers as the Scots showed bravery but were ultimately outclassed by a side who now progress to the semi-finals as top seeds.
The Scots will now play out their remaining two matches in the tournament in the ninth-12th classification, hoping to secure their automatic place in next year’s event.
England came into the game knowing that they were already assured of a place in the semi-finals after wins over Argentina and Italy and were gunning for a high seeding.
They started the match in ominously imposing style and had their first try within five minutes as Northampton full-back James Grayson, the son of Paul, who enjoyed a few Calcutta Cup wins in his career, fed Harlequins wing Gabriel Ibitoye to power over down the right for a brilliant opening score. Leicester stand-off Tom Hardwick converted.
Scotland, coached by Bryan Redpath, pictured, responded well and managed to earn themselves a couple of kickable penalties.
Ross Thompson, the Glasgow Hawks stand-off who had taken the goalkicking duties from Charlie Chapman, just missed with his first effort but his left boot made no mistake from a more central spot to pull three points back in the 13th minute.
It was brief respite for the Scots, though. After a rather harsh penalty on Thompson, England got their first chance to maul and made inexorable progress over the Scottish line. It was hooker Beck Cutting who got the final touch and Worcester lock James Scott would soon be adding England’s third try of the evening, both of which were unconverted.
Scott got his chance when Sam Lewis’ tournament was ended by the disciplinary panel following his red carding for a high tackle against Italy and his try came down the left after the English forwards had stretched the Scots to breaking point with a series of punishing phases.
High tackling has been hotly officiated in this tournament and another Englishman found himself on the charge sheet near the half-hour mark as Grayson clothes-lined Thompson on halfway and was shown a yellow card.
The extra-man advantage allowed the young Scots to get a foothold in the game and, just as it seemed they would have to settle for going in at the break in no further arrears, a piece of magic by Thompson engineered Scotland the score their tireless effort deserved.
The former Stewart’s Melville head boy dinked a perfectly weighted grubber over the English line and his Hawks team-mate, wing Kyle Rowe, beat Ibitoye to touch down.
Thompson’s conversion meant the Scots, after looking like they may be blown away, were just a converted score behind at 17-10 as the half-time whistle blew.
Scotland battled gamely in the second half and can take confidence into the remaining games of this tournament from the way they made the title contenders work hard to finally break them down.
But break them down they did and, after Ibitoye had barged over for his second try of the night and, after Hardwick sent over a penalty, the Scots wilted in the final ten minutes and there were further tries from sub Matt Williams and lock Joel Kpoku, stretching the score out to a 25-point margin.