Player Ratings: The Steyn show
OPINION: Scotland’s opening match of the 2021 Nations Series saw a rare joint captaincy of the team shared by Ali Price and Jamie Ritchie.
The Scots also fielded four uncapped players in the starting XV, two in the backs and two in the forwards.
All told it was a strong performance against a Tongan team low on preparation time, though you might surmise Townsend willl be frustrated with a relatively scrappy second-half.
Ian Cameron rates the Scotland players
15. DARCY GRAHAM – 8
His first touch was a 20 metre mazy run through the Tongan defence, before he shipped a knock care of an unyielding Tonga shoulder. Had his hands full marking the 6’5, 115kg Walter Fifita but was a constant source of pain for islanders’ slipshod defensive system.
14. KYLE STEYN – 9
Carried powerfully from the off and was rewarded with his first Test try 23 minutes into proceedings, his second arriving a few minutes later and his third on the verge of halftime. A fourth would come moments before the end, the first time a Scotland player has scored four since Gavin Hastings 26 years ago. Played a fine hand off the ball too.
13. SIONE TUIPULOTU – 7
An Australian of Tongan heritage, it was an impressive debut from Tuipulotu. Executed his hand skills well, his pass for Steyn’s first try catching the eye.
12. SAM JOHNSON – 7
In the absence of the injured Cam Redpath, this was a real opportunity for the Glasgow centre to re-stamp his name on the 12 jersey. The spoils of war went to boys on the edge, but Johnson played his part in servicing their endeavours.
11. RUFUS MCLEAN – 9
The debutant smashed his way through the Tongan defense to claim his first try with just seven minutes on the clock. Eight minutes and a savage ankle breaker later and he had claimed his second. The Glaswegian is a modestly-sized proposition at 84kg but boy does he pack an explosive punch.
10. BLAIR KINGHORN – 7.5
According to Townsend, Kinghorn was picked at 10 to ‘challenge the gain line more’ and add to Scottish depth at flyhalf. He did that, showcasing his passing abilities and kicking decently from hand. At 6’5, he certainly brought a different physical presence to the ten channel. His place kicking needs work though.
9. ALI PRICE – 7
A relatively quiet outing for Price, who wasn’t put under huge pressure by the Tongans. It was armchair territory for the co-captain but he did all that was asked of him.
8. MATT FAGERSON – 6.5
Scotland were happy to move it wide early, so the back row unit wasn’t under pressure to carry in traffic. Fagerson was largely left with tackling duty, no mean feat given the size of the Tongan pack.
7. HAMISH WATSON – 6
A couple of trademark steals on the decks but not too much by way of explosive carrying. Made way at halftime.
6. JAMIE RITCHIE – 7.5
Chomping at the bit to captain his country after Scotland’s summer cancellations and his omission from the Lions tour. Was at the heart of the Scottish struggle and showed mature communication skills with match referee Nic Berry. His superb offload to Johnson deserved a try.
5. ROB HARLEY – 7
It’s been a minute since fans last saw Harley in a Scottish kit. The Glaswegian veteran showed the mobility that has marked out his career and was heavily involved in the tough stuff upfront and it was no surprise when he ceded the yellow.
4. JAMIE HODGSON – 7
Another debutant with a performance that will please Townsend. Did the basics well and showed his ability to contribute around the park.
3. ZANDER FAGERSON – 7
A few solid contributions from the British & Irish Lions tourist and the odd fumble too to be fair. Had a decent battle with La Rochelle’s Loni Uhila.
2. GEORGE TURNER – 7.5
A 49th-minute try was just reward for an industrious outing for Turner, who got through plenty of work.
1. PIERRE SCHOEMAN – 8
A number of decent touches and carries and handled the giant 135kg David Lolohea well. Bulldozed his way over for a try on debut and you suspect he’ll soon become part of Scotland’s Test furniture.
REPLACEMENTS – 6
With the game effectively put to bed by halftime, Scotland’s bench were more or less left with sweeping up duty, with Stuart McInally, Jamie Bhatti, Oli Kebble and co getting stuck in. The game had lost any meaningful structure by the closing 20 minutes and Tonga enjoyed their best spell during this period.
By Ian Cameron, Rugbypass