Smith looks back at the U20 season

Smith looks back at the U20 season

Friday the 13th can be deemed unlucky to those that are superstitious, however, it was recently a day where the fortune was particularly in Scotland U20's favour.

The squad endured a rollercoaster of emotions on that day back in March; from confusion and doubt to complete joy and triumph.

While the team were busy preparing for their final match in the U20 Six Nations competition against Wales, they received the news that the senior men’s game that was due to take place the following day in Cardiff had been postponed.

With the fate of their game now hanging in the balance, the squad kept their composure behind the scenes and soon welcomed the news that the game would go ahead behind closed doors at Colwyn Bay.

With the eyes of the nation now turning to the young Scots, the team showed maturity and mental resilience to keep their focus and claim an impressive 17-52 win away from home.

As one of the more experienced players in the U20 cohort, full-back Ollie Smith treated the game as just another day in the office.

Smith said: “Before the game, there was a bit of speculation on whether our game was going ahead or not due to the growing concerns about coronavirus.

“The men’s game had been called off as we were starting our preparations. We then heard the news that our game was going ahead behind closed doors and that was quite a weird atmosphere but we just told ourselves that we are here to do a job.

“We got off to a really good start and the momentum just kept rolling. We had been suspect to a couple of dips in performance for the first twenty minutes of the second-half where we would concede a couple of points, but we identified that and we knew we couldn’t afford for that to happen if we wanted to win the game.

“We did concede a couple of points in that last game, but it was a great feeling to score as many tries as we did.”

With Sean Lineen and Shade Munro taking charge of the side this season, Smith highlighted that the coaches encouraged the players to take risks, express themselves and play their own style of rugby.

He said: “A lot of guys spoke about how this year seems to be a lot more relaxed and player led. Sean and Shade were big on players putting their thoughts forward and seeing what we can do.

“I know as a back that Sean was always keen for us to just express ourselves and not hold back. It was more ‘do your own thing’ based which a lot of us enjoyed and it paid off quite a bit.

“Sean always tried to challenge the backs to score the tries and let the forwards do the work. Certainly in the last game, there was only one try scored by a forward and we scored seven tries so the backs really stepped up.

“We know we have a really exciting back-line which we’ve had from U16 to U20 level so we knew that was going to be a point of difference against other teams and we sort of utilised that and executed our game plan really well in the last game.

“We had a lot of competitive performances and we didn’t get as many wins as we should have done but it allowed more of us to play our own game.”

It was a season of mixed results for the U20 group, however, it was clear that they had made big strides in their performance following a disappointing 2019 campaign.

Smith continued: “We spoke in the week leading up to the Italy game that we sort of owed it to Italy because they obviously beat us twice last year in the Six Nations and in the Junior World Championship.

“We made life pretty difficult for ourselves but it just showed the intent we all had to dig pretty deep while we were 12 points down with 15 minutes to go and then score a couple of times and win the game.

“That really moved us forward and we were happy to get the first win under our belt with two more games to go.

“We spoke about how we needed to keep the good performances going and unfortunately we came up short against France but everything just seemed to go our way on the night against Wales.”

The Fosroc Scottish Rugby Academy stage-three player, who currently plies his trade at Ayrshire Bulls, has also noticed the step up in intensity and skill with the introduction of Super6 this season and believes it has helped prepare players for the U20 camp.

He said: “It’s been my second year of playing men’s rugby and last year was maybe a bit of a shock going from school rugby to men’s rugby.

“Obviously the level of intensity and the size of the players is a lot different but Super6 has been able to help prepare us more for the U20 camp. There is a lot more players coming in from all over the league so it picks up the standard and the level of opposition you play as well.

“Ayrshire Bulls were one of the teams pushing to be in the play-offs so there is a good group of boys there that push you and expect high levels of rugby.”

You can watch Scotland’s emphatic win over Wales in Colwyn Bay tonight (Wednesday 27 May) at 6pm BST on our YouTube channel and Facebook page, powered by SP Energy Networks.

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