Nine-try win over Russia boosts Scotland quarter-final hopes

Scrum-half Horne and fly-half Hastings star as Scotland claim a bonus-point win in style against Russia to set up an enticing final pool fixture with Japan.

SHIZUOKA, 9 Oct – This was mission accomplished in style for Scotland as they seized the bonus-point win they required against Russia with a clinical display at Shizuoka Stadium Ecopa.

A nine-try victory sets them up perfectly for a tantalising final Pool A fixture on Sunday against host nation Japan, where qualification for the knockout stages will be the prize at stake for both sides.

Scrum-half George Horne, pictured, scored a hat-trick of tries - the first Scot to do so in a World Cup match since Ally Hogg against Romania in 2007 – and would have had a fourth but for a forward pass by Magnus Bradbury.

Horne's half-back partner Adam Hastings was denied a treble of tries by another forward pass in added time, but the Player of the Match could be well pleased with his 26-point haul, which included eight successful kicks out of nine.

"They played with real confidence and speed," purred coach Gregor Townsend. "Adam had real balance to his game with some excellent attacking kicks in the first half. 

"They both work really hard too. George is probably the fittest player in the squad. He gets to the breakdown so quickly. They both looked confident and fit."

Hastings's two tries and Horne's first all came within eight first-half minutes, with the crucial fourth try arriving four minutes into the second half. Scotland went on to add five more, boosting their points difference in the process.

As things stand, they can guarantee their progress to a likely quarter-final against New Zealand by beating Japan with a four-try bonus point, or if they win without a bonus point and deny the hosts any bonus points. A victory by more than seven points – assuming Japan do not score four or more tries in defeat – may yet suffice.

The game is scheduled for Yokohama's International Stadium on Sunday, but the growing threat of Typhoon Hagibis hitting the area means Scotland are awaiting an update from World Rugby over the next 24 to 48 hours on the possibility of the game being switched elsewhere.

"I am sure alternative venues and arrangements are being looked at," Townsend said.

The Scots will not know the exact scale of their task until after Ireland have played Samoa on Saturday. It is possible that three teams could finish on 15 points, in which case it would come down to overall points difference rather than head-to-head records.

Given that potential scenario, Scotland took the opportunity to bolster their points difference against a Russian outfit unable to cope with the speed of their game. 

"The way we have prepared and got ready for supersonic rugby at Tier 1 level is all credit to our players," coach Lyn Jones said. "But Tier 1 rugby is not just another level, it's another sport for Tier 2 nations.

"Russian rugby is a sleeping bear, a sleeping giant. We just need to shake it awake and realise the potential that comes from this tournament."

Russia started with positive intent and it took until the 14th minute for the opening score to come, Hastings selling Vladislav Sozonov a dummy and cutting back inside to touch down after Scotland's pack had driven Russia back on their own scrum.

Hastings's second try was all his own work. The 23-year-old, son of Scotland legend Gavin, chipped over the defence and won the race to reach his own kick before hacking on left-footed over the try-line.

The bouncing ball eluded Russia captain Vasily Artemyev and Hastings dived on it to become the first fly-half from a Six Nations country to score more than one try in a World Cup match.

Moments later he arrowed a delightful kick into the corner to apply more pressure. The Bears won the lineout but scrum-half Dmitry Perov's pass was picked off by the alert Horne to dot down.

Hastings converted all three to make it 21-0 but Scotland were guilty of forcing matters before half-time in their desperation to secure the bonus point.

It arrived in the 45th minute, Darcy Graham slashing past three opponents in a devastating burst before feeding Horne for his second try.

The tries then came at regular intervals against an exhausted defence. Impressive hooker George Turner grabbed the fifth, wing Tommy Seymour the sixth to move clear into fourth place on Scotland's all-time list with his 20th test try.

Horne, now playing on the left wing as Scotland utilised their bench to keep players fresh for Japan, combined with his brother Pete and Henry Pyrgos for his hat-trick score.

John Barclay and Stuart McInally both crossed late on to complete the rout, with the only potential downside a thumb injury sustained by centre Duncan Taylor, who was sent for an X-ray.

Now for the big one.

RNS bp/pp/bo