Scotland comeback thwarted by Ngamu

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The Huddersfield Giants stand-off Gene Ngamu kicked a late drop-goal to end Scotland's hopes of a winning start in the World Cup Group Four match here yesterday.

The Huddersfield Giants stand-off Gene Ngamu kicked a late drop-goal to end Scotland's hopes of a winning start in the World Cup Group Four match here yesterday.

Scotland fought back from10 points behind in the final quarter with tries from Geoff Bell and David Maidenbut with five minutes left Ngamu broke their opponents' spirit.

The Scotland captain Danny Russell said: "To lose like that, it's pretty hard. I don't think we used the conditions as well as we could have in the second half."

Before the drama of thefinal 20 minutes, the Auckland back-rower Clinton Toopihad threatened to run riotwith an outstanding two-try display.

Scotland's coach, Shaun McRae, had hoped the Glasgow public would get behind their World Cup campaign, but a lack of home-grown talent in the side and the freezing conditions kept many away from the wind-swept home of Partick Thistle - although the 2,008 who braved the elements saw an end-to-end game.

Scotland showed some invention in the second minute with a grubber-kick from Andrew Purcell, but Matt Daylight was unable to touch the ball down for the opening score.

The game became strewn with handling errors with both sides guilty of sloppy rugby which cost them the opportunity to break the deadlock.

Toopi was the most dangerous man in the Maori side with his pace, and he scored the first try in the 12th minute when he accepted Tawera Nikau's pass and shrugged off the tackle from Lee Gilmour to go over.

Ngamu missed the chance to add the points and six minutes later Scotland went over for a score of their own.

Terry Hermansson was penalised for holding down Richard Horne and Graham Mackay put the Maori on the defensive, finding touch with his kick 10 yards short of the line. Scotland decided to move the ball about and it had an immediate effect as Horne slipped it inside to Lee Penny and the Warrington full-back dummied David Kidwell and charged over.

Mackay kicked the conversion, and the Scots could have gone in at the break with a bigger cushion as they finished the half strongly.

First, Scott Logan was held up just short of the Maori line on the fifth tackle after a pass from Adrian Vowles, and then Bell was also held up by the tough-tackling Maori. It was only a matter of time before tempers began to over boil and in the closing moments of the half Tyran Smith was sent to the sin-bin for punching Wayne McDonald.

Ten minutes into the second half Maori regained the lead, and it all came from Sean Hoppe. He broke upfield and passed inside to Ngamu, who played it back, and the Maori flipped the ball along to Kidwell, who gratefully accepted it to go over the line.

Ngamu comfortably made the conversion and Scotland's misery was compounded five minute later when Toopi went over for his second try. Martin Moana was the creator this time as he passed the ball out wide to Toopi. Ngamu stepped up to stroke the conversion home to put his side 10 points ahead.

Scotland the launched a spirited fightback with a try in the 68th minute from Maiden who charged over the line.

Matt Crowther converted and Scotland were on level terms three minutes later when Bell went over after takinga pass from the Castleford captain Vowles on the left but Ngamu grabbed victory in the 75th minute with a drop-goal from 15 yards and Scotland were sunk.

SCOTLAND: Penny (Warrington); Daylight (Hull), Mackay (Leeds), Bell (North Quensland), Gilmour (Bradford); Purcell (Castleford), Horne (Hull); Heckenberg (St George-Illawarra), Russell (Huddersfield), Laughton (Huddersfield), Logan (Sydney City), Cram (London), Vowles (Castleford). Substitutes used: Maiden (Hull), Crowther (Hull), McDonald (St Helens), Shaw (Castleford).

NEW ZEALAND MAORI: Toopi (Auckland); Manuel (Auckland), Kohe-Love (Warrington), Kidwell (Parramatta), Hoppe (St Helens); Ngamu (Huddersfield), H Te Rangi (Otahuhu), Rauhihi (Brisbane Souths), Perenara (Auckland), Hermansson (Auckland), Koopu (Warriors), T Smith (Wests Tigers), Nikau (Warrington). Substitutes used: Moana (Halifax), Leuluai (Wests Tigers), Nahi (Newtown), Reihana (Brisbane Souths).

Referee: S Cummings (England).