Scotland 28-12 Fiji
There was no champagne rugby at BT Murrayfield this afternoon. Instead, Scotland had to roll up their sleeves and eventually put Fiji away by four tries to two.
Winning is the currency that matters in international rugby and after successive crippling narrow defeats against Argentina and Australia, today’s result had to be preferable.
But with Fiji three times reduced to 14 men – Scotland also had Stuart Hogg yellow carded during the first half and Darcy Graham at the end – there was precious little flow and too many infringements.
Scotland’s tries were from George Turner, Adam Hastings, Duhan van der Merwe and Ben White and no doubt there will be much analysis before New Zealand are the visitors next Sunday.
Scottish Rugby’s patron, HRH The Princess Royal, was presented to both teams before the kick-off with the Fijian team showing their traditional respect.
Stuart Hogg kicked off for Scotland attacking the railway end of the ground and from Darcy Graham’s high ball catch and a thrust from Grant Gilchrist and Pierre Schoeman, Fiji were penalised at the ruck.
Referee Nic Berry posted a huge statement of his intent by yellow-carding Ratu Leone Rotuisolia inside the second minute for that offence.
Scotland opted for the touchline and Graham was thwarted on the right.
Another penalty, for maul collapse, saw Scotland again pass up the kick at goal. Gilchrist won the lineout and the forwards surged towards the goal line for George Turner to dot down. It was his eighth try for Scotland. Adam Hastings struck a fine conversion to bring up his 100 points for his country (7-0, 7 mins).
Setareki Tuicuvu had a change to pull back three points, but he pushed the relatively simple penalty wide in the tenth minute.
He atoned minutes later however, bypassing Stuart Hogg’s attempted tackle at the right corner flag to score. Tuicuvu could not convert (7-5, 14mins).
Richie Gray was the target at the next lineout in the aftermath of a penalty, but Fiji disrupted the maul and Chris Harris was then pinged for a clear-out that was clumsy rather than malicious.
Scotland again were conceding penalties in succession and after Levani Botai had been held up close to the home line, Fiji recycled and Rotuisolia burrowed over for their second try. As Stuart Hogg headed for the sin bin having been offside, Vilimoni Botitu converted (7-12, 23 mins).
Fiji sought to exploit the wide spaces given Hogg’s yellow card, but Scotland’s defence just about held firm.
Another penalty, this time for a scrum infringement enabled Fiji to boot their way deep into Scotland’s 22, but again they were denied and Scotland eventually cleared from their own scrum possession.
Hogg returned and from a turnover won by Schoeman, Hogg and Harris released Duhan van der Merwe but the wing was bundled into touch with Ali Price waiting unused infield.
Still, Scotland at last had some territory and from a penalty against Botia for sealing off, they opted for a scrum nine metres out.
They had the forward momentum, too, and when Price released his outside backs, Hastings pressed pause on further distribution and it turned out a very smart call as he waltzed out of Kalaveti Ravouvou; tackle to score behind the posts. It was his fifth try for Scotland and for good measure he added the conversion to give Scotland the interval advantage (14-12, 40 mins).
Half-time: Scotland 14-12 Fiji
Hastings departed injured after he was hit in a tackle and Botia had all but inched over at the corner for Fiji only to be recalled for a forward pass.
Van der Merwe caught a Price box kick, and the ball went via substitute Blair Kinghorn out to Graham only for a foot in touch to end that Scotland attack.
But the penalties were now coming in Scotland’s favour. Gilchrist caught at a close-range lineout set up from the kick option and with first Cam Redpath and then Graham going through the phases, Harris fired out wide to van der Merwe who bulldozed his way over for his 13th Scotland try. Kinghorn converted gloriously (21-12, 49 mins).
Graham had happily seen more ball this week and some dazzling footwork triggered Richie Gray on the gallop. Ewan Ashman was then held up over the line but the referee, fortunately, was playing an advantage .
Scotland were set for the lineout attack, Gilchrist again the provider but the first tilt was denied by another Fiji offence and from the second, Jack Dempsey was isolated and pinged for not releasing.
Into the final quarter and a second Fijian player was sin binned. This time it was winger Vinaya Habosi for a high swinging arm on Rory Sutherland.
But almost at once Jonny Gray was penalised for a tackle and Scotland were back outside their 22.
It was still such heavy weather for Scotland and the penalties inside the Fiji 22 that materialised in the next ten minutes did not produce the yellow card that Mr Berry had flourished inside the second minute.
A Cam Redpath “try” was ruled out after TMO adjudication pinpointed a Jack Dempsey scrum knock-on.
At that point, however, the referee did yellow card Fiji’s sub prop Livai Natave for deliberate popping at the scrum. Scotland opted to scrum, and Ben White sailed through a gap to repeat his try scoring exploits from the Calcutta Cup. Kinghorn converted (28-12, 73 mins).
Darcy Graham was sin binned at the death which almost summed up the game, especially after what we had witnessed for long enough inside the Fiji 22 in the second half.
Full-time: Scotland 28-12 Fiji
Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs); Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby); Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby), Cameron Redpath (Bath Rugby), Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby); Adam Hastings (Gloucester Rugby), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby), George Turner, Zander Fagerson, Richie Gray (all Glasgow Warriors) Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby), Jamie Ritchie CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson (both Edinburgh Rugby) and Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).
Subs: Ewan Ashman (Sale Sharks) for Turner (31 mins), Rory Sutherland (Ulster Rugby) for Schoeman (51 mins), Murphy Walker (Glasgow Rugby) for Zander Fagerson (68 mins), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) for Gilchrist (60 mins), Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) for Watson (51 mins), Ben White (London Irish) for Price (51 mins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) for Hastings (42 mins), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) for Harris (68 mins).
Fiji: Kini Murimurivalu; Setareki Tuicuvu, Waisea Nayacalevu CAPTAIN, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Vinaya Habosi; Vilimoni Botitu, Frank Lomani; Eroni Mawi, Sam Matavese, Manasa Saulo, Temo Mayanavanua, Ratu Leone Rotuisolia, Albert Tuisue, Levani Botia, Bill Mata.
Subs: Tevita Ikanivere, Livai Natave for Mawi (50 mins), Luke Tagi for Saulo (50 mins), Apisalome Ratuniyarawa for Mayanavanua, (55mins), Kitione Kamikamica for Rotuisolia (72 mins), Peni Matawalu for Lomani (64 mins), Teti Tela for Ravouvou (56 mins), Sireli Maqala for Murimurivalu (34 mins).
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia). Assistant referees: James Doleman (New Zealand) and Pierre Brousset (France). TMO: Brett Cronan (Australia).
Yellow cards: Ratu Leone Rotuisolia, Vinaya Habosi, Livai Natave (all Fiji); Stuart Hogg and Darcy Graham (both Scotland)
Famous Grouse Player of the Match: Darcy Graham (Scotland).