It was Rod Macqueen's day at Murrayfield yesterday. Australia's coach could savour the satisfaction of a job ultimately well done as his collection of Antipodean underachievers - beaten in Buenos Aires and held at Twickenham - finished their trans-continental tour with a fair advance at the expense of a sorry Scotland team. The Scots led after half-an-hour and were still level at the break, but only Steve McQueen in a bomber jacket might have saved them from what was a record margin of defeat against the Wallabies. They needed a great escape. And, with Messrs Weir, Wainwright, Smith and Shepherd all confined to barracks, Scotland's was a sadly lost cause.
It was indeed SAD. So calamitous has pre-Christmas Caledonian form become that the Scots could be said to be afflicted by seasonal affective disorder. Yesterday's was a painfully acute case, eased only by the mitigating absence of their injured key quartet. They started with four new caps and finished with six, Stuart Grimes and George Graham emerging from bench-duty to join James Craig, Scott Murray, Adam Roxburgh and Grant McKelvey in a seriously under-strength team captained for the first time by Andy Nicol. Perhaps the band knew what was coming. They played "Always look on the bright side of life" before the match had even kicked off.
The Wallabies waltzed past the home guard throughout the mismatch of the second-half, with Viliame Ofahengaue, the professional pile-driver at the back of their pack, crashing through for their fifth try in injury time. Only once before had Australia put so many points past Scotland and the 37 with which Mark Ella and Co completed their 1984 grand slam tour met with 12 in response. The sobering thought in the bars of Prince's Street last night was that it could have been worse, much worse.
John Eales followed his four place-kicking misses at Twickenham with another of the sitter variety in the second minute. So unsettled was the Wallaby captain that he ordered Steve Larkham to kick for touch, rather than take a penalty pot himself from even closer range four minutes later. Eales succeeded in putting three points on the board from point-blank range in the eighth minute but Scotland exposed nerves that were still jangling, if not quite raw.
First Duncan Hodge, forced to play out of position at full-back in his first full international, struck an equalising penalty. Then, with 27 minutes gone, Alan Tait's arcing break nearly let in Craig on the right. From the line-out that followed Murray stole the Australian ball at the back of the line and made sure that one new boy had a try to show for his first-day efforts.
Hodge, though, was wayward with his touchline conversion attempt and that set the tone for the remaining 50 minutes. As half-time approached, George Gregan stretched the home defence beyond breaking point, spinning the ball wide for Joe Roff - with the considerable help of Pat Howard's reverse pass and Larkham's reflex scoop - to score in the left corner. Richard Harry spilled the ball within reach of the line right from the kick-off in the second-half, but it proved to be a temporary reprieve for Scotland.
Four minutes later, Larkham gathered a Tait kick on the edge of his 22 and left what seemed to be the entire Scottish team in his wake as he charged up the touch-line to complete a classic full-back counter-attacking try. Eales added five points from the boot before Larkham cut loose again, swerving past Craig and slicing through the heart of a woefully soft defence to claim his second try. Gregan, with a brilliant blind-side break, and Ofahengaue followed the lead of the irrepressible Australian full-back, breaching the Scottish try-line before the merciful blast of the final whistle.
"The most disappointing 40 minutes I can remember," the Scotland coach, Richie Dixon, lamented. "The best 40 minutes of our tour," Macqueen crowed as Murrayfield emptied in mournful mood. It was difficult to look on the bright side for Scotland. They have another home engagement before Christmas. Their challenge on 6 December: To stop the Springbok team that whacked the Wallabies for 61 points in August.
Scotland: D Hodge (Watsonians); J Craig (West of Scotland), T Stanger (Hawick), A Tait (Newcastle), K Logan (Wasps); G Townsend (Northampton), A Nicol (Bath, capt); D Hilton (Bath), G McKelvey (Watsonians), M Stewart (Northampton), S Campbell (Dundee HSFP), S Murray (Bedford), A Roxburgh (Kelso), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Moseley). Replacements: C Chalmers (Melrose) for T Stanger, S Grimes (Watsonians) for I Smith, G Graham (Newcastle) for M Stewart. Replacements not used: C Joiner (Leicester), G Armstrong (Newcastle), G Bulloch (West of Scotland).
Australia: S Larkham (Australian Capital Territory); B Tune (Queensland), T Horan (Queensland), P Howard (ACT), J Roff (ACT); E Flatley (Queensland), G Gregan (ACT); R Harry (New South Wales), M Foley (Queensland), A Blades (NSW), J Langford (ACT), J Eales (Queensland, capt), O Finegan (ACT), V Ofahengaue (NSW), B Robinson (ACT). Replacements: D Wilson (Queensland) for B Robinson. Replacements not used: M Hardy (NSW), S Payne (NSW), A Heath (NSW), M Caputo (ACT), M Cockbain (Queensland).
Referee: T Henning (S Africa).Reuse content