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USA 6 Scotland 24: Cotter coaxes satisfying start from his squad

From the BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston.

Scotland produced a performance that was far from flawless in the steamy heat of Texas, but they were well worth their victory and new coach Vern Cotter had more reasons for satisfaction than concern as he launched his reign, and the Scots' summer tour, with this comfortable win.

He could certainly be pleased with the ambition shown by his players. They had a sluggish, sloppy period in the third quarter, when the Eagles took the initiative, but they recovered well and regained their grip on the contest with a fine solo try by Stuart Hogg.

The Glasgow full-back had been the villain of the hour when he was sent off against Wales in Scotland's final Six Nations match three months ago. But the way he grabbed a high crossfield kick near his 10m line, spotted space ahead and then sprinted 65 metres to score, offered a reminder of his brilliance at the end of a difficult season.

There was also a heartwarming return to form by Tim Visser, who missed the autumn Tests and the Six Nations after breaking his leg last October. Visser opened Scotland's try account with a touchdown after 15 minutes, and could easily have had a hat-trick by the half-hour mark had he enjoyed just a little more luck near the line.

Scotland will have sterner tests in the weeks ahead as they continue their tour to Canada, Argentina and South Africa. But as an opener it was solid and satisfying, all the more so in the sapping, humid conditions.

"We're happy to get the win in difficult conditions," said Cotter at the end. "We showed good structure in the first half of the first half and we got a couple of tries from that. The scrum gave us a platform that was very pleasing. We'll work next on getting over the try line and getting more points."

Greig Laidlaw, the Scotland captain, indicated that the moisture in the air and the sweaty palms of the players made handling difficult.

The greatest challenge of all, however, was that faced by Geoff Cross, the prop, whose father passed away on the eve of the game. Cross's fellow players wore black armbands as a mark of respect to their team-mate.

There had been an assumption that the Scots would try to conserve their energies in the early stages of the game, but as it turned out they set off at a brisk pace, going forward boldly and moving the ball wide. Those efforts brought a couple of early penalties, with Greig Laidlaw rattling one off an upright before nailing the second in the sixth minute.

Chris Wyles, the Eagles full-back who plays his club rugby with Saracens, put the Americans back on level terms when he clipped over a penalty in the 11th minute, but it was already clear that Scotland were the dominant side in that period, with their advantage pressed home in a brutal scrummaging performance that put the US pack into reverse gear at every set-piece.

The breakthrough came in the 15th minute, when Laidlaw spotted a gap to the right of a ruck. The little scrum-half went scuttling off into the space, and his offload to Visser was perfectly timed for the winger to finish off between the posts.

Visser might have been a little rusty in his failure to capitalise on his other chances, but he was also a little unlucky when the TMO ruled that he had failed to ground the ball properly when he stretched over the line in the 25th minute.

But the Scots kept the pressure up and made their scrum advantage tell on the half-hour when US prop Olive Kilifi was penalised for the umpteenth time and shown the yellow card. At the very next scrum, the US pack caved in again and referee Pascal Gauzere gave Scotland a penalty try.

Curiously, the Americans looked more energised with 14 men than they had with 15 and they finished the first half strongly, albeit with no more points. They also started the second period well, with Wyles adding his second penalty just at the point when the Scots became listless and started coughing up easy possession.

Had the USA provided the next score then the game's dynamic would have been very different towards the end. As it was, Hogg weighed in with his try and the contest was effectively over. The steam went out of the US side, while the Scots simply coasted towards the finishing line.

On a sultry, sapping night, their rehydration regime was probably made up of a few beers in a Houston bar, but they had earned the right to celebrate.

USA: C Wyles; B Scully, S Kelly, A Suniula (F Niua, 22), L Hume; S Suniula, M Petri; O Kilifi (T Lamositele, 54), P Thiel (T Coolican, 19), E Fry (N Wallace, 40), L Stanfill (T Tuisamoa, 63), H Smith (N Wallace, 29-39; D Barrett, 54)), T Clever (captain; C London, 76), S Lavalla, C Dolan.

Pen: Wyles (2)

Scotland: S Hogg (R Jackson, 75); S Maitland, S Lamont, D Taylor (M Evans, 62), T Visser; F Russell, G Laidlaw; G Reid (A Allan, 56), S Lawson (P MacArthur, 62), G Cross (M Low, 40), R Gray, J Hamilton (G Gilchrist, 38), A Strokosch (K Low, 62), B Cowan, J Beattie.

Tries: Visser, Penalty try, Hogg

Con: Laidlaw (3)

Pen: Laidlaw

Referee: P Gauzere (France)

Attendance: 20,001

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