USA Eagles 6-24 Scotland: Cotter begins with win

After taking a high ball, Stuart Hogg ran half the length of the field.   Picture: TSPL
After taking a high ball, Stuart Hogg ran half the length of the field. Picture: TSPL
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SCOTLAND gave new coach Vern Cotter the winning start he wanted after seeing off the challenge of the USA Eagles in Houston with a greater degree of ease than either they, or their hosts expected.

Scorers: USA: Try: Conv: Pen: Wyles (2), Scotland: Try: Visser, Pen Try, Hogg Conv: Laidlaw (3) Pen: Laidlaw

Scotland scored two tries in the first half, they added another one after the break and Greig Laidlaw converted every one and added an early penalty. All the Americans contributed to the score board was two penalties from the boot of fullback Chris Wyles.

The Scotland coach has talked up the Americans before this match, they had given Ireland a fright in the same stadium only twelve months ago, but this Eagles side completely lost their bearings in Compass Stadium. With the odd exception, Chris Wyles was an pillar at the back and Todd Clever put in a shift up front, the Eagles failed to match the visiting Scots in any facet of play.

Their first scrum was marched backwards at a rate of knots and immediately conceded the penalty to let Greig Laidlaw kick the first points of the match. Around the half hour mark Scotland had a series of scrums on the Eagles’ line, every one of them collapsed and re-set until the referee finally lost his patience, sending American prop Olive Kilifi to the sin bin and awarding a penalty try when even that drastic action didn’t help matters. The introduction of a second half prop replacement by the name of Wallace improved matters modestly.

The Americans lost any defensive shape after a couple of phases and had Scotland been ruthlessly clinical they would been home and dry by half time. Instead they spurned any number of try-scoring opportunities most of which fell to Scotland’s left winger.

Tim Visser grabbed Scotland’s opening score on fifteen minutes after a cheeky break by Greig Laidlaw through the middle of a breakdown but the big Dutchman could have bagged four tries in the opening half hour. He dropped one scoring pass from Blair Cowan, Visser should have scored in the corner after Finn Russell fizzed a flat pass right across the back line before he dropped the ball on the American try line after popping up in the midfield.

The home cause was not helped by losing hooker Tom Thiel and centre Andrew Suniula to injury in the opening quarter, the latter paving the way for Glasgow’s Folau Niua to come on in the American midfield. The one time the Eagles may have rued their luck was when Todd Clever thought he had scored a try with one man in the sin bin at the tail end of the first half. The American skipper walked confidently back to the half way line only for the TMO to rule against him.

The Scots enjoyed a comfortable 17-3 lead at the half time break, All the Americans managed in the first half was one penalty from Wyles who saw one other effort at the posts fall well short.

The second half was an unholy mess with neither side was able to hold onto the ball long enough to exert any pressure on the opposition. Scotland had the better of what meagre chances were created but they turned over two set pieces, a scrum and a lineout inside the Eagles’ red zone. Wyles kicked his second penalty on 50 minutes to drag his side to within eleven points of the Scots but that was as close as they got and the entire third quarter of the match was pointless, in more ways than one.

Finally Scotland extended their advantage after Stuart Hogg latched onto a loose clearance and the fullback sprinted fifty metres up the left touchline to score in the corner. His delight at the score giving a clue as the difficult few weeks he has endured sitting on the sidelines throughout Glasgow’s semi and final matches.

The final fifteen odd minutes left on the clock were largely undistinguished and the game didn’t so much end as stumble to its conclusion with Finn Russell dropping a pass and kicking the ball dead in frustration.

USA: Kilifi (Lamositelli 50 mins), Thiel (Coolican 19 mins), Fry (Wallace 40 mins), Stanfil (Tuisamoa 63 mins), Smith (Barrett 53 min), Clever, LaValla, Dolan, Petri, Suniula; Hume, Suniula (Niua 20 mins), Kelly, Scully, Wyles.

Scotland: Reid, Lawson (MacArthur 63 mins), Cross (Low 43 min), Gray, Hamilton (Gilchrist 37 mins), Strokosch (Low 62 mins), Cowan, Beattie; Laidlaw, Russell, Visser, Taylor (Evans 63 mins), Lamont, Maitland, Hogg (Jackson 74 mins).

Referee: Pascal Gauzerre (FFR).

Attendance: 20,001