Scotland secured a crucial bonus point in their 61-0 win over Russia to propel themselves into a decisive Pool A clash with Rugby World Cup hosts Japan.
Gregor Townsend’s side knew ahead of Wednesday’s match in Fukuroi that they needed back-to-back bonus-point victories to be sure of a spot in the quarter-finals.
And they got the first part of the job done as George Horne racked up a hat-trick of tries and Adam Hastings grabbed two, with the all-important fourth score coming early in the second half from Horne.
Further scores from George Turner, Tommy Seymour, John Barclay and Stuart McInally added further gloss as Scotland kept a clean sheet for the second game in a row.
5 – George Horne is the fifth player to score a hat-trick for @Scotlandteam at the @rugbyworldcup and the first since Ally Hogg in 2007 (v Romania). Triple.#RWC2019 #SCOvRUS pic.twitter.com/Dh87LbxzzY
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 9, 2019
Hastings converted his own try after 15 minutes to ease the early tension for a Scotland side showing 14 changes from the 34-0 win over Samoa, with the same man chasing down his own kick to double his tally soon after.
With Russia reeling, Scotland capitalised on a woeful error from Dmitry Perov, whose pass was intercepted by Horne for the simplest of scores.
The fourth try came at the end of a swift counter in which Darcy Graham did most of the work before offloading to Horne.
With their bonus-point mission accomplished, Scotland played with greater freedom for the remainder of the contest, with Turner crashing over off the back of a driving maul and Seymour sprinting to plunge on top of a skidding kick behind a deflated Russia defence.
Further punishment was to come for Lyn Jones’ men as Horne sealed his treble to cap a marauding move that again exposed Russia’s frailties, and there was still time for Barclay and McInally to cross the line.
Japan await in Pool A decider
This result puts Scotland on 10 points, with Japan leading the way on 14 and the number-one ranked Ireland on 11.
Ireland conclude their pool phase against Samoa and few would bet against a win for the Six Nations Grand Slam winners.
That would mean Scotland have to beat Japan and, providing they do not afford their opponents a losing bonus point, that would be enough to finish in the top two.
But the guaranteed route to the last eight is to go out and get another bonus-point win.
A morale-boosting triumph
Scotland have been playing catch-up in this pool since limping to a 27-3 loss in their opening match against Ireland.
But with two convincing wins on the bounce they now represent a very different prospect.
Wednesday’s display had its rough edges, but there was a confidence and swagger about Scotland that was so sorely lacking when they met Ireland.
Defeating the Brave Blossoms – so inspired thus far – on home soil will require all of that belief and conviction, and no small amount of quality.
58′ | TRY! George Horne races home for his hat trick! Conversion missed, 47 -0.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 9, 2019
Key Opta stats
– Scotland’s 61-0 victory was their second biggest in Rugby World Cup history, after an 89-0 win against Ivory Coast in 1995.
– Scotland have not conceded a point at this Rugby World Cup since Jack Carty’s 68th-minute penalty for Ireland in their opening game – they have now gone 172 minutes without conceding in the tournament.
– Scotland have kept their opponents scoreless in consecutive games for the first time since 1964 when they shut out France and New Zealand.
– Hastings scored his first two Rugby World Cup tries for Scotland in this game. His father, Gavin Hastings, is Scotland’s top point-scorer (227) and try-scorer (9) in the tournament.
– Barclay became the fourth player to score a try as Scotland captain in a Rugby World Cup match, after Gavin Hastings (twice), Gary Armstrong and Greig Laidlaw.
It is off to Yokohama for Scotland to take on the hosts on Sunday, while Russia can head home after failing to secure a point, and with just one try to their name.
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