Hastings battles into history

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The Independent Online
Scotland 49

Romania 16

After the early skirmishes in the World Cup, Scotland are likely to meet New Zealand, and Gavin Hastings was asked for his view on the All Blacks' annihilation of Canada in Auckland. "Not relevant," Captain Marvel replied.

As relevant, surely, as this warm-up match against Romania who look as if they are simply making up the numbers in South Africa. The Romanians fielded nine of the side who were defeated 54-3 by England at Twickenham last November and before a half-full Murrayfield they conceded seven tries on Saturday. "To score 49 points in an international is not unimpressive," Hastings said.

The full-back duly received a standing ovation on his farewell appearance at Murrayfield. After two minutes he scored a try and by the time he came off, two minutes from the end, he had scored 19 points, boosting his total since his debut in the blue jersey in 1986 to 563. A lap of honour might have been appropriate but Hastings was carrying a dead leg. "It's not my last game for Scotland so I didn't want to get too emotional," Hastings said.

One of the main points of interest centred around the new midfield partnership of Tony Stanger, a wing converted to centre, and Graham Shiel. Shiel, who is marrying the daughter of the coach, Douglas Morgan, after the World Cup, made a couple of classic contributions. Stanger, though, is not quite the finished product.

He was at fault when Romania scored their only try, Nicolae Racean beating him on the outside. "Tries shouldn't be scored from set-pieces," Hastings said. "We'll have to do some homework on that." Stanger will also have to do some homework on his distribution and several of his passes were either too high or too backward.

However, when Scotland got it right they lifted the crowd on a bitterly cold afternoon and there was one outstanding example as the Romanian defence was shredded in the final quarter. Hastings started it all from behind his own line and Shiel supplied a touch of class to create an overlap for Stanger who scored from half-way.

With a lightweight pack and a back row geared for support play in attack, Scotland's destiny is to play a high-risk, fluid game. "Pretoria won't be too wet in June," Hastings said. "We won't deviate from our plan too much. We will play to our strength and that means involving everyone."

The strategy, which brought exciting tries against Ireland, France and Wales in the Five Nations, paid off against Romania although what, perhaps, in the end made this a worthwhile exercise for Scotland is that they were made aware of their limitations. They lost the line-outs 16-13 and conceded 14 penalties. "We knew we'd have to work for it," Morgan said. "Romania were always going to get some part of the game."

Trailing 19-6 at half-time Romania pulled back to 19-16. "I wasn't sure whether we were being overly patient," Hastings said. "I was a wee bit disappointed that we let it slip." Tiberie Brinza, the Romanian captain, said his team had much more trouble against the Scotland three-quarters than they had against the French a couple of weeks ago. He was particularly impressed by what he described as Scotland's "spontaneous reaction".

In the World Cup, Romania and Canada are grouped with South Africa and Australia. If this is the "Group of Death", as it has been called, it is already half dead. "This is not a good time for us," Mircea Paraschiv, the coach, said. "Ten years ago we could compete with the best. Since then everybody else has improved but we haven't. We no longer have star players, ones like Gavin Hastings who can win matches on their own."

There are only 5,000 players in Romania and without the support of other unions they would not be able to play on the international stage. Indeed, as Paraschiv admitted, without a contribution from Gilbert, the ball manufacturer, they would not even be able to sustain the game at its most basic level. Nobody can play without the ball.

Scotland: Tries Stanger 2, Hastings, Shiel, Peters, Joiner, Logan; Conversions Hastings 4; Penalties: Hastings 2. Romania: Try Racean; Conversion Nichitean; Penalties Nichitean 3.

SCOTLAND: G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); C Joiner (Melrose), A Stanger (Hawick), G Shiel (Melrose), K Logan (Stirling County); C Chalmers (Melrose), B Redpath (Melrose); D Hilton (Bath), K McKenzie (Stirling County), P Wright (Boroughmuir), G Weir (Melrose), S Campbell (Dundee High School FP), R Wainwright (West Hartlepool), E Peters (Bath), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacement: S Hastings (Watsonians) for G Hastings, 78.

ROMANIA: V Brici (Farul Constanta); R Cioca (Dinamo Bucharest), N Racean (Cluj University), R Gontineac (Cluj University), G Solomie (Timisoara University); N Nichitean (Cluj University), D Neaga (Dinamo Bucharest); G Leonte (Vienne), V Tufa (Dinamo Bucharest), L Costea (Steaua Bucharest), S Ciorascu (Auch), C Cojocariu (Bayonne), T Oroian (Steaua Bucharest), T Brinza (Cluj University, capt), A Gealapu (Steaua Bucharest). Replacement: C Draguceanu for Gealapu, 54.

Referee: N Lasaga (France).