George Horne scored a hat-trick as Scotland remained in the race for a spot in the quarterfinals of the Rugby World Cup with a thumping 61-0 victory over Russia.
Having lost its opening game against Ireland and overcome Samoa in its second, Scotland needed a bonus-point win — awarded for scoring four tries or more — against Russia to have a shot at reaching the quarterfinals.
Two first-half tries from fly-half Adam Hastings handed Scotland the perfect start and an intercepted try from George Horne after 21 minutes ensured it went in at half-time with a 21-0 lead.
Horne’s second try of the game — supplied by a lung-busting run from Darcy Graham — gave Scotland the much-needed bonus point.
Hooker George Turner scored Scotland’s fifth try of the afternoon on his World Cup debut — just 24 hours after his 27th birthday — while Tommy Seymour finished athletically to add a sixth before Horne added his third in the 59th minute.
Captain John Barclay added an eighth late on and Stuart McInally got the ninth, guaranteeing Scotland sets up a quarterfinal-deciding game with Japan on Sunday in Yokohama.
“We enjoyed that one,” Barclay said. “To be honest we were a little bit nervous coming into the game because of what we’d seen Russia do to other teams in the tournament.
“So we prepared really well. I was proud of the boys, really professional, stuck to how we wanted to play the game and it was a good result. The Japan game wasn’t on our minds at all, to be honest. I think we’d have been doing a disservice to Russia if we’d done that.
“I spoke to the boys in the week, if we have one eye on Japan it’s easy to take your eye off this game. Certainly the guys who were playing were very focused on this game.”
After a slow start to the Rugby World Cup, Scotland has won its last two games by an aggregate score of 95-0.
Scotland dominated from start to finish against Russia, making 864 meters in attack compared to the 222 of its Russian counterparts.
And with the majority of its star players resting for the cataclysmic game against Japan on Sunday, Sotland coach Gregor Townsend was in high spirits after his side’s resounding victory.
“They played some excellent rugby,” said Townsend. “That first 10-15 minutes of the game was very competitive.
“Russia were here to play, they moved the ball wide, we know how physical they are, they challenge well at the breakdowns, so we had to put a really resilient performance together and take the gaps when they started to appear. It was an excellent performance and shows the depth that we have.
“We’ll see what happens on Saturday now with the Samoa-Ireland game, because that is a factor if Ireland don’t get maximum points and it could be a three-way tie.
“But we know we have to win and we have to win by seven clear points if we’re going to get into the last eight, and that’ll be a big challenge because Japan are a very good team and have had a pretty good rest going into this game.”
Finishing on a positive
In Wednesday’s earlier game, Argentina finished its World Cup with a 47-17 victory over USA in Kumagaya.
The Pumas scored seven tries as they finished third in Pool C to guarantee a place at the 2023 World Cup in France
It is, however, the first time Argentina has failed to reach the knockout stages since 2003 after defeats earlier in the tournament to France and England.