Exiles fail to impress

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The Independent Online
By Stephen Evans

Nottingham 12

London Scottish 19

THERE have been strange delusions that London Scottish would grace the First Division next season. After their dismal victory yesterday, they retain some slight arithmetical hope but surely no firm belief that they would find life easy at the higher standard.

Yesterday at Beeston they looked a world away from top-flight rugby as they struggled to overcome determined, if limited, opponents. Defeat at Wakefield had already dented Scottish hopes of promotion. The scrambled manner of victory yesterday confirmed the gulf between the best and the rest in England.

London Scottish can thank the Nottingham scrum-half, Alan Royer, for dropping the ball as he went to ground it with the game finely balanced. The only actual try was unspectacular: the Exiles' second-row Dave Orr-Ewing was shunted over the Nottingham line in a maul. Apart from that, the outside-halves dominated with four successful penalty kicks apiece from Nottingham's Simon Hodgkinson and the visitors' John Steele.

Apart from the London Scottish hooker Logan Mair taking a strike against the head at a scrum on his own line in the dying minutes, there was precious little to shout about. It was a contest between the bristle of the Scottish forwards and the bustle of the Nottingham backs. The Exiles' captain Simon Holmes was rarely far from the ball, continually winning loose possession. The trouble was his backs didn't know what to do with it, running away from space into a solid wall of Nottingham defenders.

At least the home side made up for a paucity of skill with an abundance of pluck. They ran hard and attacked, but only in utterly predictable, straight lines. London Scottish just put up the barriers, particularly in the last 15 minutes when the home side turned the pressure up.

Nottingham no longer make the strongest sides quake. It is not like that at Beeston these days. Only the rule-makers have saved them this season. They languish at the foot of League Two, kept up only because there will be no relegation. Now Roger Whittaker, Nottingham's director of rugby, is aiming to bolster his side for what threatens to be an even tougher season next year.

For London Scottish, a narrow victory merely reminds them how far they have to go to reach League One standard. Nottingham have a long way to go before even thinking about it.

Nottingham: R Byrom; S Reed, N Carroll, R Bygrave, A Smallwood; S Hodgkinson, A Royer; M Freer, M Ireland, M Downey, C Gray (capt), L Jones, M Bradley, G Rees, N Malik.

London Scottish: G Fraser; T Watson (N Robinson, 57), F Harrold, R Eriksson, J Clarke; J Steele, D Millard; D Signorini, L Mair, T Burnell, A Nisbet, D Orr-Ewing, M Duthie, S Holmes, T Jankovich.

Referee: A C Rossall (Liverpool).

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