They swapped the football nets for rugby uprights at Pittodrie on Saturday. Sadly for Frank Hadden and for Scotland, the changing of the goalposts had not stopped there. On the old system used for the quadrennial Rugby World Cup draw, as quarter-finalists last time round the Scots would have made it into the pot of second-tier nations. As it is, when the pools for the 2011 tournament are composed a week today, Hadden's men will be among the third-raters.
Their fate was sealed on Saturday when Ireland's victory against Argentina left Scotland standing in ninth place in the International Rugby Board's world rankings. Still, at least they signed off from their autumn schedule on a high, following up their near-miss against the Springboks with a six-try flourish – something those folk south of the border in red rose country would dearly love to be able to boast by tea-time this Saturday.
Not that the opponents who crumbled in the snow and ice at Aberdeen – with their three Cornish Pirates, their one Castaway Wanderer, their two Velox Valhallians and their Hartpury College sports science student (the 20-year-old Matt Evans, interrupting his studies in Gloucestershire to make his first start for his country at outside-half) – could be placed in anything close to the same bracket as the team in black that England will face at Twickenham.
Scotland had the first of their five-point scores on the board before Kieran Crowley's Canucks had even got their first controlling touch of the ball. It came courtesy of Nikki Walker, who scored as many tries in 80 minutes on Saturday (two) as he had in his preceding 14 appearances for his country, spread across six years. The big Ospreys wing, a native Aberdonian, finished with the man of the match award too, though it w as also a day to remember for Ben Cairns, John Barclay and Alasdair Strokosch. They all got off the mark on the international try-scoring front, while Rory Lamont – cutting a fine line from full back – plundered his sixth.
Scotland: Tries Walker 2, Cairns, Barclay, Strokosch, Lamont; Conversions Godman 3, Parks; Penalty Godman.
Scotland: R Lamont (Sale); S Webster (Edinburgh), B Cairns (Edinburgh), N De Luca (Edinburgh), N Walker (Ospreys); P Godman (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh, capt); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), R Ford (Edinburgh), E Murray (Northampton), N Hines (Perpignan), J Hamilton (Edinburgh), A Strokosch (Gloucester), J Barclay (Glasgow), S Taylor (Stade Francais). Replacements: A Dickinson (Gloucester) for Jacobsen, 51, S Gray (Northampton) for Barclay, 51; R Lawson (Gloucester) for Blair, 59; D Parks (Glasgow) for Godman, 59; D Hall (Glasgow) for Ford, 64; M Evans (Glasgow) for Webster, 64; M Mustchin (Edinburgh) for Hines, 75.
Canada: J Pritchard (Bedford); S Duke (University of Victoria), C Hearn (Castaway Wanderers), R Smith (Calgary Irish), J Mensah-Coker (Plymouth Albion); M Evans (Hartpury College), E Fairhurst (Cornish Pirates, capt); K Tkachuk (Glasgow), M Pletch (Velox Valhallians), S Franklin (Cornish Pirates); T Hotson (Northern Suburbs), J Jackson (Bordeaux-Begles), J Sinclair (Castaway Wanderers, A Kleeberger (Univerity of Victoria), A Carpenter (Brantford Harlequins). Replacements: N Hirayama (University of Victoria) for Evans, 47; M Williams (James Bay AA) for Fairhurst, 52; M Burak (Cornish Pirates) for Jacobsen, 52; B Keys (Velox Valhallians) for Hearn, 61; F Walsh (Vandals) for Tkachuk, 67; J Marshall (Capilano) for Sinclair, 72; S-M Stephen (Plymouth Albion) for Carpenter, 72.
Referee: G Clancy (Ireland)
*Ireland survived a potentially fraught encounter at Croke Park on Saturday to guarantee their inclusion among the second seeds at the 2011 World Cup draw by beating Argentina 17-3. Ronan O'Gara kicked 12 points but Ireland had to wait until the final quarter to break the resistance of a typically stubborn Argentina. The Irish pack eventually assumed control, pounding the Pumas defence into submission, with Tommy Bowe's late try sealing victory.
*Australia remain unbeaten on their European tour, taking advantage of France's poor kicking to win 18-13 on Saturday. Hooker Stephen Moore and wing Peter Hynes scored tries for the Wallabies, while fly-half Matt Giteau added a conversion and two penalties.