|Scotland: (14) 28|
|Attempts: Turner, Hastings, Van der Merwe, White Cons: Hastings 2, Kinghorn 2|
|Fiji: (12) 12|
|Attempts: Tuicuvu, Rotuisolia Opposite: thrown away|
Scotland secured their autumn international victory over Fiji in a crucial afternoon on an uncomfortable afternoon for Gregor Townsend’s side at Murrayfield.
George Turner and Adam Hastings scored first-half tries for Scotland, but Fiji had two through Setariki Tuicuvu and Ratu Rotuisolia.
The home side struggled to find any ease in their play, but tries from Duhan van der Merwe and Ben White added luster to the scoreboard.
The Scots play New Zealand next Sunday.
After last weekend’s one-point loss to Australia, and with the All Blacks coming to town next weekend, it was imperative that Scotland beat Fiji here to get the show back on the road.
Vern Cotter was back in the Murrayfield coaches’ box, this time in charge of Fiji. Given the nature of his exit as Scotland boss to make way for Townsend in 2017, you’d imagine that he wouldn’t have minded at all setting the cat among the Scottish pigeons to pull off a stunning victory here.
Talent is rare for Fiji sides. Structure and discipline tend to be the missing ingredients and that was underlined when Rotuisolia saw yellow 90 seconds into his Test debut for a silly block on Ali Price from an offside position.
Scotland soon made their numerical advantage count, Turner biding his time with a kick-out at the back of the maul to touch down for the opening try.
Fiji’s response was impressive and immediate. An effective phase set the platform for the backline to expand and when the ball reached Tuicuvu, the winger evaded the clutches of Stuart Hogg to finish superbly in the corner.
The Murrayfield crowd began to get restless as Fiji crossed again, Rotuisolia atoning for an early bloodbath to the head by blasting home from close range to round off another spell of pressure.
Hogg was sent to the bin, paying the price for a string of infringements by his team. Scotland’s discipline was collapsing – they conceded seven penalties in the first half alone – while Fiji were playing all their rugby.
Hastings, introduced at 10 in place of Blair Kinghorn, gave the Scots some quality in an otherwise scant 40 minutes when he danced his way through a weak Fijian defense to get under the sticks. Scotland led by two at the break, a lead they almost deserved.
Hastings tried a similar dart at the start of the second half, but instead of a gap he found the giant figure of Rotuisolia, who hit the tackle with such incredible force that Hastings’ game ended there and then, Kinghorn called from the bench. .
The Edinburgh fly-half was involved in Scotland’s third try, Chris Harris feeding Van der Merwe with a long pass and the winger did what he does best, powering over the line with several Fijian defenders hanging on.
After the agony of a last-gasp missed penalty against Australia, Kinghorn beautifully kicked the touchdown conversion to give the home side a 21-12 lead.
However, there was a lack of pace in Scotland’s play, and the Mexican Wave that erupted in the 65th minute spoke volumes for the quality of the fare on offer on the pitch.
The Whites substitute almost scored a fourth Scottish try, but a clever cross-field kick from the base of a clearance eluded Darcy Graham, while Cam Redpath was denied a first try when the TMO spotted a first-time tackle on Jack Dempsey. .
The Whites ensured the fourth try finally arrived, going untouched in Fiji’s defense – a man in the bin for the third time in the match – missing out.
It was a win Scotland desperately needed, but it was a long way off. If they are to entertain any notion of a first win against New Zealand next weekend, they will need to find a level of performance this team hasn’t achieved in a long time.
Scotland: Hogg, Graham, Harris, Redpath, Van Der Merwe, Hastings, Price; Schoeman, Turner, Fagerson, R Gray, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson, Fagerson
Replacements: Ashman, Sutherland, Walker, J Gray, Depmsey, White, Kinghorn, Tuipulotu
Fiji: Murimurivalu, Tuicuvu, Nayacalevu, Ravouvou, Habosi, Botitu, Lomani; Mawi, Matavesi, Sauto, Mayanavanua, Rotuisolia, Tuisue, Botia, Mata
Replacements: Ikanivere, Natave, Tagi, Ratuniyarawa, Kamikamica, Matawalu, Tela, Maqala
Judge: Nic Berry (Australia)