Rugby Union: Armstrong has edge over Nicol

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The Independent Online
Jed-Forest. . . . . . . . .20

Dundee High School FP. . . .9

ROUND one went to Gary Armstrong in what promises to be a prolonged and enthralling battle with Andy Nicol for the Scottish spot at scrum-half. The two met for the first time at club level at Riverside Park, where Armstrong's pugnacity and awareness of the kicking option narrowly outweighed the smoother distribution and sharper pace of a player who deputised so admirably in the international arena last season.

But on a day when Dundee's 20- year-old line-out jumper Stuart Campbell outshone both, the popular verdict was to rue the fact that Scotland lack depth in all positions other than scrum-half now Armstrong is fit after a knee injury.

As a bonus for struggling to victory over a newly promoted side with the help of an 80th-minute try, Jed-Forest became outright league leaders following Gala's defeat at Edinburgh Academicals.

Gary Armstrong was typically unfazed, as well he might be considering that, in four matches so far, Jed have aggregated fewer tries than each of the two teams lying pointless at the bottom. 'Dundee caused us problems in the line-out and through the middle,' he said. 'We're not playing well but at least we're managing to win.'

In deference to Jed's title challenge, the scrum-half has rejected an invitation to represent French Barbarians against the Springboks this month because of a clash with league commitments. 'I've got to put my club roots first,' he said.

Such loyalty is another reason why Armstrong has the total respect of Nicol, who claimed 'honours even' at no-side before looking forward to a rematch on neutral territory during the forthcoming Inter-District Championship.

While Scotland struggle to pick a winner in this absorbing duel, maybe the Lions will find a place for both on the tour of New Zealand next spring.

Jed-Forest: Try Kirkpatrick; Penalties McKechnie 2; Drop goals Hogg 2, McKechnie. Dundee HSFP: Penalties Easson, Rouse; Drop goal Easson.

Jed-Forest: K Amos; B Hughes, H Hogg (capt), G McKechnie, M Yule; G Scott, G Armstrong; N McIlroy, K Barrie, R Johnstone, M Pringle, C Hind, K Armstrong, R Kirkpatrick, K Liddle.

Dundee High School FP: C Newton; J Jardine, P Rouse, D Hamilton, A Astley-Jones; B Easson, A Nicol; J Manson, B Cairney, J van der Esch, S Campbell, J Turnbull, A Keys (capt), D Milne, G Batchelor.

Referee: M W Calder (Selkirk)

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