Rugby union: Scotland’s morale-boosting victory over the Wallabies

England also confident after dismantling Tonga 69-3

Scotland's Jamie Ritchie celebrates with Ewan Ashman
Scotland's Jamie Ritchie celebrates with Ewan Ashman during the Autumn Nations Series match between Scotland and Australia on 7 November 2021
(Image credit: Paul Devlin/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Scotland were one of the surprise packages of this year’s Six Nations, beating both England and France away from home, said Alasdair Reid in The Times. And on Sunday, Gregor Townsend’s side proved those wins “were no flashes in the pan” by battling to a 15-13 victory against Australia.

The match was too error-strewn to be a classic, said Michael Aylwin in The Guardian, but it contained plenty of drama. Scotland’s two debutants, hooker Ewan Ashman and flanker Josh Bayliss, were especially impressive, said Richard Bath in The Daily Telegraph. Indeed, 21- year-old Ashman – called into action in the tenth minute – was responsible for the afternoon’s stand-out moment: a wonderful, twisting try in the corner to give his team a crucial lead in the second half.

His performance personified Scotland’s overall effort: “assured, confident, and doggedly hanging in there when things got tough”. The team can’t rest on their laurels, as they now face world champions South Africa. But after that morale-boosting victory over the Wallabies, they’ll approach even that “daunting prospect” with confidence.

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England, who meet Australia at Twickenham on Saturday, will also be confident, said Robert Kitson in The Guardian. Last week they dismantled Tonga 69-3, their standout performer being another young substitute: 22-year-old Harlequin fly-half Marcus Smith, who came on for the final 28 minutes and scored one of his team’s 11 tries. Smith has long been talked of as a once-in-a-generation talent: some refer to him as the “brightest young thing since Jonny Wilkinson”.

The only thing holding him back from a regular starting place seems to be Eddie Jones’s well-known cautiousness about blooding young players. England’s coach needs to get over this reluctance: “Marcus Smith simply must play at No. 10 against Australia this week, full stop.”

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