Jamie Ritchie might have been many people’s man of the match for Scotland in the sweatbox against Samoa, but at least it meant he got off with having to sing for his award in the dressing room afterwards.
Any man of the match has to give his team-mates a tune and as Jonny Gray got the award from the Rugby World Cup sponsors, he regaled the rest of the team with a version of Bill Withers’ ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ which got decidedly mixed reviews.
But it was all smiles and songs in the dressing room afterwards as the Scots celebrated finally getting off the blocks in Japan and restating their chances for a quarter-final place with the try bonus point and a 34-0 win in Kobe.
“That’s a team full of big physical men, the conditions were really muggy, sweaty and hot so for us weathering that and keeping them pointless was a huge thing,” said the 23-year-old back rower.
“A lot had been spoken through the week about us not starting well but I think we set the tone from the first minute and we took a lot of confidence from that.
“I was just happy to be out there, to have made it off the back of that injury (in the final warm-up) against Georgia. I’m delighted be here and get an opportunity to play: it was an awesome game and an awesome win, we did what we needed to do.”
Ritchie’s cheekbone injury sustained in the Georgia game just two days before the team were scheduled to fly out to Japan had him sweating a little before some minor surgery and a later flight got him back among the squad, but there was plenty of sweating in the cauldron on the closed Kobe Misaki Stadium.
“The cheek took a couple of bangs to it as you do in a game and it’s held up,” he said. “But it was really sweaty, the ball was really slippery, any stray handling and it went loose.
“It’s very difficult and because we defended so well it maybe was easier to play without the ball. But when we had it we looked dangerous, so that bodes well for when it’s a drier ball.”
Scotland’s rolling maul was also effective, and it’s sure to be a weapon when they come to meet Japan in Yokohama in the final pool game.
“We spoke about it during the week and thought we could take Samoa on up there,” continued Ritchie. “We identified where we might get the upper hand and executed it well. We got one try from it, and there were a couple of times we were unlucky not to get another.”