Luke Douglas’s last charge of his professional career, which saw him score for Scotland from 20 metres out, ensured that the Bravehearts qualified for their fifth World Cup, with a 42-24 triumph over Greece in London.
The retiring prop, who played the full 80 minutes to great effect, sealed a terrific personal performance with the conversion to his touchdown, the first goal of his illustrious career,
Scotland were made to fight all the way by a committed Greek side, who were level 24-all with 15 minutes left to play.
From that point on, the Greeks having failed to find touch with a penalty, saw Scotland dominate.
“I’m really pleased with the result although, at times, we put ourselves in a hole by not completing,” said Scotland caretaker coach Nathan Graham. “All credit to the lads, they dug in and got back to the game plan, and we went away with it at the end with some really good play.”
Graham added: “There were a couple of stand out performers for us, Luke Douglas in his final game was immense, as was Oscar Thomas who was a last minute call up at hooker and also played the entire time and came up with some real quality play – and young Callum McLelland on the left caused all sorts of problems. We’ve qualified in good style.”
Kick off was delayed by 15 minutes as medical supplies were held up but Graham’s side raced into a 14 point lead inside 17 minutes.
Greece made an early break up field from the kick off but Scotland countered when Davey Dixon’s bust out wide was supported by Ryan Brierley for the opening try, the scrum half converting his own effort.
Greece kicked out on the full and gave away a double penalty, McLelland stepping over from close in for his second try in as many international appearances, Brierley wide with the goal attempt.
Ben Kavanagh powered over the cover soon after wide out to extend the lead, but the Greeks – in this their ‘home’ game – were back in contention in the 24th minute when great hands to the right saw Mitchell Zampetides cross.
Greece then forced a goal line drop out from which prop Robert Tuliatu bundled over, Jordan Meads converting.
Just after the half hour, David Scott became his nation’s all-time try scorer with his tenth in eighteen games thanks to Alex Walker’s long pass, but Greece narrowed the gap to two points at the break when hooker Peter Mamouzelos scooted over and Meads goaled.
Meads kicked a penalty to level at the start of the second half after Kieran Moran was sin binned for a high tackle.
Greece then lost possession at the play the ball and McLelland made them pay with his second, Brierley goaling, but the blue and white’s were level in the 55th minute when a clever kick out wide saw Chaise Robinson capitalise.
Matt Hogg did superbly to gather a kick and get out of his in goal area and, from the position gained, a looping pass out wide saw Will Oakes cross in the corner.
Kavanagh then claimed his second, Thomas with the conversion and a penalty to give his side a cushion going into the closing stages, Douglas with the icing on their cake.
Greece now travel to Serbia, with the winners claiming the second World Cup berth from Pool B.
“I am very proud of the effort and determination of the players in trying circumstances,” said Greece head coach Steve Georgallis. “We had chances to put Scotland under pressure but let them off the hook with simple errors. It was an entertaining game played in good spirit.
“Congratulations to Scotland in reaching the 2021 World Cup. We must now focus on our game against Serbia. It will be a tough on their soil.”
1. Terry Constantinou 2. John Mitsias 3. Greg Koutsimporgiogos 4. Mitchell Zampetides 5. Nick Mougios 6. Chaise Robinson 7. Jordan Meads 8. Stefano Totidis 9. Peter Mamouzelos 10. Robert Tuliatu 11. Sebastian Sell 12. Jake Kambos 13. Billy Magoulias
Subs: 14. Kosta Katsidonis 15. Stefanos Bastas 16. Jake Vrahnos 17. Theodoris Nianiakas
Tries: Zampetides (24), Tuliatu (28), Mamouzelos (39), Robinson (55)
Goals: Meads 4
1. Alex Walker 2. Matt Hogg 3. Davey Dixon 4. David Scott 5. Will Oakes 6. Callum Mclelland 7. Ryan Brierley 8. Luke Douglas 9. Oscar Thomas 15. Sam Luckley 11. Nick Glohe 12. Ben Kavanagh 13. Dale Ferguson
Subs: 10. Dan Turland 16. Joe Mclean 17. Kieran Moran 21. Liam Faughlin
Tries: Brierley (4), McLelland (11, 46), Kavanagh (17, 69), Scott (32), Oakes (66), Douglas (78)
Goals: Brierley 2, Thomas 2, Douglas 1
Referee: James Child (England)
Half time: 16-18