Cronin rises above mediocrity

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The Independent Online
Scotland 22 Canada 6

Whether or not Scotland win the Five Nations' Championship, Gavin Hastings has already staked a strong claim for the best one-liner of this international season.

Asked if he felt changes might be in order for Ireland's visit to Murrayfield in just under a fortnight, Hastings saluted his team's hard-earned victory over woeful Canadian opposition by saying: "I don't mind captaining a winning side.''

For sure, but a winning team has been a long time coming for Scotland. Nine matches and almost two years, to be precise, so when victory finally arrived it was ironic, too, that Hastings should have, perhaps subconsciously, given credit to the successfulScotland A team coached by David Johnston and Hugh Campbell rather than Dougie Morgan, sitting alongside.

"Guys came in who have got used to winning. It's a good habit.'' Hastings said. Of the nine players who stepped up from Scotland A, none impressed more that Damian Cronin, who scored the only try with a Klinsmann-type dive, and whose new found zest saw him leave Edinburgh before 7am yesterday to play for his French club, Bourges.

Though Cronin has toured with the British Lions and shared in a Scottish Grand Slam, it seems only now that Cronin, put clear by Craig Chalmers 10 yards out from the line, is beginning to justify glowing predictions made on his behalf many moons ago by Jack Rowell when both were attached to Bath.

Scotland's dismal record under coach Dougie Morgan was reflected in a nervous start during which composure was an early casualty. Despite ample possession, the Scots could not unlock a solid Canadian defence and the decision to field Gregor Townsend, normally a stand off, at outside centre is one destined not to be repeated. By contrast Townsend's partner, Ian Jardine, never failed to cross the gain-line giving the Scots back row a luscious target to ruck off - if the five Exiles in the pack had not been more inclined to a mauling game.

Scott Hastings or perhaps Tony Stanger will surely replace Townsend against Ireland but the only other possible change is at lock where Andy Reed, if fit, will return despite Stewart Campbell who had a superb debut, cleaning up a Canadian line-out described by their coach Ian Birtwell, as "a shambles''. Some even reckoned Canada never won a single ball on Scotland's throw throughout a match ruined as a spectacle by sleet and snow.

Many of Canada's tactics were naive in the extreme, none more so than the kick across the face of his posts with which Gareth Rees attempted to find winger Ron Toews. Clearly Canadian rugby has gone back a long, long, way to have failed to score even onetry when confronted by such an ordinary Scottish display. There again, having got the win they desperately needed, if Scotland were to play Canada again tomorrow. . . .

But they are not. However, Gavin Hastings, added: "It's a win, the first rung of the ladder. Now we must build on the success and show the same commitment in the Five Nations' Championship. At 50-1 the Scots still do not represent a good bet for the title but what price they will confound critics yet again by heading for Twickenham on the final day in search of a Triple Crown?

Scotland: Try Cronin; Conversion Hastings; Penalties Hastings 5. Canada: Penalties Rees 2.

SCOTLAND: G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); C Joiner (Melrose), G Townsend (Gala), I Jardine (Stirling County), K Logan (Stirling County); C Chalmers, B Redpath (both Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), K Milne (Heriot's), P Wright (Boroughmuir), D Cronin (Bourges),S Campbell (Dundee High), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool), E Peters (Bath), I Morrison (London Scottish).

CANADA: S Stewart (Univ of British Columbia OB); W Stanley (UBC), C Stewart (Rovigo), S Gray (Kats), R Toews (Meraloma); G Rees (Newport, capt), J Graf (UBC OB); E Evans (IBM Tokyo) M Cardinal (James Bay), D Jackart (UBC OB), M James (Burnaby Lake), K Whitley (Calgary Irish), I Gordon (James Bay), C McKenzie (UBC OB), G MacKinnon (Ex-Britannia Lions). Replacement: J Hutchinson (UBC OB) for Whiteley, 40.

Referee: C Thomas (Wales).