Scotland back rower Jamie Ritchie was having a facial injury checked in hospital last night with his chances of making the plane for the Rugby World Cup in doubt as Scotland comfortably won their final warm-up game against Georgia.
The Scots were sloppy and ill-disciplined at times in their farewell to BT Murrayfield before going to Japan, but cruised away with three tries in the final quarter to record another handsome victory over the Georgians.
However the major concern is Ritchie, who took a heavy blow to the face early in the second half and was being checked in hospital for a potential cheekbone or eye socket fracture which would likely rule him out of the World Cup.
“He will be going to the hospital tonight to find out the severity of that,” said head coach Gregor Townsend. “That is our most concerning injury and we hope it is not anything that will keep him out of the World Cup.”
Blair Kinghorn and Ben Toolis left with head knocks but have 16 days to recover before the opening pool game against Ireland. There were other niggles and knocks, but the 23-year-old Ritchie is the only real concern.
“Obviously the concern is if any player will miss getting on the plane on Monday and Jamie is the most concerning,” added Townsend. “We hope it is good news when he comes back from his hospital visit later tonight.”
Two youngsters, Darcy Graham and Scott Cummings, were the Scotland’s star performers, but there is still plenty to work on as the Scots leave for Japan on Monday.
“It was not so good in the first half and a disrupted second half, but we adapted well and played with a lot of energy in the last 15 minutes,” added Townsend.
“We gave Georgia possession too easily, sometimes through penalties and ill-discipline, sometimes through not looking after the ball in contact. The players got together and found a way to get a comfortable win in the end.”
Too many penalties, some clumsy mistakes and a few disjointed drills in the first half held Scotland back, but there were two briefs episodes of inspiration for their two tries.
It took 17 minutes in front of a large but increasingly impatient crowd before the Scots clicked, Tommy Seymour dropping a certain scoring pass from Kinghorn with the line wide open being their most glaring missed chance.
But Kinghorn counterattacked a loose Georgian clearance kick, Darcy Graham and Sam Johnson linked at pace and Ali Price had a simple sprint to the line from 20 metres.
It went unconverted and after Gordon Reid was offside after a knock-on, Tedo Abzhandadze kicked a penalty for Georgia.
Scotland immediately put together their best move of the night, with Adam Hastings and Scott Cummings combining up the middle into the 22, the big lock involved again before the stand-off’s clever kick found Graham to supply Kinghorn for the second unconverted try.
The full-back to a knock to the head and withdrew, and the Scots continued to fall foul of Romain Poite, allowing Abzhandadze to kick two more penalties to bring the Georgians to within a point at half-time.
The Scots kept Jonny Gray inside at half-time and brought off Jamie Ritchie soon afterwards, before regaining their poise with a good try ten minutes into the half.
Duncan Taylor, George Turner and Blade Thomson all made half-breaks to take the Scots deep into the 22, captain Ryan Wilson was held just short and after several close quarter charges the Georgians finally wilted for Johnson to waltz through a huge gap to score under the posts, Hastings converting.
Wing Zurab Dzneladze was yellow carded for a take-out off the ball in that move but Scotland’s attempts to exploit the 14 men kept breaking down by their own mistakes and ill-discipline.
After a flurry of replacements the Scots won a rare scrum penalty and found the field position to work a fourth try, Taylor’s long miss-pass to Chris Harris allowing the big centre to put Graham down the line for an unconverted score.
That was the cue for Scotland to open out, another free-flowing attacking move, Hastings’ mazy run setting up replacement nine George Horne to nip through a gap to score the fifth try, the stand-off converting.
Brother Pete, also on as a sub, completed the try-scoring after a desperate kick by Abzhandadze from his own line as Georgia tried to break out for a consolation fell right into the centre’s hands.
Scotland: Blair Kinghorn; Darcy Graham, Duncan Taylor, Sam Johnson, Tommy Seymour; Adam Hastings, Ali Price; Gordon Reid, George Turner, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Jonny Gray; Ryan Wilson (capt), Jamie Ritchie, Blade Thomson.
Replacements: Grant Stewart for Toolis 67, Allan Dell for Reid 55, Simon Berghan for Fagerson 60, Ben Toolis for Gray 40, Magnus Bradbury for Ritchie 47, George Horne for Price 52, Peter Horne for Johnson 65, Chris Harris for Kinghorn 26.
Georgia: Soso Matiashvili; Zurab Dzneladze, Davit Katcharava, Lasha Malaghuradze, Mirian Modebadze; Tedo Abzhandadze, Vasil Lobzhanidze; Mikheil Nariashvili (capt), Shalva Mamukashvili, Beka Gigashvili; Kote Mikautadze, Giorgi Nemsadze; Shalva Sutiashvili, Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, Beka Gorgadze.
Replacements: Vano Karkadze for Mamukashvili 75, Guram Gogichashvili for Nariashvili 65, Giorgi Melikidze for Gigashvili 65, Lasha Lomidze for Nemsadze 65, Beka Saghinadze for Sutiashvili 66, Gela Aprasidze for Lobzhanidze 60, Giorgi Kveseladze for Katcharava 53.
Ref: R Poite (FFR)