Scotland U20 12-67 Australia U20: Battle-hardened Australia annihilate Scots

SCOTLAND’S bid to reverse a trend of heavy defeats to Australia on the world stage hit the buffers in the IRB Junior World Championships in South Africa.

Peter Wright’s youngsters managed to beat the senior side’s record in the recent Six Nations, just, when skipper Harry Leonard secured a late win over the Italians. But, on the eve of Scotland’s first Test of the summer tour, against the Wallabies in Newcastle, the young Scots slid to another comprehensive defeat.

Only once have Scotland beaten Australia at age-grade level and even that was a Scotland U18 team against an Australian Schools team which ended in an historic 3-0 home win in Greenock. Since then Scotland have suffered a 78-3 reverse at under-19 level in 2006 and a 58-13 defeat in their only previous under-20 meeting, two years ago.

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The 2006 mauling prompted SRU chief executive Gordon McKie to announce that such a hammering would never happen again and that youth structures in Scotland would be revamped to ensure as much.

That has proved to be a case of easier said than done. While the SRU have reorganised youth structures and started to intervene in youth development from 14 years old, it remains a relatively recent change and still lacks the one significant ingredient that continues to prove the key difference between Scotland and their top age-grade opponents – regular game-time of a high intensity.

Most of the Scotland team have been playing club rugby for the past year or two, with only a handful having experienced professional rugby at all. On the other hand, few of the Australian side yesterday have not either played for their national side in the IRB World Sevens or played Super 15 rugby. Skipper Liam Gill is in his second season of Super 15 rugby with Queensland Reds.

From the opening minutes of yesterday’s meeting in Cape Town the young Scottish side had its backs to the wall. The Australians opened the scoring virtually from the kick-off, through lock Jed Holloway, and further scores from full-back Nicholas Frisby, Hugh Roach, the hooker, and wing James Dargaville had the Australians cruising, 24-0 up, before the end of the first quarter.

The Scots fought well and strove to retain their game-plan, but despite working hard in the set-piece and defence were struggling to live with the pace and intensity of the Australian attack. Both centres Christopher Sautia-Feauai and Apolosi Latunipulu went over to increase the lead to 36-0, before Scotland finally moved the scoreboard.

Leonard kicked to touch and from the maul Dundee lock Andrew Redmayne dived over to at least eradicate the ‘granny’ possibility, but leaving the Aussies still 36-5 ahead at the break.

Though the Scots regrouped and had moments of light in good lineout play and when Clermont centre Mark Bennett showed his danger in attack, there was to be no let-up by the Australians in this opening match of the tournament. Holloway and Sautia-Feauai touched down within ten minutes of the restart before a fine Bennett break set up Jamie Farndale, after the intervention of Michael Crawley drew the last man, and the Edinburgh Academy wing finished off a fine second Scottish try, converted by Leonard.

But it was to be a brief dawn, as Curtis Browning, prop Silatolu Latu and replacement prop Maile Ngaumo added a further three tries to put the seal on the 67-12 victory. Stand-off Kyle Godwin slotted four conversions and his replacement Ulupeni Seuteni two.

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Scotland coach Wright said: “We’re obviously really disappointed. We conceded far too many easy scores and dropped off too many tackles, but our second try was a quality piece of work from Mark Bennett and Jamie Farndale.

“The young Australian players play at the highest level of the game week in week out therefore the intensity and tempo that they create we are unable to match.

“The players stuck in right to the end though and when they had the ball in hand they showed a lot of threat, particularly in the outside channels. Our line-outs were also strong and well constructed.

The young Scots are back in action on Friday, against the French, at the University of the Western Cape (3.45pm UK time), before facing Argentina next Tuesday. None of the games will be easy, but the Scots ran France very close at Galashiels in February and know that that will be a very different ball game to the sobering one they have just experienced.

Scorers: Australia: Tries - J Holloway 2, C Sautia-Feauai 2, N Frisby, H Roach, J Dargaville, A Latunipulu, C Browning, S Latu, M Ngauamo; Cons – K Godwin 4, U Seuteni 2. Scotland: Tries – Redmayne, Farndale; Con – Leonard.

Scotland U20s: S Hidalgo-Clyne; J Farndale, M Bennett, F Russell, M Crawley; H Leonard (capt), M Torrance; R Hislop, F Scott, A Allan, M Eadie, A Redmayne, J Swanson, W Bordill, A Nagle. Subs (all used): G Graham for Swanson, A Sinclair for Nagle, both 48mins, M McConnell for Torrance 52, A Henderson for Bordill 56, G Turner for Scott 60, T Allan for Russell 62, G Robertson for Leonard, blood-sub 62.

Australia U20s: N Frisby; J Dargaville, C Sautia-Feauai, A Latunipulu, A Faalaavau; K Godwin, M Lucas; S Latu, H Roach, L Makin, J Holloway, S Cummins, C Browning, L Gill (captain), B Melrose. Subs (all used): M Ngauamo, P Paraka, S Reiser, T Cusack, J Merriman, C Foley, U Seuteni, A Alaalatoa.

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