A HUGELY confident performance from Scotland on the road, lit up by two tries from Rory Hutchinson on his first Test start and another demonstration of how Finn Russell can create magic from anywhere if he is given the platform, has lifted spirits just at the right time as the squad prepare to hear who is going to the World Cup.

The team had been talking in the week about needing to start well, both to silence the crowd and to settle their own worries about their dismal away record as they have not won on the road since Argentina last year.

Though the atmosphere was not as intimidating as the team had feared, it was still impressive to see them settle quickly into the game – after a couple of early fluffs from Russell – with the speed of their play and Georgian indiscipline handing Greig Laidlaw two penalty shots at goal. Obviously he made no mistake.

That was only the prelude, though as Russell, pictured, started to pull the strings in midfield, finding a gap to race through with support from young No.8 Matt Fagerson and Laidlaw putting lock Ben Toolis in for his first Test try.

It had an obvious effect on the swagger factor in the Scots as they started to lay on an exhibition of running rugby that Georgia had no answer to apart from a lot of robust defence, still undone by their over-enthusiasm which saw them creep offside a couple of times.

The second try was even better worked than the first, Russell chipping the ball into space for Sam Johnson to catch and send Darcy Graham flying away towards the try line.

Though he was caught, the Scots kept their heads, recycling patiently on the line until Russell found Hutchinson in a few inches of space and the youngster on his first start cut through the defence to score.

It was just about the perfect start for Scotland, but they knew the Georgians were going to come back into it and when they did, it was the defence that started to come up trumps as they won a turnover from a maul on their own line to keep the Georgians scoreless going into the final stages of the first half.

In the end, the home side accepted they just needed points, and fly-half Tedo Abzhandadze duly slotted a penalty when the Scots were accused of wheeling the scrum, but the half finished with the visitors back on the front foot, with Laidlaw putting over his third kick to restore his side’s 20-point lead at the


The one fear for the Scottish fans was that Georgia showed in a warm-up match against the Southern Kings that they are a side more than capable of coming from behind after the break, and that was underlined by what was almost a nightmare start to the half.

A lost ball in midfield gifted the hosts the attacking platform and they had a two-man overlap only for Zurab Dzneladze, the centre, to throw a pass that missed both of them and roll into touch.

It was a huge let-off for Scotland and Fagerson, who had dropped the pass, and they took full advantage to shift the game upfield, winning a penalty in front of the posts and going for a scrum instead of the points.

Georgia obviously expected them to go for a drive, but instead Scotland moved the ball away quickly, Blair Kinghorn popping up in the line and picking out Hutchinson on a perfect line to collect his second try of the night.

It had been a thoroughly convincing performance from the youngster who had locked up the midfield as well as producing his scores – neither was a given, he

had work to do but showed a cool head.

That was the spark for the Georgians to raise their game, camping on the Scots line, driving a couple of line-outs and winning penalties. To add to the pressure they threw on their subs and the ploy worked as they smashed into the Scots defence until new prop Kakha Asieshvili hammered his way over.

When it came to the skills of the game, however, there was only one side in it and when they had the ball, Scotland always looked dangerous with Russell orchestrating things from midfield, his final act being to convert a try for Graham that he had created with a perfect attacking kick through the home defence.

That was not the end of the scoring, as the replacements started to flood on and the game lost a little of its shape.

Scotland still had the firepower to have the final say with Scott Cummings crashing over Georgia-style from short range.