Scotland emphatically did their job in Lille on Saturday as they thrashed Romania 84-0 at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.
Darcy Graham was no doubt the standout player, lighting up the game with four tries and a number of other thrilling surges during the match.
Three of his scores came in the first period as Gregor Townsend’s men went into the interval 42-0 in front. Hamish Watson, Ali Price and Matt Fagerson also crossed the whitewash before the break as the Scots threatened to put a century of points on the Oaks.
And when Chris Harris, Ollie Smith and Ben Healy touched down, it very much looked on, but they got a bit loose in the final quarter to prevent them from reaching that milestone.
However, Scotland finished with a flourish thanks to tries from Johnny Matthews, Rory Darge and Graham to give them a confidence boost heading into their big match against Ireland, which will ultimately decide their World Cup fate.
The Scots were so confident of getting the result they required at Stade Pierre-Mauroy that they made 13 changes from the side that started against Tonga the previous Sunday, preserving most of their A-listers for the Ireland match in Paris which they must win with a bonus point or by denying their opponents one in order to reach the quarter-finals.
There was no danger of the decision to field so many fringe men backfiring from the moment Watson got the Scots off and running with the first try of the match in the eighth minute.
The experienced Edinburgh flanker – who has lost the number seven jersey to the burgeoning Darge this year – marked his return to the starting line-up by bounding over on the right after Cam Redpath offloaded into his path as he was thwarted on his own charge towards the line.
Price – like Watson, another 2021 British and Irish Lions squad member who has become a peripheral player for the national team this year – got the second in the 17th minute after being played in by Graham.
It was Graham’s turn to get on the scoresheet just four minutes later when he touched down following a brilliant individual run, bringing him level with his Edinburgh team-mate Van der Merwe, one of those given the night off.
Romania – already bang up against it – completely imploded in the closing 10 minutes of the first half when they had three players sin-binned and conceded a further three tries.
Hooker Robert Irimescu was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Healy and just a couple of minutes later they were reduced to 13, when back-rower Florian Rosu was yellow-carded for collapsing a maul.
Scotland took full advantage as Graham scored his second of the evening to move ahead of Duhan van der Merwe and level with Chris Paterson in the country’s try-scoring charts.
— Planet Rugby (@PlanetRugby) September 30, 2023
Fagerson bulldozed his way over for the fifth, but only after Ollie Smith had been the victim of a nasty high tackle in the build-up from Marius Simionescu, who became the third Romanian to be sin-binned before the break.
There was still time before the interval for Graham to complete his hat-trick as the Edinburgh wing moved ahead of Paterson and into fourth place on his own. All six first-half tries were converted by Healy as the Scots went in 42-0 to the good at half-time.
The scores kept coming after the break, with Harris, Smith, Healy, Matthews – shortly after coming on for his debut – and Darge all touching down.
Graham then raced over for his fourth of the night as the Scots ran up their second-highest win at a World Cup, finishing just five points shy of the 89-0 victory they enjoyed against Ivory Coast in 1995.
Scotland: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Chris Harris, 12 Cameron Redpath, 11 Kyle Steyn, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Ali Price, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Luke Crosbie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (c), 4 Sam Skinner, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Ewan Ashman, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 WP Nel, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Rory Darge, 21 George Horne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Huw Jones
Romania: 15 Marius Simionescu, 14 Sioeli Lama, 13 Jason Tomane, 12 Fonovai Tangimana, 11 Taliauli Sikuea, 10 Alin Conache, 9 Gabriel Rupanu, 8 Cristian Chirica (c), 7 Dragos Ser, 6 Florian Rosu, 5 Stefan Iancu, 4 Adrian Motoc, 3 Gheorghe Gajion, 2 Robert Irimescu, 1 Alexandru Savin
Replacements: 16 Florin Bardasu, 17 Iulian Hartig, 18 Costel Burtila, 19 Marius Iftimiciuc, 20 Damian Stratila, 21 Florin Surugiu, 22 Tudor Boldor, 23 Nicholas Onutu
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)