Robinson harnesses Warriors' spirit
Scotland 23 Fiji 10: Scotland's new English coach oversees encouraging performance from players reared on both sides of the border
Sunday 15 November 2009
When it came to national anthem time in the west end of Edinburgh yesterday, Andy Robinson could not quite bring himself to sing along to "Flower of Scotland". Not that the commitment of this quintessential Englishman to the Caledonian cause could have been called into question. At times, in the coaches' box, he banged down his fists in frustration. He also raised his fists in celebration. Thankfully for the former England coach and flanker, his charges had learned enough of their lines to furnish him with a winning return to the international arena – three years on from his fall from grace at Twickenham.
Scotland's new coach had spoken much about the need for warrior spirit and tries by two Glasgow Warriors, the No 8 Johnnie Beattie and inside-centre Graeme Morrison – plus 13 points from the boot of the Edinburgh fly-half Phil Godman – earned the Scots a comfortable win against a nation ranked one place above them, in ninth, in the International Rugby Board's rankings.
Fiji fielded five debutants from the start and blooded four more from the bench but that did stop Robinson savouring a success that had been forged on set-piece domination.
"That was a very, very good performance," he said. "We've beaten a quality opposition comfortably. We should be patting the guys on the back. There were a lot of good individual performances and we had a lot of control at the set piece."
Robinson was not the only figure of English extraction to enjoy a winning baptism for the new Caledonians. Alex Grove, who was born in Solihull and educated at Rugby School, where that Webb-Ellis fellow famously picked up the ball and ran with it, made his presence felt at outside-centre. Watched by his Glaswegian grandfather, Ron Wylie, who managed West Bromwich Albion in the early 1980s, the 21-year-old announced his arrival on the international stage with a thumping early hit on Josh Matavesi, the Fiji full-back. There was much more of that to come from a young man who happens to be another of Robinson's Warriors – a Worcester Warrior – and he made some fine creative touches besides.
Collectively, it took Robinson's men a while to make an impression. Godman got the scoreboard ticking in the 15th minute, landing a 40-metre penalty, but the match was into the second quarter before Scotland built up a head of steam. They did so to good effect, however, Beattie tapping back a line-out on the right and Chris Cusiter, the scum-half and captain, seizing the ball and the initiative with a break that paved the way for Beattie. The Glasgow No 8, in the senior side for the first time in two years, had to use his strength to score his second international try, holding off three Fijian defenders on his way to the line.
Godman added the conversion and landed two further penalties as Scotland threatened to take a grip. They might have had a comfortable cushion by the end of the first half, had Rory Lamont not been stopped just short on the crash ball after a lovely inside pass from Grove. As it was, they were caught by a Fijian sucker punch a minute before the interval. Nicky Little whipped out a pass on the short side from a five-metre scrum and, Simon Danielli having shot out of the line in a vain attempt to make an interception, Vereniki Goneva dived over in the right corner.
Little's conversion made it 16-7 but the Bath fly-half pushed wide a relative gimmie of a penalty four minutes into the second half and home nerves were not long in being settled thereafter. With 51 minutes on the clock, the Scots had breathing space on the scoreboard, if somewhat fortuitously so. From a five-metre scrum to the right of the posts Godman fed the ball inside to Sean Lamont, who appeared to flick it in a forward direction to Morrison, who touched down between the posts. The English referee, Chris White, however, chose not to call for video scrutiny and, with Godman's conversion, Scotland were into a comfort zone.
All the Fijians could manage was a Little penalty as Scottish eyes turned towards the rather different proposition likely to be presented by the Wallabies next Saturday.
"All of us have got to improve by 15 per cent, including me, if we're to beat Australia," Scotland's new head coach said. "But let's enjoy the moment, enjoy the win."
Scotland R Lamont (C Paterson, 63); S Lamont, A Grove, G Morrison, S Danielli; C Cusiter (capt; M Blair, 63; N De Luca, 78), P Godman; A Jacobsen (K Traynor, 63), R Ford (D Hall, 70), M Low, N Hines, A Kellock, A Strokosch (J White, 65), J Beattie (R Vernon, 78), J Barclay.
Fiji J Matavesi (J Ratu, 75); V Goneva (N Roko, 76), G Lovobalavu, S Bai (capt), N Nalaga; N Little, M Rauluni (W Vatuvoka, 72); A Yalayalatabua (G Dewes, 40), V Veikoso (S Ledua, 70), D Manu, W Lewaravu, I Rawaqa, J Domolailai (S Bola, 23), A Boko, A Qera.
Referee: C White (England).
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