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Saxons held to frustrating draw at Scotstoun

31 January 2014

  • Final Score: Scotland A 16 England Saxons 16
  • Late penalty rescues share of spoils for hosts

TOM HEATHCOTE’S late penalty meant England Saxons were held to a frustrating 16-16 draw by Scotland’s second string at Scotstoun.

They led three minutes from time with penalty try from their dominant scrum plus a conversion and two penalties from Freddie Burns and a late three-pointer from Elliot Daly.

Earlier Byron McGuigan had got over the line for the Scots – Heathcote converting – and Henry Pyrgos added a penalty and drop goal.

For the Saxons side with an average age of 23 it represented progress on their last two outings against the Scots after defeats in 2012 and 2013 in Galashiels and Newcastle.

But not to Calum Clark and his teammates, who despite losing Dan Robson and Henry Slade to the sin bin during the game felt they’d done enough. ‘It’s not a bad result for us,’ admitted Scotland A coach Shade Munro. ‘It feels like a defeat,’ said glum England captain Clark.

Four players came in for their Saxons debuts in Glasgow with Semesa Rokoduguni, Kyle Eastmond, Adam Thompstone and Dan Robson drafted into their back line.

They controlled territory early on and Burns put them on the board with his third minute penalty and missed a harder chance after 10 minutes while Pyrgos clipped over a drop goal from his side’s first decent piece of possession in the sixth minute.

The Scots gained a toehold when Robson was sin-binned 18 minutes into the game for an alleged stamp, though, and edged in front while he was off the field with Pyrgos's penalty shot from 25 metres out.

Once Robson reappeared his side stepped up a gear. Daly's break down the left forced a scrum five metres out. Three times England drove and three times Scotland were penalised before French referee Laurent Cardona awarded them a penalty try with Burns converting for a 10-6 lead.

They increased it immediately after the interval as Burns stroked the Saxons 13-6 ahead and they came close to opening up a substantial lead from a long spell of pressure – unfortunately Thompstone couldn’t hold Eastmond’s pass in one passage – as they kept the tempo high.

Then came a further twist, as Slade become the second Saxon yellow carded at a midfield ruck – and the Scots promptly surged up field and took advantage of their extra man with McGuigan sliding into the left hand corner. Heathcote’s  touchline conversion was a beauty.

With Burns and his replacement Slade both off the field, Daly drilled over a penalty to put the Saxons three points up just after the hour although he was short from long range five minutes later.

It took until five minutes from time for Scotland to get their chance. Heathcote pulled his first penalty embarrassingly wide but he made no mistake three minutes from time and neither side could break the deadlock after that.

Scotland A: Jack Cuthbert (Edinburgh);  Dougie Fife (Edinburgh), Mark Bennett (Glasgow), Alex Grove (Worcester Warriors), Byron McGuigan (Glasgow); Greig Tonks (Edinburgh), Henry Pyrgos (Glasgow); Gordon Reid (Glasgow), Fraser Brown (Glasgow), Jon Welsh (Glasgow), Kieran Low (London Irish), Jonny Gray (Glasgow, captain), Rob Harley (Glasgow), Blair Cowan (London Irish),  Allister Hogg (Newcastle Falcons).

Replacements: Kevin Bryce (Glasgow)  for Brown 72, Alex Allan (Edinburgh) for Reid 72, Ed Kalman (Glasgow) for Welsh 49, Tyrone Holmes (Glasgow) for Cowan 56, Grayson Hart (Edinburgh) for Pyrgos 56, Tom Heathcote (Bath Rugby) for Tonks 35, Richie Vernon (Glasgow) for McGuigan 60.

Scorers: Try: McGuigan. Conversion: Heathcote. Penalties: Pyrgos, Heathcote. Drop goal: Pyrgos.

England Saxons: Rob Miller (Sale Sharks); Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby), Elliot Daly (London Wasps), Kyle Eastmond (Bath Rugby), Adam Thompstone (Leicester Tigers); Freddie Burns (Gloucester Rugby), Dan Robson (Gloucester Rugby); Alex Waller (Northampton Saints), Dave Ward (Harlequins), Scott Wilson (Newcastle Falcons), Elliott Stooke (Gloucester Rugby), George Kruis (Saracens), Calum Clark (Northampton Saints, Captain), Luke Wallace (Harlequins), Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints).

Replacements: Jamie George (Saracens) for Ward 45, Nathan Catt (Bath Rugby) for Waller 62, Kieran Brookes (Newcastle Falcons) for Wilson 70, Charlie Matthews (Harlequins) for Stooke 62, Dave Ewers (Exeter Chiefs) for Dickinson 63, Joe Simpson (London Wasps) for Robson 60, Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) for Burns 56, Charlie Sharples (Gloucester Rugby) for Rokoduguni 45.

Scorers: Try: Penalty try. Conversion: Burns. Penalties: Burns 2, Daly.

Yellow cards: Robson 17, Slade 58

Referee: Laurent Cardona (FFR)