Rugby World Cup 2019
Scotland 61-0 Russia
George Horne scored a hat-trick of tries as Scotland seized the bonus-point win they required in style against Russia with a clinical display.
The win set them up for a tilt at reaching the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals in their final pool match against host nation Japan on Sunday.
An energetic first half produced two tries from Player of the Match Adam Hastings, who scored 26 points overall, and one from scrum-half Horne to give Gregor Townsend’s side a commanding 21-0 lead at half-time.
The crucial fourth try arrived five minutes after the resumption and Scotland went on to add five more, boosting their points difference in the process.
As things stand, Scotland can guarantee their progress to a likely quarter-final against New Zealand by beating Japan in Yokohama – Typhoon Hagibis permitting – with a four-try bonus point and denying the hosts any bonus points. But a victory by more than seven points – assuming Japan do not score more than four tries in defeat – may yet suffice.
The Scots will not know the exact scale of their task until after Ireland have played Samoa on Saturday. If Ireland were to win but not claim a bonus point, there is a possibility that three teams could finish on 15 points, in which case it would come down to overall points difference rather than head-to-head records, as each side would have beaten one of the other two.
Given that potential scenario, Scotland took the opportunity to bolster their points difference.
Russia started positively in a whirlwind opening but within half an hour they looked spent, unable to cope with the speed of Scotland’s game.
It took until the 14th minute for the opening score, after Scotland had driven back a Russian scrum inside the Bears’ 22. From the resultant scrum, Ryan Wilson and Horne combined to feed Hastings, who sold Vladislav Sozonov a dummy and cut back inside to touch down.
Hastings’ second try was all his own work. The 23-year-old, son of Scotland legend Gavin, sized up his options on halfway, chipped over the Russian defence and won the race to reach his own kick first, before hacking on left-footed over the try line.
The bouncing ball eluded Russia captain Vasily Artemyev and Hastings dived on it to become the first fly-half from a Six Nations country to score two tries in a World Cup match.
Moments later he arrowed a delightful kick into the corner to apply more pressure. The Bears won the lineout but scrum-half Dmitry Perov’s pass was picked off by the alert Horne to dot down Scotland’s third try in the space of nine minutes.
Hastings converted all three to make it 21-0 and his probing kicks continued to turn the Russian defence.
Scotland were guilty of forcing matters before half-time in their desperation to secure the bonus point, but it arrived in the 45th minute, Darcy Graham slashing past three Russian players in a devastating burst before feeding Horne for his second try.
Impressive hooker George Turner grabbed the fifth and Tommy Seymour ended an eight-test drought as he moved clear into fourth place on Scotland’s all-time list with his 20th test try.
Horne, now playing on the left wing as Scotland utilised their bench to keep players fresh for Japan, combined with his brother Peter and Henry Pyrgos to become the first Scot to score a World Cup hat-trick since Ally Hogg against Romania in 2007.
He was denied what would have been a fourth by a forward pass from Magnus Bradbury, but John Barclay and Stuart McInally both crossed late on to complete the rout.