Scotland got their four-Test summer tour off to a winning start with a three-try triumph over the USA at the BBVA Compass Stadium in Texas tonight (24-6).
The match was the first with new head coach Vern Cotter at the helm, with two tries from the back-three – Tim Visser and Stuart Hogg – sandwiching a pack-earned penalty try, to ensure his tenure got off to a winning start.
Cotter said: “Everybody is putting their hand up and trying to get the team going forward and initiative is a very important thing in this game.
I was pleased that, even though there were mistakes made, there was still the intention to keep playing and keep pressure on the opposision.”
- - Head coach Vern Cotter
The first half was the most impressive for the visitors who, despite earning two tries, left at least another two out on the field.
Captain Greig Laidlaw and USA full-back Chris Wyles first exchanged a pair of penalties, before Laidlaw, characteristically pulling strings from scrum-half, broke free from the base of the ruck and put Visser away for a canter-in score – his seventh try in 13 caps.
A successful Laidlaw conversion followed to put Scotland 10-3 to the good with the players continuing to put width on attack.
Hogg, Maitland and Visser continued to link well and, after unlocking a hole for back-row Blair Cowan to break through, the debutant passed back outside to Visser, only for the winger to knock on what would have almost certainly been his second in as many minutes.
Sadly for Visser his heartache wasn’t over for the half.
This time he crossed the whitewash and touched the ball down with outstretched arms, only for the ground to knock the ball out of his hands and the TMO to rule out the score.
Despite the scores going awry, the team continued to pile on the pressure, with the success eventually yielded by the pack, first in forcing a yellow card for repeated USA infringements at scrum time, before re-setting and earning a penalty try – number 8 Johnnie Beattie showing fine footwork at the back to control the ball as the eight men marched forward.
Laidlaw converted to give the Scots an increasingly comfortable lead (17-3).
All week the Scots had talked of the physicality and relentlessness expected from their hosts, and this came true in the last ten minutes of the first 40.
United States’ captain Todd Clever was their stand out player on the day and looked to deliver on his efforts to lead from the front, forcing his way through contact on the five metre line to touch down, only to be penalised for a double movement.
Wyles had another shot at the sticks to end the half, but his 40 metre strike was way short.
The Houston heat and fatigue looked to be a telling factor on both teams in the second-half as the pace and intensity dipped after the interval.
Wyles added a second penalty kick after ten minutes to reward his side’s efforts to battle back into the game, though the Scots’ defence held firm to keep them otherwise at bay.
It was then that Scotland got the breakthrough they needed to see out the match.
The USA hoisted a high ball out into the wide channel, where Hogg and Visser were waiting to collect it.
The communication between the pair was clear and Hogg lept skyward to pluck the ball from the air at pace.
He took off down the tram-lines, out sprinting the American attempts to cover across the pitch to stop his fifth try in 21 caps.
Laidlaw then stepped up to slot a third, touchline conversion, to extend the lead and all but end the match.
USA Eagles: 15 Chris Wyles; 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Andrew Suniula, 11 Luke Hume; 10 Shalom Suniula, 9 Mike Petri; 1 Olive Kilifi, 2 Phil Thiel, 3 Eric Fry, 4 Louis Stanfill, 5 Hayden Smith, 6 Todd Clever CAPTAIN, 7 Scott LaValla, 8 Cameron Dolan. Substitutes: 16 Tom Coolican on for Thiel (20’), 17 Nick Wallace on for Kilifi (25’), 18 Titi Lamositele on for Kilifi (53’), 19 Tai Tuisamoa on for Stanfill (62’), 20 Danny Barrett on for Smith (53’), 21 Folau Niua on for Suniula (20’), 22 Chad London, 23 Tim Maupin.
Scotland team: 15 Stuart Hogg; 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Sean Lamont, 12 Duncan Taylor, 11 Tim Visser; 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig laidlaw CAPTAIN; 1 Gordon Reid, 2 Scott Lawson, 3 Geoff Cross, 4 Richie Gray, 5 Jim Hamilton, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 7 Blair Cowan, 8 Johnnie Beattie. Substitutes: 16 Pat MacArthur on for Lawson (60’), 17 Alex Allan on for Reid (58’), 18 Moray Low on for Cross, 19 Grant Gilchrist on for Hamilton (37’), 20 Kieran Low on for Stokosch (60’), 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Ruaridh Jackson on for Hogg (75’), 23 Max Evans on for Taylor (60’).