The first Scotland crowd at Murrayfield for almost 19 months were treated to a ten try show by the rampant dark blues as they blew away Tonga in the opening match of the Autumn Nations Series.
A first half hat-trick from Kyle Steyn set the Scots racing away from the underpowered opponents with Rufus McLean also grabbing a brace on his first cap.
Tonga, given scarecely a hope before the match as they played without their experienced stars who remained on duty with their clubs, were the first to seriously threaten when an overthrown line-out by Scotland was gobbled up and a searing line break took the islanders all to way to the hosts’ five metre line.
Just as they looked likely to put the first points of the day on the board a fine Scots turnover snuffed out the danger.
That sparked Gregor Townsend’s men into action as they upped the pace, leading to a seventh minute try by Glasgow Warriors winger McLean, who scooped up a loose ball to slalom through and score on his international debut.
The boot of James Faiva put the tourists on the board in reply in the 13th minute.
By earning the starting 11 jersey, McLean was the first man born in the 21st Century to represent Scotland and he carried his electric form into the test arena.
The 21-year-old received a inch-perfect miss-pass from Blair Kinghorn out on the left wing and he produced a trademark step to leave his opposite number for dead and leap over for his second try.
Faiva again reduced the deficit by three points after another Scot was caught not rolling away at the ruck.
The speed of Scotland’s handling was too hot to handle for this scratch Tonga outfit and the next entry into the 22 brought another try.
Nippy interplay involving Kinghorn and Sione Tuipolotu sent Kyle Steyn over on the right touchline for his first try for his country.
It was raining maiden scores by the half hour mark as another debutant – Edinburgh’s South Africa-born prop Pierre Schoeman – burrowed his way across the whitewash from short range, and Kinghorn’s conversion took the score to 26-9.
Steyn took advantage of some weak defending to run home his second try then, on the stroke of half-time, the Glasgow Warrior had his hat-trick.
McLean continued his electric performance with a break from his own 22, before feeding Darcy Graham on the outside. When the ball was recycled to Kinghorn the fly half went to the boot and sent the ball high towards the right wing, where a favourable bounce was seized by Steyn to make the half time score 36-9.
Whether the Tongans came out for the second period in damage limitation mode or Scotland started to move one eye to the bigger challenges to come – Australia and then South Africa lie in wait in November – there was a lull in the intensity after the break.
It took to the 50th minute for Scotland to add another score – George Turner falling over the try line after a a solid rolling maul. Kinghorn missed his third conversion in a row and the score stayed at 41-9.
Scotland were reduced to 14 men after Rob Harley was sin-binned for repeat offences at the breakdown and Tonga took advantage to get their first try on 59 minutes as David Lolohea muscled across the line after a series of pick and goes.
There was a lull in action with yellow cards and unloaded benches contributing factors but the Scots found their step again after a great kick chase from Sam Johnson won a penalty inside the 22
The Scots went left, then back right where co-captain Jamie Ritchie produced a magical offload and Nick Haining barged over for try number eight of the day for the home side.
Oli Kebble added another close range try – debutant replacement fly half Ross Thompson added the conversion to make it 53-14.
And the last word fell to man of the match Steyn who ran in try number ten as the Scots ticked up 60 points.
The Mexican Waves in the crowd of more than 32,000 told the story of a support happy with what they had seen on their return to Murrayfield after more than 600 days away.
Fiercer opponents await this autumn. They will be met with returning Scots stars Stuart Hogg, Chris Harris, Duhan van der Merwe and Finn Russell back in the fold.
Scotland Player Ratings
Darcy Graham 8 – Relished the chance to counter attack from full back and kept the Tongan line on its toes with repeated testing runs.
Kyle Steyn 9 – Faultless on his start, running clever runs with physicality and finding himself in the right spots to score.
Sione Tuipulotu 7 – A solid introduction to international rugby from the Warriors centre.
Sam Johnson 7 – A quieter day in attack but blended well with his midfield clubmate Tuipulotu and won a terrific turnover in the second half which set up a try.
Rufus McLean 9 – Announced himself on the international scene to suggest he will be sticking around for some time to come. A box office player capable of lighting up the game with the ball in hand.
Blair Kinghorn 7 – Gifted quick ball and marshalled it with confidence, including outstanding assists for McLean and Steyn. Growing into his new role at 10. Missed four conversions.
Ali Price 8 – Kept it moving from base and developed a good rapport with Kinghorn. Signs of becoming a targeted man after his Lions test exploits – one to watch in the coming weeks.
Pierre Schoeman 8 – A scoring debut for the Edinburgh cult figure. Part of a front row that dominated the scrum.
George Turner 7 – An early lineout miscue aside he brought menace in the loose and a solid front in the scrum. Scored off the back of a great maul.
Zander Fagerson 7 – The touring Lion returned to anchor down the Scottish set-piece and he will continue to play a key role through the autumn.
Jamie Hodgson 6 – Will be pleased with his work and plenty to build on from an encouraging debut performance. Put his hand up for more involvement over the next month.
Ron Harley 5 – Brought his strength and experience alongside rookie Hodgson but caught on wrong side of the referee at the breakdown and was sin binned for repeat offending.
Jamie Ritchie 8 – Strong leadership in the pack and kept the forwards focused as well as communicating well with the referee. Even showed off some nifty footwork and offloading on the wing in the final ten minutes.
Hamish Watson 6 – Felt his way around in his first appearance since the British and Irish Lions tour. Replaced at half time by Luke Crosbie.
Matt Fagerson 6 – Not called on as much as he was back in the spring but got some precious minutes at the coalface as he continues his return from injury.
Replacements 6 – Good minutes and four debutants blooded, as Gregor Townsend was able to protect some of his frontline stars but the changes did lead to a loss of momentum in the final quarter of the match.
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