Scotland secured a crucial bonus point in their 61-0 win over Russia to propel themselves into a decisive Pool A clash with Rugby World Cup hosts Japan.
Gregor Townsend’s side knew ahead of Wednesday’s match in Fukuroi that they needed back-to-back bonus-point victories to be sure of a spot in the quarter-finals.
And they got the first part of the job done as George Horne racked up a hat-trick of tries and Adam Hastings grabbed two, with the all-important fourth score coming early in the second half from Horne.
Further scores from George Turner, Tommy Seymour, John Barclay and Stuart McInally added further gloss as Scotland kept a clean sheet for the second game in a row.
5 – George Horne is the fifth player to score a hat-trick for @Scotlandteam at the @rugbyworldcup and the first since Ally Hogg in 2007 (v Romania). Triple.#RWC2019 #SCOvRUS pic.twitter.com/Dh87LbxzzY
— OptaJonny (@OptaJonny) October 9, 2019
Hastings converted his own try after 15 minutes to ease the early tension for a Scotland side showing 14 changes from the 34-0 win over Samoa, with the same man chasing down his own kick to double his tally soon after.
With Russia reeling, Scotland capitalised on a woeful error from Dmitry Perov, whose pass was intercepted by Horne for the simplest of scores.
The fourth try came at the end of a swift counter in which Darcy Graham did most of the work before offloading to Horne.
With their bonus-point mission accomplished, Scotland played with greater freedom for the remainder of the contest, with Turner crashing over off the back of a driving maul and Seymour sprinting to plunge on top of a skidding kick behind a deflated Russia defence.
Further punishment was to come for Lyn Jones’ men as Horne sealed his treble to cap a marauding move that again exposed Russia’s frailties, and there was still time for Barclay and McInally to cross the line.
Japan await in Pool A decider
This result puts Scotland on 10 points, with Japan leading the way on 14 and the number-one ranked Ireland on 11.
Ireland conclude their pool phase against Samoa and few would bet against a win for the Six Nations Grand Slam winners.
That would mean Scotland have to beat Japan and, providing they do not afford their opponents a losing bonus point, that would be enough to finish in the top two.
But the guaranteed route to the last eight is to go out and get another bonus-point win.
A morale-boosting triumph
Scotland have been playing catch-up in this pool since limping to a 27-3 loss in their opening match against Ireland.
But with two convincing wins on the bounce they now represent a very different prospect.
Wednesday’s display had its rough edges, but there was a confidence and swagger about Scotland that was so sorely lacking when they met Ireland.
Defeating the Brave Blossoms – so inspired thus far – on home soil will require all of that belief and conviction, and no small amount of quality.
58′ | TRY! George Horne races home for his hat trick! Conversion missed, 47 -0.
— Scottish Rugby (@Scotlandteam) October 9, 2019
It is off to Yokohama for Scotland to take on the hosts on Sunday, while Russia can head home after failing to secure a point, and with just one try to their name.