Tom Heathcote kicks Scotland A to victory over England Saxons
Bath Rugby fly-half Tom Heathcote kicked a conversion and two penalties to help dogged Scotland A defeat England Saxons 13-9 at Newcastle’s Kingston Park.
A first-minute try from Duncan Taylor and Heathcote’s eight-point haul kept Scotland in front but Leicester’s George Ford – strongly linked with a summer move to Bath – hauled the hosts back into the game with three penalties.
But despite dominating for long spells, the Saxons could not get over the tryline and somehow the Scots survived having two men sent to the sin-bin in the closing minutes of their rearguard action.
Bath’s Tom Biggs was named in the Saxons starting line-up, while club-mate Kyle Eastmond replaced Gloucester wing Jonny May with 15 minutes to go.
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The Scots fielded a side with more experience in terms of age and caps in a game with several interesting sub-plots.
Ford lined up against his former England Under-20s teammate Heathcote, while Scotland A full-back Greig Tonks had been part of the same England age-group team as Harlequins centre Jordan Turner-Hall and Wasps scrum-half Joe Simpson.
And everyone in the England camp wanted to take some degree of revenge for last year’s 35-0 defeat at Gala. All that was put to one side, though, when the Scots got off to a dream start.
Ford’s kick out of defence was grabbed by Taylor, who eluded England’s chasers then turned and galloped in from the 22.
Heathcote added a neat conversion, then the two fly-halves traded shots at goal with two Ford efforts to one from his rival in increasingly treacherous conditions of strong wind and heavy rain.
The Saxons dominated the closing stages of the half but couldn’t find a way through – and Heathcote nudged the visitors further in front when they claimed a rare scrum penalty five minutes after the break.
England had grown in stature through the game in Galway despite leaving it until the last quarter to strike and they did the same here but simply couldn’t find a way through in lashing rain and swirling snow that made moving the ball wide a lottery.
Eastmond did force Tonks to carry the ball over his line with a neat run and kick and Ford then pulled the Saxons within four points with his 72nd-minute penalty after another dominant scrum.
Scotland then lost two props to yellow cards. Gordon Reid went for pulling down a maul from a close-range lineout, then two more penalties were conceded at five metre scrums, with Jon Welsh following his fellow front-rower into the bin.
Any chance of a pushover or penalty try disappeared with the uncontested scrums that followed the sin-binnings, though, and a final Saxons handling error as they tried to get over allowed Scotland to celebrate a second successive win at second-team level.