Hey everyone On wednesday Scotland opened their 2015 Rugby World Cup campaign with a convincing win 45-10 win over Japan. Well it was convincing if you look only at the scoreline and didn’t watch an enthralling game in which Japan more than played their part for the first 50 minutes or so before Scotland’s professionalism, freshness, and superior fitness levels finally told on a plucky Japanese side who had caused the biggest giant killing act in the history of the tournament by defeating the 1995 and 2007 champions South Africa 34-32 in their opening match in Brighton last Saturday.
Naturally this result sent shock waves round the Rugby world and starter a clamber in Japan for all kinds of rugby memorabilia as the world waited to see if they could put another top level nation to the sword. If anything Saturday’s result helped Scotland as it piled the pressure of expectation on the men from the land of the rising sun and Scotland started this game as only marginal favourites.
Scotland started brightly in the opening 20 minutes and two penalties from captain Greg Laidlaw put us in to a 6-0 lead yes I am a Scot just in case you haven’t guessed. That said however I am also a rugby girl and I knew that Japan would give us a game of it and show us why they the collected a significant scalp in Brighton on Saturday afternoon.
Even in the early stages they had given due notice to Scotland that they weren’t here simply to make up the numbers and actually took a 7-6 lead with a well worked converted try. This lead was not to last long and Greg Laidlaw restored what the Scots both in the crowd and those like me who were watching nervously at home would call the natural order of things with two more successful penalties to give the favourites a 12-7 lead which despite intense Japanese pressure we held until the break.
This was Japan’s best period of the game and on more than one occasion Scotland fans had squeaky bum moments as the Japanese forwards got far closer to the Scotland try line than I would have liked. It was during this period that those who don’t know rugby like for example my flatmate who was watching the game with me learned the truth of the comment which every rugby fan knows. Namely backs score tries but forwards win games and believe me Scotland’s forwards really were the power of Scotland during this part of the game.
After the break it looked like Japan would carry on where they left off and it was the cherry blossoms who scored the first points of the second half with a penalty which narrowed the gap to just two points. At 12-10 I don’t mind admitting that I was having an ever so slight moment of doubt but when our New Zealand born forward John Hardie scored our opening try even though it was unconverted I along with the rest of the country breathed a collective sigh of relief. Granted it was only 17-10 rather than the 19-10 I would have wanted at a time when I was only cautiously optimistic but that said this to me was the turning point of the game.
Within a few minutes another try came along courtesy of gifted young centre Mark Bennett and this time Laidlaw made no mistake with the conversation which sailed high over the bar much to the delight of the vast majority of fans in Gloucester’s Kingsholme stadium It was now 24-10 and for the first time Scotland had put a bit of daylight between themselves and their opponents. It was at this time I began to believe that we might just go on and win what up till this point been a tricky fixture and thus avoid a potential banana skin
The next score I thought would be decisive if Japan scored a second try and managed to convert it there would only be seven points between the teams and it would be time to panic again. To be honest though I couldn’t see that happening and thought we looked reasonably safe. Indeed if anyone looked likely to add to their tally it was Scotland and we did so thanks to a brilliant individual try from Tommy Seymour who ran 80 metres to score and leave Laidlaw with the easy task of converting from in front of the posts. At 31-10 even the most pessimistic of our country folk had to say Scotland had the game won two further tries from Mark Bennett his second of the game and birthday boy Fin Russell both successfully converted by Laidlaw meant that the game ended with the score Scotland 45 Japan 10 the giant killers had met giants they couldn’t kill.
Now I don’t like building teams up but Scotland were simply majestic in the second half with major contributions from Stewart Hogg, Mark Bennett and in his partner in the centre of our back line Matt Scott and in the forwards in Davie Dalton and Ross Ford had excellent games in a forward line which was as a solid as a rock. It was on this forward platform that the success was built that powered Scotland to victory.
That said however I can’t argue with the choice of Greg Laidlaw as man of the match. The Scotland captain showed real leadership at difficult moments in the game and when we needed cool heads to steady the team not to mention the nerves of a nation it was Greg Laidlaw who stepped up and dealt with the pressure and by doing so proved his value to both his team mates and his country.
Love And Best Wishes