The Scotland team and the 2 Scottish PRO12 teams, Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors, were in action this weekend playing warm-up matches.
Scotland faced Italy for the 2nd weekend in a row in the 3rd of their 4 Rugby World Cup warm-up matches. The game was played at Murrayfield in front of what was said to be a record crowd for a summer Test match. The team that ran out must have been close to Vern Cotter’s 1st choice 15 and they did not disappoint running in 6 tries and only conceding 1 in a very impressive performance.
WP Nel put in a solid performance which saw Italy’s scrum in trouble from the word go. The pressure Nel put on Italy’s loosehead prop earned Scotland a few penalties with the loosehead resorting to scrumming in on various occasions.
The next game of the day also took place in Edinburgh where the hosts took on Ulster in a preseason warm-up match, 1 week ahead of the start of the PRO12 for 2015 / 2016. The game was played at Heriot FC’s ground Goldenacre due to the Test match which was played earlier in the day at Murrayfield.
Head coach Alan Solomons would have been pleased to see his team get their 2nd win in their 2nd preseason friendly match against what was a fairly strong starting Ulster line-up.
The final game of the day, which was billed as the ‘Battle of New Scotland’, saw Canada host Glasgow Warriors in Halifax Nova Scotia.
Josh Strauss played the whole game for the Warriors ahead of possible inclusion in the Scotland World Cup squad. Former Glasgow Warriors winger DTH vd Merwe scored a try for Canada late in the game to ensure victory for them. The game was played in quite high temperatures and there were a few water breaks during the game.
Scotland 48 / 7 Italy
Scotland earned a 2nd Rugby World Cup warm-up victory in as many weeks by beating Italy 48 / 7 at Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh.
Scotland edged Italy 16 / 12 in last week’s fixture but Saturday’s match saw the hosts run out clear winners, scoring 6 tries in the process.
Doubles from Sean Lamont and Tim Visser combined with scores from John Barclay and Mark Bennett, ensured Vern Cotter’s team gained revenge for this year’s last-gasp Six Nations defeat to the Italians.
Greig Laidlaw kicked 4 penalties and 2 conversions with Finn Russell adding another 2 after the captain left the field.
The result was a record score for Scotland over Italy and was well attended at 43 831 fans.
Scotland are pooled with South Africa, Samoa, Japan and the USA in the Rugby World Cup.
Scotland play another warm-up next weekend in France but are due to announce their final Rugby World Cup squad on Tuesday.
Edinburgh 23 / 10 Ulster
The afternoon build-up, weather-wise, to this evening game kind of mirrored Edinburgh’s run of play last year. Blue skies and warm sun suddenly blocked out by squalls and heavy clouds. Would last Friday’s golden glow of success over Romania see Ulster then raining on the capital club’s parade?
Well, no. The Irish province had come to town with a seriously serious friendly in mind and after running Edinburgh somewhat ragged in the opening period, the capital knights regrouped, manned up and secured a convincing win in front of an appreciative crowd of well over 2 000 on a balmy evening at Goldenacre.
2 Tries – from back row Magnus Bradbury and winger Otulea Katoa, making his 1st start – plus conversions and a penalty from scrumhalf Nathan Fowles – kicking 100% – and 2 impressive penalties from Jack Cuthbert, saw Edinburgh take the win, 23 / 10.
Head coach Alan Solomons said: “The 1st 35 minutes, Ulster were on top and we made mistakes – we had kicks charged down, gave away penalties, lost a lineout and they retained possession really well.
“We did a lot of tackling and I thought the boys really showed a lot of heart and hung in there. There was a momentum shift in the last 5 minutes of the 1st half, with the 2 tries, and the lads that came on carried on that momentum and I though we had the better of the 2nd half.”
Edinburgh had benefited from the return of 5 players from the national squad this week, with all enlisted into the night’s game, which took place at the home of Heriot’s RC, with BT Murrayfield in international mode ahead of the next day’s Scotland vs Italy match.
“Of course the players (cut from the Scotland squad) were disappointed but these things happen. Vern can only take 31 players but because of the spirit we’ve got and togetherness we have at the club, the boys just slotted back in and they’re happy to be back with their team-mates and you could see that tonight.”
Solomons continued, highlighting the contributions from winger Damien Hoyland and flanker Hamish Watson: “I’m really pleased how these boys fitted in really well. “Damien’s a young boy with a lot of talent and Hamish is a classy player. I thought that every single player who got on to the pitch tonight did himself justice.”
