Scotland convincingly defeat Georgia in their return to international rugby – but bigger tests lie ahead.
Gregor Townsend’s squad put on an emphatic performance during Friday night’s international curtain-raiser against Georgia, where Townsend’s men came out 48-7 winners. This was to be the first test since Scotland stunned the French at BT Murrayfield back in March (who would believe it has been seven months since that glorious win?). With Fraser Brown captaining the team for the first time and winning his 51st cap, it was set to be an exciting return to international rugby.
Prior to kick-off, there was something unnerving about the lack of supporters in the famous Edinburgh stadium. The deathly silence, coupled with the two-metre distance rule, suddenly made me realise that this was to be the new normal: no cheering, no chanting, no crying (especially for your average Scotland fan). However, this was soon broken by the home players’ rendition of Flower of Scotland, and there was that familiarity of home rugby once more.
The first-half started strongly for the Scots, with Darcy Graham going over the line after the two-minute mark. However, the hosts began to show early signs of poor handling errors and discipline when they started giving away penalties to Georgia. This was expected from a team who haven’t played together in over seven months, and naturally it was always going to be a rusty return. It wasn’t long before Scotland were back putting points on the scoreboard, with the skipper Fraser Brown scoring his first try of the night. Scotland took their time to get back playing fluid rugby but a powerful line-out secured try number three for the home team as Hamish Watson motored over the line. At half-time, the Scots were in a comfortable lead.
The next 40 minutes proved to be a more tidy display from the Scots. With Brown getting his second try at 50 minutes, we finally witnessed the long-awaited return of Finn Russell. The Racing 92 player trotted on with a wide grin for his 50th cap, and it didn’t take him long before he showed his old tricks again. Despite his two brilliant floating passes which came to nothing, the home side delivered an excellent lineout maul which allowed Stuart McInally to cross over. Hastings at this point had missed three conversions, but he managed to get his name on the scoreboard on his fourth attempt. This has been the first sign of rust by the Scotland fly-half on his return to the international stage and something that needs to be improved by next weekend.
With ten minutes to go, it was also a promising night for some notable newcomers. Edinburgh winger, Duhan van der Merwe, made his Scotland debut in style by motoring over the line for his first international try. The visitors at this point had lost all hope of a comeback and eventually went down to 14 men when their replacement scrum-half, Gela Aprasidze, was sin binned for a deliberate knock-on. This proved to be the final nail in the coffin, as it allowed Darcy Graham to claim his second try. Scotland saved the best try for last when Blair Kinghorn chased his own kick and beautifully touched the ball down before the final whistle, with Hastings converting.
It was a pretty comprehensive game for Scotland, and Townsend will be delighted, especially with the emphatic performance which stopped Georgia getting into the game. However, all eyes now turn to next weekend where they will conclude their 2020 Six Nations campaign against Wales. This will prove to be a far greater challenge, but after Wales’ recent defeat against the French, there might be a glimmer of hope for Townsend’s men to finish the tournament on a win.