Scotland 34 Samoa 0: Gregor Townsend singles out "outstanding" Jamie Ritchie in "exceptional" performance
Scotland coach Gregor Townsend described his team’s performance as “exceptional” as they plugged away until finally securing the bonus point needed with a fourth try six minutes from time as they shut-out Samoa in sultry Kobe.
The win, and five points, gets the Scots back in the mix in Pool A following their opening flop against Ireland and it was a much happier Townsend who faced the media today.
“The goal was to win the game and we believed with the pressure we built that opportunities would come in the second half,” he said.
“We’re glad we got it. To win and play better was the target and anything extra would be an exceptional performance, and it was, especially in the first half.”
Of almost as much satisfaction to the coach was the zero against the physical Samoans at the final whistle.
“That’s a real credit to the players and to Matt Taylor, our defence coach, who does a fantastic job,” added Townsend.
“He puts systems in place and he motivates players to defend. Tonight they defended with passion. They got off the line and put big hits on big men and did it time and time again.”
Skipper Stuart McInally admitted the sauna-like conditions in the indoor stadium presented an added challenge.
“It was tough. With the roof closed I was sweating at he start of the warm-up,” said the hooker. “The ball was slippy but it was the same for both teams so it was pleasing we managed to force a few errors from Samoa because of our pressure.”
Scotland were 20-0 up at half-time after a nip and tuck first 20 minutes with only a Greig Laidlaw penalty to show for it.
The Scots sparked into life in the second quarter as tries from Sean Maitland and Greig Laidlaw, both created by some inspiration from stand-off Finn Russell, put them in control. A cracking long-range drop goal from Stuart Hogg rammed home the advantage.
Everything looked on course when a penalty try was awarded with more than 20 minutes left after wing Ed Fidow stopped a lineout drive over the Samoan line from an offside position.
With six minutes left Maitland surged for the corner but had clearly lost the ball short in his dive for the line. But the TMO referral revealed that man Fidow had again transgressed, this time with a knee first tackle which earned him a red and Scotland another penalty try and that all important fourth.
“That was a true reflection of who we are and what we are capable of and what playing for Scotland means to the players,” added Townsend. “That was a tough challenge to face, knowing that if we underperformed we were out of the World Cup. To see the effort and togetherness was excellent.
“Last week we missed the beginning of the game and I take responsibility for not preparing the team well enough to start well against Ireland. But that didn’t make us a bad team. Tonight was great to see them get rewards for their effort.”
Townsend reserved special praise for the dynamic and tireless efforts of a new back-row comprising of Magnus Bradbury, the magnificent Jamie Ritchie and Blade Thomson.
“I thought Jamie Ritchie was outstanding,” said Townsend. “TO think he could have missed the World Cup with his cheek injury, to come back from surgery to do that showed what an exceptional player he is, but also his character.
“Magnus gave us go-forward and hit hard in the tackle and fronted up against big men.
“Blade, as he has done for us so far, did the little things really well. He made good decisions and was technically very good in the lineouts and base of the scrum and linking forwards and backs.”
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