Rugby Union: Scottish learn harsh lessons

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The Independent Online
London Scottish 3 Leicester 38

LONDON SCOTTISH are on a learning curve which, after two games, has taken on the shape of a rainbow: up against Sale, down to Earth against Leicester. The Tigers, who scored seven tries against Harlequins, were limited to four on Saturday after leading 30-3 at half-time.

"Having played reasonably well against Quins we felt the Scots would be tougher and would fight a lot more," Dean Richards, the Leicester coach, said. "They competed very well up front and we allowed them to rile us a bit in the second half. They have the players to dog it out."

That is no mean compliment from Richards, a Crufts champion when it comes to dogging it out.

In the first half London Scottish were undone by indecisive first time tackling and a succession of kicks from re-starts that played right into the hands of the Leicester forwards. The Exiles learnt several lessons, one being that it is folly to play Iain McAusland on the wing simply because he is the best goal-kicker in the team.

"Mentally we were too submissive," John Steele, the London Scottish Director of Rugby, said. "We paid them far too much respect in the first half. We have to be more streetwise. A case in point came at a stoppage and Austin Healey asked our scrum half for the ball. He meekly handed it to him instead of telling him where to go. In the event we were awarded a penalty but by the time we got the ball back we had no chance of taking a quick one."

Against a pack containing seven internationals, the Scots were surprisingly comfortable although in the lineout too they learnt some of the Premiership tricks of the trade. At London Scottish throw-ins, Leicester were not targeting the jumper. Instead they'd give the lifter a slight nudge which in turn disrupted the catcher.

Against the co-tenants of the Stoop, Quins and London Scottish, Leicester have made an excellent start. Restored to scrum-half, Healey looked once again like the artful dodger.

The highlight, in front of a crowd of just 2,100, was Ezulike's try under the posts, beautifully created by Joel Stransky, Pat Howard and Lloyd. If South Africa have a better stand-off than Stansky, whose all-round performance was almost faultless, then he must be some performer.

London Scottish, promoted after beating Bristol in the play-offs last season, will shortly announce the appointment of a South African coach (couldn't they find anybody north of the border?) and the signing of two or three players. "Our squad isn't complete," Steele said, "but the positive thing is that the players now know there's not that much difference between them and the top Premiership sides. It's a mental thing." And a physical thing. And a financial thing.

London Scottish: Penalty McAusland. Leicester: Tries Stransky, Ezulike, Stimpson, Gustard; Conversions Stransky 3; Penalties Stransky 4.

London Scottish: D Lee; I McAusland, R Davies, R Eriksson, C Sharman; S Binns, G Easterby (S Cook, 67); M McDonald (R Bijl, 40), D Cummins, P Burnell, G Manson-Bishop (M McAtandey, 40), M Watson, S Fenn, R Hunter (capt) (C Tarbuck, 40), T Davies (S Holmes, 40).

Leicester: T Stimpson; L Lloyd, S Potter (J Overend, 72), P Howard, N Ezulike (D Lougheed, 72); J Stranski, A Healey; G Rowntree, R Cockerill, D Garforth, M Johnson (capt), F van Heerden (N Fletcher, 72), P Gustard, M Corry, N Back, (L Moody, 48).

Referee: E Morrison (Bristol).