Rugby Union: Wainwright makes his presence felt

Bill Leith sees a former Scotland captain lift the Reds and Glasgow qualify for the European Cup
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The Independent Online
Rob Wainwright, the former Scotland captain playing his second game since June, helped Caledonia Reds to boost their prospects of qualifying for next season's European Cup at the expense of a traditionally stronger district as they beat Edinburgh 31-13 in another Murrayfield double-header yesterday.

In the earlier leg of a programme switched to the national stadium's heated pitch because of frost, the shocking decline of Scottish Borders continued with a 36-24 defeat by Glasgow, who have now qualified for the premier event after being consigned to the second string European Conference event this season.

Wainwright, who had been sidelined since Scotland's tour of New Zealand with groin and achilles tendon injuries, only made his return in a club friendly on Boxing Day. But Wainwright, tipped as a possible candidate to captain the British Isles in South Africa next summer, took the step up in his stride as Caledonia got so far in front they were able to cruise home from 31-6 with almost 15 minutes remaining.

Rowen Shepherd, returning from a pelvic injury which saw him retire hurt during Scotland's victory over Italy this month, gave an accomplished display at full-back for Caledonia in the face of opposition from his A international rival, Derrick Lee. Shepherd cannot be happy with his goal-kicking form, however; he missed three out of five attempts before being replaced.

In the other match, Borders were a shadow of recent sides which for so long provided the nucleus of Scotland's XV. After losing comprehensively to Glasgow, officials were left to lament the departure of Doddie Weir, Gregor Townsend, Gary Armstrong and Mike Dods to English domestic rugby, which has also claimed Alan Tait, a Borderer who has gone south to join Newcastle.

The prospects of Tait, capped eight times at centre in 1987-88, eventually becoming the first ex-rugby league player to play for Scotland at rugby union increased when Scott Hastings retired from Edinburgh's encounter with a leg injury.

To earn their place in the European Cup with a second successive victory, Glasgow, coached by Kevin Greene, a former All Black who plotted Waikato's victory over the 1993 British Lions, showed aggressive defence and relied heavily on the educated boot of the stand-off Calum MacGregor. But Glasgow also know how to make use of dazzling pace in the back three, particularly when exploiting errors by the opposition.

Significantly, their full-back Kenny Logan and left-wing James Craig shared four tries, and Glasgow, who led 21-3 at half-time, had another try from the richly promising No 8 David McLeish, while MacGregor landed four conversions plus one penalty from two attempts.

Craig, a 19-year-old whose father, Jim, was a member of Celtic's European Cup winning side, is a particularly exciting prospect, but even he was upstaged by 17-year-old Keith Davidson, who came off the bench as a replacement for the injured Malcolm Changleng to claim one of his side's three tries. A fortnight ago Davidson was a replacement for the Borders under-18 team.

Edinburgh: Try Mather; Conversion Hodge. Caledonia Reds: Tries Longstaff, Rouse, Carruthers, K McKenzie; Conversion M McKenzie. Penalties Shepherd (2), M McKenzie.

EDINBURGH: D Lee (Watsonians); H Gilmour (Heriot's FP), S Hastings (Watsonians, capt), M Craig (Currie), S Reed (Boroughmuir); D Hodge (Watsonians), D Patterson (Heriot's FP); B Stewart (Edinburgh Accies), G Ellis (Currie), S Paul (Heriot's FP), D Burns (Boroughmuir), A Lucking (Currie), C Mather (Watsonians), S Reid (Boroughmuir), G Dall (Heriot's FP). Replacements: G Beveridge (Boroughmuir) for Patterson, 26; A Donaldson (Currie) for Hastings, 66.

CALEDONIA REDS: R Shepherd (Melrose); S Longstaff, P Rouse (Dundee High), A Carruthers (Kirkcaldy), J Kerr (Watsonians); M McKenzie (Stirling County), P Simpson (Edinburgh Accies); T Smith (Watsonians), K McKenzie (Stirling County), D Herrington (Kirkcaldy), S Campbell (Melrose), S Grimes (Watsonians), D McIvor (Glenrothes, capt), G Flockhart (Stirling County), R Wainwright (Watsonians). Replacements: B Eason (Edinburgh Accies) for M McKenzie, 66; I Fullarton (Dundee High) for Flockhart, 77.

Referee: E Murray (Greenock).

Glasgow: Tries Logan 2, Craig 2, McLeish. Conversions MacGregor 4. Penalty MacGregor. Borders: Tries Bennet, Nichol, Davidson. Penalties Parker 3.

GLASGOW: K Logan (Stirling County); D Stark (Melrose), C Sangster (Stirling County), A Garry (Watsonians), J Craig (West); C MacGregor (Glasgow Accies), F Stott (West); G McIlwham (GHK), G Bulloch (West, capt), B Robertson (Stirling County), S Munro (GHK), M Norval (Stirling County), F Wallace (GHK), D McLeish (West), M Wallace (GHK).

BORDER REIVERS: C Turnbull (Hawick); M Changleng (Gala), A Stanger (Hawick), S Nichol, G Parker (both Melrose); S Welsh (Hawick), B Redpath (Melrose); N McIlroy (Jed-Forest), J Hay (Hawick), S Ferguson (Peebles), S Aitken (Melrose), I Elliot (Hawick), S Bennet (Kelso), C Hogg (Melrose), R Kirkpatrick (Boroughmuir). Replacements: G Aitchison (Kelso) for Turnbull, 41; K Davidson (Langholm) for Changleng, 68.

Referee: J Fleming (Boroughmuir).