Scotland get much-needed bonus-point win
Still in the hunt for quarter-final slot
Captain Ritchie forced off early with head injury
By Mitch Phillips
NICE, France, Sept 24 (Reuters) –
Scotland, almost the forgotten team of the Rugby World Cup, showed that they are still very much alive in the Group of Death as they secured the bonus-point victory they desperately needed by beating Tonga 45-17 on Sunday.
After having to wait two weeks since their opening-weekend defeat by South Africa, Scotland had the potentially all-important bonus point secured by halftime as they led 24-10 and added three more tries in a disjointed second half.
The win came at a cost, however, as captain and flanker Jamie Ritchie had to go off after being smashed in the head by the shoulder of Tonga winger Afusipa Taumoepeau late in the first half. Ritchie did not return and could face a period out due to concussion protocols.
The collision looked worthy of a red card but the bunker review decided there was some mitigation and Taumoepeau escaped with only 10 minutes in the sin-bin.
Ireland top the Pool B standings with 14 points, ahead of South Africa on 10. Scotland have five, with Tonga and Romania on zero. To have any chance of qualifying for the quarter-finals Scotland need to win their remaining games against Romania and Ireland, but even that might not be enough depending on the bonus point and points difference situation.
“It’s great to be back out there — it’s a long time in the middle of a competition,” said flyhalf Finn Russell. “We put out a decent enough performance. We’re going to have to get better if want to stay in this competition after the group stages but we got what we needed tonight.”
After their two-week layoff, Scotland were ahead after five minutes through George Turner after a rolling maul.
Tonga looked off the pace in their 59-16 defeat by Ireland but were much more together on Sunday and went into a 10-7 lead after a brilliant run and offload by Charles Piutau slipped in the impressive Solomone Kata for their first try.
Scotland winger Duhan van der Merwe, used to physically dominating his rivals, found Kata something of an immovable object but he managed to avoid him in the 26th minute to score Scotland´s second try after some crisp work by Russell and Blair Kinghorn. Another fizzing pass by Russell then sent Kyle Steyn in for the third.
Tonga´s indiscipline, particularly their wild tackling, was gifting Scotland penalties and points and then cost them Taumoepeau’s yellow card after a sickening collision sent Ritchie’s head whiplashing horribly.
Rory Darge forced his way through with the last play of the half as Scotland led 24-10.
Tonga closed the gap when 24-stone (152-kg) prop Ben Tameifuna bulldozed his way through five defenders for their second try.
Scotland lost their way a little until the 54th minute when a great run by Van der Merwe set up replacement scrumhalf George Horne to ease the tension with a two-score lead and a tryline siege then opened the way for a charging Kinghorn to score the sixth try.
There was still time for a bunker red card for Tongan Number eight Vaea Fifita for smashing dangerously into Russell at a ruck and Scotland took advantage of the space with a carving run and score by Darcy Graham.
“You’ve got to be happy with the win but we know we could have been a lot better in the last quarter,” said coach Gregor Townsend. “It just got a bit loose but I’m really proud of the effort that went in.
“Tonga were very physical but I thought we matched them in terms of physicality — some of our defensive work was outstanding. But there’s just a few tidy-ups, kingslot96 we got a little bit greedy in the second half. When you’re up on the scoreboard, we’ve got to be better in those situations.
“We know we’ve got to improve on this performance to get a bonus-point win against Romania. Then we’ve got a shootout against Ireland if that’s the case.” (Reporting by Mitch Phillips, Editing by Toby Davis and Clare Fallon)