LEEDS – The Scots are saving their best for the second half at this Rugby World Cup.
For the second straight game, Scotland was in a sticky predicament at halftime but recovered to score five tries for a bonus-point win in Pool B. This time it was the United States that was dispatched, 39-16, in Leeds, on Sunday.
Scotland picked up maximum points, as did Australia, which beat Uruguay 65-3, and Ireland, which was a 44-10 winner over Romania.
“It was a banana skin that we dodged today,” Scotland coach Vern Cotter said.
Using a swarming defense and strong scrum, the U.S. was on course for only its fourth — and easily most stunning — World Cup win after taking a 13-6 lead at halftime on prop Titi Lamositele’s try.
After a four-day turnaround from a 45-10 win over Japan, Scotland was being pushed around up front, its passing was off and its discipline poor.
Not so in the second half.
Just like the Japan game, there was an immediate cutting edge to Scotland’s play as wingers Tim Visser and Sean Maitland, hooker WP Nel, and center Matt Scott scored tries in a 23-minute span to clinch the bonus point by the 65th. Duncan Weir crossed for the fifth try on virtually the last play of the game as the Americans faded.
“Something that comes into play is a lot of these guys playing don’t have the grind of a professional season, playing week in, week out,” U.S. coach Mike Tolkin said. “For some of our guys, it’s a real challenge and it’s something we have to overcome.”
That will take years, not weeks. So the Eagles are staring at a winless World Cup for the fourth time in seven editions. They have a 10-day break before facing a rejuvenated South Africa at the Olympic Stadium.
By then, Scotland — sitting top of the pool with a maximum 10 points — may have sealed its spot in the quarterfinals, though that will require a victory over the Springboks in six days. Scotland also has fitness issues over lock Grant Gilchrist and flyhalf Finn Russell, who went off injured against the Americans, to worry about.
In Birmingham, a second-string Wallabies side ran 11 tries past Uruguay in what amounted to little more than a warm-up for a crucial encounter with tournament host England on Saturday. Two tries in five minutes from winger Drew Mitchell was the highlight as Australia moved to the top of Pool A.
In Sunday’s late game, Ireland wore down a dogged Romania to claim a comfortable bonus-point victory in front of a record 89,267 crowd at Wembley.
Off the pitch, Argentina lock Mariano Galarza lost his appeal against a nine-week suspension for eye-gouging during the Pumas’ opening Pool C game against New Zealand and will miss the rest of the tournament.