Perhaps Scotland and Wales should split to form the "Sick Nations Championship", so miserably are the two performing at the supposedly healthy end of world rugby at the moment. Yesterday, it was the turn of Ian McGeechan's side to conjure a display well below their station as they laboured past the USA Eagles in a match that never got off into full flight.
Indeed, the coach will just be thankful that the Scots never crash-landed here, so woefully did they perform in the second half. Japan gave them all sorts of problems the week before and, unwittingly, the Americans - and, indeed, the referee - made their plight no easier.
Two well taken tries by the all-action wing Simon Danielli provided the highlight of a disjointed evening in which Scotland looked disorganised throughout and were constantly penalised for technical infringements. But still they had too much quality for the Eagles. "I think if we build on particularly the performance in the first half then I think there's some confidence there," McGeechan said, apparently ignoring the mess that followed.
The major downside for the night, assuming a shoulder injury to Jon Petrie is as minor as the team doctors believe, was the high penalty count. Jonathan Kaplan stung the Scots for 17 penalties, seven of those from rucks and mauls. "If we go into the French game with that kind of penalty count then we'll be on the end of a hammering," said their hooker and captain for the evening, Gordon Bulloch, doing his bit for the glaringly obvious.
The bare facts read that Danielli's double, in the space of five minutes midway through the opening period, and another for the prop Gavin Kerr, as well as late scores for Gregor Townsend and Chris Paterson, saw off a US team for whom Mike Hercus kicked five penalties. But that was only part of the story. Because if the Americans had been on form themselves, then this could easily have been the first real shock of the tournament.
Maybe they had not recovered from last week's one-point loss to Fiji, because they rarely threatened the opposition's line. Scotland enjoyed much the better of the early exchanges but after 10 minutes they were trailing 6-3 thanks to two Hercus penalties. Their pressure was rewarded in the 20th minute when Danielli, who scored with his first touch after coming on as a replacement against Japan, injected some pace into the line on the left to score the first try.
Five minutes later, he scored his second, this time using strength rather than speed to force his way through after a vintage Townsend break had created the opening.
In the meantime, the United States had wasted too many promising situations by kicking away possession, but came closest to a try in first-half injury time when their forwards piled up on the Scottish line. Tom Smith averted the danger with a hand in the ruck to earn the prop a yellow card, leaving Hercus a simple penalty to reduce the deficit at the turnaround to 24-9.
Then the Americans almost made a great start to the second half when a Hercus penalty hit the post and the centre Phillip Eloff charged in to collect the rebound and dive over the line, only for the score to be ruled out for a knock-on. That was typical of their night.
Scotland earned their wholly undeserved bonus point for a fourth try in the 71st minute when fine work from Paterson set up Townsend, who enacted a trademark sidestep to find a gap and score. Cue the impetus finally to put together some sustained pressure to open the way for Paterson to score in the corner two minutes from time, and the wing converted his own try for a personal haul of 19 points. France, however, will not be nearly as generous on Saturday.
Scotland: Tries Danielli 2, Kerr, Townsend, Paterson. Conversions Paterson 4. Penalties Paterson 2. USA: Penalties Hercus 5.
SCOTLAND: G Metcalfe; S Danielli, A Craig (B Hinshelwood, 71), A Henderson, C Paterson, G Townsend (K Logan, 77), M Blair (B Redpath, 60); T Smith (B Douglas, 71), G Bulloch (capt), G Kerr, N Hines, S Grimes, R Beattie (J White, 66), J Petrie (M Leslie, 52), S Taylor.
USA: P Emerick; D Fee, P Eloff, K Cross (J Keyter, 42), R van Zyl; M Hercus, K Dalzell (K Kjar, 66); M MacDonald, K Khasigian, D Dorsey (R Liddington, 66), A Parker, L Gross, K Schubert, D Hodges (capt), D Lyle.
Referee: J Kaplan (South Africa).Reuse content