ALL eyes now turn to Scotland’s final World Cup pool match against host nation Japan which will be a shoot-out for a place in the quarter-finals, after Gregor Townsend’s men ran away as nine tries to zero winners over a Russian team which seemed to have run out of steam after exceeding expectations earlier in the tournament.

Adam Hastings was named man-of-the-match after scoring two tries and kicking eight conversions, while it was also a pleasing 80 minutes for his Glasgow Warriors team-mate and half-back partner George Horne, who helped himself to a hat-trick.

Even more pleasing for head coach Gregor Townsend is the fact that this was a second consecutive shut-out of the opposition following on from last Monday’s 34-0 victory over Samoa. It is the first time Scotland have prevented the opposition scoring in back-to-back matches since 1964.

The Japan game is scheduled to be played in Yokohama on Sunday [7.45pm local time, 11.45am BST] but with weather reports indicating that Typhoon Hagibis could hit the city over the weekend, there appears to be a distinct possibility of the game either being pushed back a day or two or bing moved to an alternative venue.

Wherever or whenever the game is played, Scotland know what they need to do. They must pick up at least four match points more than their opponents. That means a straight win with no bonus point whilst depriving the host nation of any bonus points, or a bonus point win and limiting Japan to one bonus point. If Japan win, draw or pick up two losing points in defeat then Scotland are out.

There was a time when this would look like a pretty straight-forward and easily achievable task, but the Brave Blossoms have become a force to be reckoned with during the last five or six years. They have already defeated Ireland at this tournament, and Ireland – lest we forget – thumped Scotland on the opening weekend.

Japan also have home advantage, and raucous and partisan crowd of almost 70,000 will urge them on as they seek to become the first Asian side ever to reach the last eight of a World Cup.

Hastings put Scotland ahead on 13 minutes when he collected first-phase ball in the middle of the park to cruise past three defenders and over the line, and he doubled up five minutes later when he chased down his own kick-through and took advantage when a wicked bounce wrong-footed Russian skipper Vasily Artemyev.

Scrum-half George Horne got in on the act with a classic piece of opportunism which involved intercepting opposite number Dmitry Perov’s pass from a caught line-out near the Russian line. There was only 22 minutes played.

To Russia’s credit, they managed to stem Scotland’s flow during the remainder of the first half, and it wasn’t until the 44th minute that the bonus-point was wrapped up. It was worth the wait. Darcy Graham had a frustrating first half with a number of passes and a high ball not quite sticking, but, on this occasion, he showed exactly why he is such a dangerous proposition with a slaloming run from deep past three Russians before releasing George Horne with a perfectly times pass.

That broke Russia’s fragile resistance and try number five followed six minutes later when George Turner broke from a line-out drive and barged over the whitewash.

Scotland didn’t let up and Tommy Seymour was next on score-sheet when he did well to get to the ball as it bounced towards the dead-ball line following a delicate toe-poke in behind from Blair Kinghorn.

George Horne snatched his hat-trick just shy of the hour mark when he started and finished off sweeping attack up the left, with brother Peter and Henry Pyrgos also involved. And it looked like he had scored his fourth just a few minutes later, but as Hastings lined up the conversion the big screen highlighted a forward pass from Magnus Bradbury during the lead-up.

Russia dug deep and rallied briefly with a breakout from their own 22, but then lost the ball in contact and didn’t have the energy to stop John Barclay as he galloped home from 40 yards.

Stuart McInally went over in the corner to complete the scoring and compound Russia’s misery with three minutes left on the clock. It could have been worse for the beaten side, with Hastings being deprived his hat-trick in injury time by another forward pass, this time by Seymour.

The ease of the victory allowed head coach Townsend to rotate his squad to keep as many front-liners as fresh as possible for Scotland’s crucial final pool match, with Fraser Brown – usually a hooker but playing at open-side on this occasion – hauled off on the half hour mark. 

Duncan Taylor was the only injury concern after the match. The centre was getting x-rays on his hand.

Teams –
Scotland: B Kinghorn; T Seymour, D Taylor, P Horne, D Graham (H Pyrgos 52); A Hastings, G Horne (C Harris 65); G Reid (W Nel 59), G Turner (S McInally 65), Z Fagerson (S Berghan 40), S Cummings (G Gilchrist 59), B Toolis, J Barclay, F Brown (M Bradbury 30), R Wilson.
Russia: A Artemyev (Y Kuchnarev 63); G Davydov, A Ostroushka (Y Kuchnarev 37-40), D Gerasimov, C Sozonov; R Gaisin, D Porov; A Morozov (A Bitiev 63), S Seleskii (S Chernychev 63), K Gotovstev (V Podrezov 63), A Ostrikov (Garbuzov 68), E Eligin (B Fedotko 66), V Zhtotov T Ga dzhiev, N Vavilin.
Referee: Wayne Barnes
Scorers –
Scotland: Tries: Hastings 2; G Horne 3, Turner, Seymour, Barclay; McInally; Cons: Hastings 8.
Russia: No scorers
Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 5-0; 7-0; 12-0; 14-0; 19-0; 21-0 (h-t) 26-0; 28-0; 33-0; 35-0; 40-0; 42-0; 47-0; 52-0; 54-0; 59-0; 61-0.
Attendance: 44,143