Gavin finds his mark

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The Independent Online
North and Midlands 11

Edinburgh 11

THE first stirrings of a response from the Scotland full-back, Gavin Hastings, to fierce criticisms provided much of what relief was to be gained from a dire Scottish inter-district championship match which saw his Edinburgh side escape with a draw against North/Midlands at Cupar.

Hastings, who missed two Edinburgh matches earlier in the season to protect a suspect back, has recently been bombarded by hard-hitting comment, including a 2 out of 10 for his performance against South Africa from the influential Scottish Rugby magazine. The most withering blast, though, came 24 hours before kick-off when the North/ Midlands coach, Brian Edwards, labelled this proudest of Scots "not a lot of a threat". Embellishing his remarks, Edwards had said: "If Gavin is demotivated for an international, how is he going to perform in an inter-district match?"

Against that background, Hastings' try, when he ploughed over unopposed on the blind-side of a ruck before adding two late angled penalties to help Edinburgh back from 5-11, must have tasted sugary sweet.

North/Midlands took the lead with a try by the centre, Paul Rouse, after the No8, Gareth Flockhart, had been allowed to get outside Edinburgh's 20-year-old winger, Hugh Gilmour. Hastings' try tied the scores but Jon Newton added penalties in the 35th and60th minutes.

With time running out, Hastings landed two penalties and snatched a try, and in the end the outcome may have come down to a penalty blunder early on by Duncan Hodge while Hastings was receiving treatment for a finger injury. Ironically, Hodge had spent Wednesday evening being coached in goal-kicking by the All Black points machine, Grant Fox.

Edinburgh felt they had been dragged down by spoiling, with North/Midlands convinced they had been lured into safety-first tactics. With a new Northern Hemisphere Super League looming, however, rival coaches are unlikely to lose much sleep should the video of this dire and exceedingly negative encounter ever fall into their possession.

North/Midlands: A Carruthers (Kirkcaldy); M Cousin, P Rouse (both Dundee High), J Thomson (Kirkcaldy), S Burns (Edinburgh Acads); J Newton (Dundee High), K Harper (Stirling County); J Manson (Dundee High), M Scott (Dunfermline), W Anderson (Kirkcaldy), SCampbell (Dundee High), S Hamilton (Stirling County), D McIvor (Edinburgh Acads, capt), G Flockhart (Stirling County), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool).

Edinburgh: G Hastings (Watsonians); H Gilmour, A McRobbie (both Heriot's), P Flockhart (Stewart's/Melville), C Glasgow (Heriot's); D Hodge (Watsonians), G Burns (Stewart's/Melville); G Wilson (Boroughmuir), K Milne, S Paul (both Heriot's), J Richardson (Edinburgh Acads, capt), P Jennings, G Drummond, S Reid (all Boroughmuir), G Dall (Heriot's).

Referee: E Murray (Greenock Wands).