Scotland v Georgia: Fraser Brown and Darcy Graham grab doubles in eight-try victory
Scotland shook off the rust of their long, enforced lay-off with a 48-7 victory over Georgia which included eight tries and hinted at enough promise to suggest a fruitful autumn lies ahead.
Captain Fraser Brown and winger Darcy Graham weighed in with two scores apiece and there were also tries for Hamish Watson, Stuart McInally, debutant Duhan van der Merwe and Blair Kinghorn.
Tougher tests lie ahead - Wales await in the Six Nations next weekend - but this was a performance of some substance from Gregor Townsend’s men after their extended period in purdah.
The return of international rugby to Murrayfield after 231 days came with a big caveat, of course. The stadium, packed to the rafters when France were put to the sword in early March, was empty.
The Scottish Rugby Union is still optimistically urging supporters to sign up for ticket ballots for next month’s Autumn Nations Cup matches against France and Fiji but it is surely more in hope than expectation.
The denuded nature of the encounter didn’t stop the PA operator pumping out the tunes in the build-up, creating the incongruous sight of the Georgian pack’s ferocious scrummaging practice being soundtracked by some old skool classics.
When the teams stepped onto the dance floor at half-past seven the lack of fans seemed to hinder the visitors more than the hosts.
A raucous shout of “let’s go Scotland” accompanied Kinghorn’s kick-off and set the tone for the home side’s dynamic start. An early turnover allowed the Scots to set up camp in the Georgian 22 and they quickly signalled their attacking intent by running a penalty from ten yards out.
They were denied on that occasion but not for long and it was Graham’s quick thinking which allowed Scotland to make an early breakthrough. The Hawick flyer took a quick tap penalty and wriggled his way through for the opening try. Adam Hastings kicked the extras.
All the rugby was being played in the Georgian half of the field, with the visitors struggling to cope with Scotland’s speed.
The absence of crowd noise meant every collision could be heard and Duhan van der Merwe was subjected to a shuddering tackle which was probably heard in Roseburn Park.
The Georgians were starting to find their feet and began making the odd foray into Scotland territory. But the respite was brief and Scotland reasserted their authority with two tries either side of the half-hour mark.
Fittingly, it was Brown, captain for the night, who increased Scotland’s lead.
Scotland pushed their opponents back into their own half and when Kinghorn kicked a penalty for touch the home side used the lineout as a platform for a forwards drive. The Georgian pack have a fearsome reputation but they were shoved back over their own line as the Scots plundered the try through Brown, much to his team-mates’ delight.
Hastings pulled the conversion wide of the left-hand post but Scotland did not have to wait long to get more points on the board. It was another try from a forward but Hamish Watson did a decent impression of a winger as he popped up on the left and breezed over the line. Hastings was out of luck once more but Scotland went into the break 17-0 ahead.
Georgia stunned their hosts at the start of the second half by scoring their first-ever Test try at Murrayfield. Akaki Tabutsadze gathered a popped up pass from scrum-half Vasil Lobzhanidze and touched down in the corner. The pass looked forward and probably was but it skiffed the fingertips of Scott Cummings en route to the Georgian winger and the try was good.
Tedo Abzhandadze converted to reduce the deficit to ten points.
Scotland were stung and quickly reasserted their authority. A period of concerted pressure was rewarded when Brown forced his way over to put Scotland 22-7 ahead. Hastings struck the post with the conversion.
It was the signal for Scotland to empty the bench. Captain Brown took a well-earned break with McInally replacing him. Oli Kebble also came on for his first cap and was joined by Simon Berghan and Russell.
It was the stand-off’s 50th appearance for Scotland but his first from the bench and brought to an end his year-long exile from the national side. His arrival saw Hastings shunted out to centre.
McInally made a quick impression, scoring Scotland’s fifth try. Once again, the Scots used a penalty to kick for touch and used the lineout to win clean ball and drive the reserve hooker over the line. Hastings kicked the conversion.
Georgia were starting to look ragged and when Russell passed inside to van der Merwe the Edinburgh man was able to run in under the posts and mark his international debut with a try, which Hastings converted.
Try number seven came with five minutes remaining and it was the third plundered via a lineout. There was a nice bit of variety this time, however, as the forwards’ drive was cut short so the ball could be fed to the buccaneering Graham who raced over for his second score.
Scotland rounded things off with a lovely try from Kinghorn. The big full-back was on the books of Hearts as a youth and showed some nice footballing skills as he kicked not once but twice after some smart interplay between Hastings and Russell.
The try even included a nutmeg of sorts as the ball slipped between the unfortunate Georgian defender’s legs, allowing Kinghorn to gather and touch down. Hastings added the two points.
SCORERS. SCOTLAND: Tries: D Graham 2, Brown 2, Watson, McInally, van der Merwe, Kinghorn. Cons: Hastings 4.
GEORGIA: Try: Tabutsadze. Con: Abzhandadze.
SCOTLAND: B Kinghorn; D Graham, C Harris, J Lang, D van der Merwe; A Hastings, A Price; R Sutherland, F Brown (c), Z Fagerson, B Toolis, S Cummings, J Ritchie, H Watson, M Fagerson.
Subs: S McInally, O Kebble, S Berghan, R Harley, N Haining, C du Preez, G Horne, F Russell.
GEORGIA: I Matiashvili; A Tabutsadze, D Tapladze, M Sharkadze (c), A Todua; T Abzhandadze, V Lobzhandidze; M Nariashvili, J Bregvadze, L Kaulashvili, N Cheishvili, G Kerdikoshvili, O Giorgadze, B Saginadze, B Gorgadze.
Subs: S Mamukashvili, G Gogicashvili, G Melikidze, G Javakhia, G Tkhilaishvili, G Aprasidze, G Kveseladze, T Mchedilidze.
REFEREE: Alexandre Ruiz (France)
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