Scotland's second-stringers laboured to a 39-16 bonus-point victory over USA at Elland Road in Leeds on Sunday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
Much like during their encounter with Japan earlier in the week, the Scots made it difficult for themselves in an error-strewn first half, before an improved second-half performance saw them blow the USA away to head up Pool B.
The USA Eagles played particularly well just before the break, sparking hopes that they might pull off another upset in this pool, but once Scotland got into the game, they couldn't handle the relentless attacks on their line.
Penalties by AJ MacGinty and one each by Stuart Hogg and Finn Russell gave Scotland a 6-3 lead after 15 minutes, but the scoreboard might have read differently if the Americans, who were playing well, had a functioning lineout.
Their luck turned and when they finally got solid ball from the set piece and front-foot ball, tighthead prop Titi Lamositele barged over for the first try of the match.
MacGinty converted and despite Scotland pressing to regain the lead, it was the USA pivot who finished the half with another penalty goal to put his team 13-6 up at the interval.
Scotland came out firing at the resumption, narrowing the gap to 13-11 with wing Tim Visser’s unconverted effort. But USA were never going to be able to defend a two-point lead until the end against a galvanised Scottish outfit.
Having worked the ball up through the phases, Sean Maitland, coming off his wing spot, went through a gaping hole in the USA defence to score Scotland’s second try.
MacGinty knocked over his third penalty, but it mattered little, as further scores by WP Nel and Matt Scott secured the bonus point for Vern Cotter's men.
With the game all but over, there was still time for Duncan Weir to cruise over for Scotland's fifth try.
Scotland – Tries: Tim Visser, Sean Maitland, WP Nel, Matt Scott, Duncan Weir. Conversion: Finn Russell (2), Greig Laidlaw (2). Penalties: Stuart Hogg, Russell.
USA – Try: Titi Lamositele. Conversion: AJ MacGinty. Penalties: MacGinty (3).
Scotland – 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Henry Pyrgos (c), 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Hardie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Ryan Grant.
Subs: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 WP Nel, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Matt Scott.
USA – 15 Chris Wyles (c), 14 Takudzwa Ngwenya, 13 Seamus Kelly, 12 Thretton Palamo, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 AJ MacGinty, 9 Mike Petri, 8 Samu Manoa, 7 Andrew Durutalo, 6 Al McFarland, 5 Greg Peterson, 4 Hayden Smith, 3 Titi Lamositele, 2 Phil Thiel, 1 Eric Fry.
Subs: 16 Zach Fenoglio, 17 Oli Kilifi, 18 Chris Baumann, 19 Cam Dolan, 20 John Quill, 21 Danny Barrett, 22 Shalom Suniula, 23 Folau Niua.
Photo: Mark Runnacles/Getty Images