Smith exits stage a champion after Rangers' command performance

Kilmarnock 1 Rangers 5

There was glory and a sense of revelling in the agonies of their oldest rivals, but mostly this was an occasion that told of the ruthlessness of this Rangers side. They did not so much secure the Scottish Premier League title as seize it with a performance that was unremitting and at times irresistible. In a season that has cast some grim shadows on Scottish football, it was also a display to restore some hope.

As champions for a third successive season, Rangers brought to a close the second era of Walter Smith, whose triumphs establish him as one of the club's greatest managers. He was central to the scenes of jubilation on the pitch afterwards, but also in the purpose and accomplishment of a side he has assembled in financially difficult circumstances.

Rangers were only one point ahead of Celtic going into this final afternoon, so there was potential for calamity. But Smith's team refused to be complacent or hesitant an instead trusted in their competitive instincts. "We had a fantastic start," he said. "The standard of finishing for the first three goals was exceptional. It was a terrific way to ease the nerves a wee bit."

Whatever suspense there might have been was immediately and defiantly quashed. As if suddenly unleashed upon this game, it took Rangers 48 seconds to breach the home defence, and this emphatic intervention reduced Kilmarnock to insecurity. There was opportunism in the way Steven Davis hurled himself at a high ball in midfield, but his determination stood out as the defining feature of this Rangers performance.

Davis's header arched over the Kilmarnock backline, sending Kyle Lafferty into the penalty area. The striker – all angular limbs and awkwardness, but also capable of a deft touch - held off Manuel Pascali – then carefully lobbed Cameron Ball, the home goalkeeper. As the ball bounced into the net, it acted like a release of tension but also of the joy that was held in check by the Rangers supporters.

The Kilmarnock defenders were reeling, and when Gregg Wylde set off on a surge down the left they looked aghast again. He checked his run, but was astute enough to deliver the ball inside to Steven Naismith, who took a touch before shooting into the corner of the net. There was a tenacity about Rangers that would not be denied and the home side could not cope.

Two minutes later, Naismith carried the ball deep into the fragile heart of Kilmarnock's defence before laying it off to Nikica Jelavic on his right. The Croatian steered a first-time cross into the path of Lafferty, who turned it beyond Bell to establish not only Rangers' control of the game but also their claim on the championship.

As the away fans gloried in the significance of what already seemed an insurmountable lead, they chanted "Lennon, Lennon, what's the score" with such gusto that they might have felt it would carry all the way to the Celtic manager in the east end of Glasgow.

Four minutes into the second half, Jelavic curled a free-kick into the top corner. The closeness of the title race, the tension that gripped both Old Firm clubs, might have been revealed by the occasional references to Celtic in the jubilant songs of the Rangers fans, but this was a sweeping, commanding performance to seal the title.

Lafferty's third goal, another crisp finish after Naismith's through-ball, was an adornment. And although James Dayton's deflected free-kick brought some small cheer for the home side, this was Rangers' afternoon, a display of the will, the heart, and the aplomb of champions. But it was also Smith's, his final act as Rangers manager before passing the job on to his assistant, Ally McCoist.

"I'll always have a regret," he said about his decision to retire. "I had a regret when I was arguing with myself about whether to do it or not. But it's the right thing for myself and the right thing for Rangers; now they've got a new owner and a new manager."

Kilmarnock (4-5-1) Bell; Fowler, Clancy, Pascali, Hay; Bryson, Kelly; Dayton (Fisher, 81), Taouil, Silva; Aubameyang (Gros, 76). Substitutes not used Letheren (gk), Berntsson, Agard, Pursehouse.

Rangers (4-4-2) McGregor; Whittaker, Bougherra, Weir, Papac; Naismith, Davis, Edu, Wylde (McCulloch, 71); Jelavic (Diouf, 81), Lafferty (Healy, 90). Substitutes not used Alexander (gk), Fleck, Foster, Hutton.

Referee: C Thomson

Booked: Kilmarnock Fowler, Fisher; Rangers Lafferty, Jelavic.

Man of the match: Lafferty

Attendance: 16,173.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
Life and Style
It is believed that historically rising rates of alcohol consumption have contributed to the increase
food + drink
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
The White Sails Hospital and Spa is to be built in the new Tunisia Economic City.
architectureRussian billionaire designs boat-shaped hospital for new Dubai-style Tunisia Economic City
Arts and Entertainment
You could be in the Glastonbury crowd next summer if you follow our tips for bagging tickets this week
Husain Abdullah returns an interception off Tom Brady for a touchdown
nflLeague has rules against 'sliding to ground on knees'
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Arts and Entertainment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style