Ulster dominated the opening action, camped in Scotland’s half for the 1st 10 minutes but unable to turn possession into points, despite a promising break from Tommy Bowe.
It was the home side, through scrumhalf Nathan Fowles, who opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty after Ulster were pinged at the breakdown, making it 3 / 0 after 16 minutes.
The visitors answered back swiftly as Stuart McCloskey powered through off a lovely ball from Sam Windsor – a late replacement for Ian Humphries – who passed to Craig Gilroy to sent Bowe over. The conversion attempt from Windsor was wide but Ulster led 3 / 5 midway through the 1st half.
The tide began to turn as the half-hour mark approached and Edinburgh ramped up the pressure, camped on Ulster’s 5m line with wave after wave of attack, spearheaded by last week’s man of the match Roddy Grant.
After a number of punctuating short drives, it was back row Magnus Bradbury who powered over for the score emerging, delighted, from pile of bodies prostrate over the whitewash. Lining up his conversion from the 22 out wide, Fowles was accurate with the boot to make it 10 / 5 nearing halftime.
Within minutes the hosts added another try, this time from Otulea Katoa, making his 1st start. Fullback Nick McLennan collected a high ball, a great dummy from Grant was wellied out to Katoa who crossed in the near corner. Fowles added a conversion on the stroke of halftime for a 17 / 5 lead.
There were wholesale changes for Edinburgh at the break – 9 replacements kept the match announcer busy as the opening minutes of action played out.
The mass subbing didn’t unsettle the side, however, more bolstered confidence as Edinburgh bullied at the breakdown and bossed the scrum. It was the visitors who scored next, though, Andrew Trimble touching down on the 64-minute mark with Luke Marshall missed a conversion.
With 15 minutes to go, Edinburgh made themselves comfortable in the driving seat, causing the visitors to make errors and capitalising through 2 impressive Jack Cuthbert penalties from range, in quick succession, bringing the final score to 23 / 10.
A positive result which can do nothing but bolster the capital club’s confidence going into the opening Round of the Guinness PRO12 next Friday, with another Irish province the combatants.
Solomons said: “We know we’re going to have a tough game against Leinster next week. The lesson we’ve learnt tonight is not to give away possession through not being accurate in execution and indiscipline in giving away penalties – you’re going to end up doing a lot of tackling.
“But this win, on the back of the Romanian win, will generate confidence into the Leinster game. The Irish provinces are incredibly strong – we’re expecting a tough game but we’ll be ready for it.”
Canada 19 / 12 Glasgow Warriors
Nova Scotia remains in Canadian hands after Glasgow Warriors lost out in today’s Battle for New Scotland in Halifax.
The match against Canada rounds off Glasgow’s pre-season matches with the new PRO12 campaign kicking off next week with the visit of Scarlets to Scotstoun.
Glasgow tries came from Glenn Bryce and Junior Bulumakau with Scott Wight kicking a conversion.
Predictably, it was DTH van der Merwe that went over for the score that sealed the match for Canada.
The Canadians now head to England to finalise their preparations for the Rugby World Cup. They have 2 more warm up games against Georgia and Fiji.
The Warriors opened the scoring early when outside centre Glenn Bryce crossed but 11 minutes later 2nd-row Jamie Cudmore went over for Canada. Nathan Hirayama’s conversion pushed the home side 7 / 5 ahead.
Matt Evans doubled Canada’s tally with a converted score just before the half-hour mark.
Glasgow fly-half Rory Clegg was Yellow-Carded before the break for an intentional knock-on.
The 2nd half saw the Warriors pressure the Canadian line but tight defensive work kept the PRO12 champions out.
In hot conditions in Halifax, water breaks were being taken and following the 60-minute fluids Glasgow continued their assault on Canada’s try-line, with home 2nd-row Evan Olmstead being Yellow-Carded in the process.
9 Minutes from time the Warriors managed to close the margin to 2 points when replacement Junior Bulumakau showed great agility to touch down in the corner, but 2 minutes from time up stepped DTH to seal the victory for Canada.
After the match, Gregor Townsend said: “I was pleased with a lot of aspects of individual play especially in the 2nd-half when young guys were coming off the bench.
“We were disappointed with aspects of our accuracy and the players and coaches will need to work hard to improve that.
“We’ve got to make sure we put what we’ve learned from 2 defeats in Clermont & Canada into a winning performance on Saturday.”