Hastings on a high

Scotland 49 Romania 16
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The Independent Online
AS AN exercise in boosting morale before their departure for South Africa, this was belatedly what Scotland wanted although for a long time it was much less than they had expected. As an occasion for the Murrayfield crowd to bid a fond farewell to their beloved Gavin Hastings, it was, however, an unqualified success, the great man scoring a try after two minutes and finishing with 19 points. It was certainly no fault of his that Scotland took so long to translate their superiority in all areas of the field into an acceptable margin on the scoreboard.

It was a curiosly episodic match in which the Scots werefrustrated in their attempts to maintain the momentum and impetus of their early attacks and, having scored 12 points in the opening quarter of an hour, were forced to tread water until 10 minutes before half-time when Graham Shiel, with that rarest of manoeuvres in the cluttered midfields of the modern game, the outside break, darted through for Scotland's third try.

The Romanian scrummage was not a pretty sight, although it held firm for much of the game. In the line-out both sides profited from the referee's apparent inability to differentiate between a straight and crooked throw but the taller Romanians were unable to take advantage of their superior height, very often swatting back unappetising possession for the beleaguered Daniel Neaga. Even so, when the Romanians did attempt to open out they looked the part but too often took the complicated route when the simple would have been more effective, a classic example being when Nicolae Racean raced through Tony Stanger's ill-judged lunge for the simplest of tries two minutes into the second half.

It not only exposed the Scotsman's limitations in his newly chosen position but it put Scotland in the embarrassing position of having the Romanians uncomfortably close in their rear-view mirror. Their lead was further reduced to a mere three points two minutes later when Neculai Nichitean, who succeeded with two penalties in the first half and the conversion of Racean's try, kicked his third penalty. The Scots at this stage were completely out of the game and ominously off the pace.

It wasn't until Hastings kicked his third penalty and Eric Peters, running along the same touchline down which he had thundered so memorably to score against Wales, crossed for Scotland's fourth try, that they could begin to breathe more easily. Peters' try had been made by the alertness of Bryan Redpath who had lain in wait around the side of the scrummage and had ambushed the unsuspecting Neaga. So surprised was the Romanian scrum- half that he dropped the ball, allowing Peters an almost free passage to the line. By now the Romanians were a dishevelled crew while the Scots had moved from peril to command. The Romanian midfield defence, which had held firm, finally cracked allowing Iain Morrison to put Craig Joiner over and, after a mixed match in which he had had the satisfaction of scoring an early try but in which he had also made several serious mistakes, Stanger finally reached paradise, tearing half the length of the field to score following Shiel's mesmerising dummy and scorching break.

Kenny Logan finished off what had become a rout with a powerful run to the corner for Scotland's seventh try, ensuring the game would be remembered for something more than Gavin Hastings' final bow at Murrayfield. And when the Scottish captain left the field with a dead leg three minutes from the end to be replaced by his brother Scott the crowd, with whom he has forged such a bond of affection and loyalty and which had been swollen appreciably by the pre-match announcement of his impending retirement, rose to applaud him. It will be some time before Scotland see his like again.

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

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

Referee: N Lasaga (France).