Scotland Under-20s faded to defeat in their World Cup opener in Argentina yesterday, going down by six tries to three to the junior Springboks.
Coach Carl Hogg’s side put up a brave fight and were within three points around the hour mark but ran out of steam and leaked three late tries to give the South Africans a rather flattering winning scoreline.
Trouble in the scrum, failure to take hard-won opportunities and late defensive lapses were the Scots’ undoing in the end but there were lots of positives to take into their second Pool C game on Sunday.
The fact that will be against New Zealand is a bracing thought but it was far from doom and gloom in Rosario yesterday with some real excellence in the lineout maul department, gritty defence and turnover work at the breakdown as well as a number of shining individual performances.
Stirling County loosehead prop Murphy Walker got the Scots off to a great start, crashing over to put them 5-3 ahead.
“I’m proud of the way we stuck in as a team, but it is pretty frustrating,” he said. “At the 60-minute mark there were three points in it, and we had momentum after scoring, so I think we should have capitalised – but a couple of mistakes let them back in it.”
In the end the Baby Boks just had too much speed and clinical finishing prowess as the game wore on and legs tired but they were rattled when superb stand-off Ross Thompson fed Wasps centre Cameron Anderson the scoring pass for a beautifully worked try down the right and then nailed the conversion with his left boot to reduce the South African lead to 22-19 entering the last quarter.
Earlier, the Scots had also shown spirit to bounce back from a 17-5 deficit with a penalty try on the stroke of half-time to go in only five points adrift after Welsh referee Craig Evans ruled that a thunderous lineout maul had been stopped illegally and sent Boks lock Emile van Heerden to the bin for good measure.
The frustration for the Scots will be that they never made that first ten minutes of the second half count with their numerical advantage. Opportunities were spurned through errors and just as the opposition were about to return to full complement they struck the hammer blow through sprightly scrum-half Jaden Hendrikse, who added to his first-half try ten minutes after Francke Horn had responded to Walker’s opener.
Anderson’s try had the 2012 champions rattled but they hit back with some electric scores by JJ van der Mescht and substitutes Kudzwai Dube and Sanele Nohamba.
Later in Pool C, New Zealand beat Georgia 45-13 and Walker is well aware a tough match awaits at the weekend.
“It is not an easy opposition to come up against in four days’ time!” he admitted.
“A lot of confidence can be taken from our performance. If you look at the first 60 minutes, how well we managed the game at half-back and how well we stuck to our gameplan, I think it really shows that we have bought into the cause. We need to play the full 80 like we did the first 60.”