Murray leads the way as Scotland triumph at last

Samoa 3 Scotland 38
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The Independent Online

And the Scots thought they had problems. Samoa, so utterly destitute that they sacrificed the comforting humidity of Apia for the gale-force winds of New Zealand's North Island in an effort to earn themselves a few extra bob, saw their grand design comprehensively wrecked by a combination of grim weather, public indifference and a lively display from the tourists that contrasted sharply with their own ineptitude. Depressing? Weep now for a rugby culture on the brink of collapse.

And the Scots thought they had problems. Samoa, so utterly destitute that they sacrificed the comforting humidity of Apia for the gale-force winds of New Zealand's North Island in an effort to earn themselves a few extra bob, saw their grand design comprehensively wrecked by a combination of grim weather, public indifference and a lively display from the tourists that contrasted sharply with their own ineptitude. Depressing? Weep now for a rugby culture on the brink of collapse.

When Scotland took the field here yesterday, they felt far more at home than their hosts - not simply because the 11,000 crowd was so sparse they could have been welcomed individually, but because the conditions were wholly reminiscent of a winter's day in Auchtermuchty. They survived the initial Samoan onslaught with a minimum of pain, although Scott Murray grimaced just a little after being sliced in two by the heavyweight prop Kas Lealamanua, and then set about dismantling opponents lost in a fog of technical fragility and tactical confusion.

They scored five tries - yes, five - and might have rubbed it in with another three. Murray, a far beefier proposition than he was during last year's World Cup, made a terrific fist of his first overseas Test as captain, and not just in the line-out either; he hit the rucks hard, carried the ball many a mile and stoked the fires with a passion. Allister Hogg and Jason White caught the eye in the back row; Chris Cusiter busied himself to considerable effect at scrum-half; Sean Lamont, very much a newcomer at this level, showed flashes of something rather good on the right wing.

As a result, Matt Williams can at last raise a glass in celebration after losing six on the bounce since succeeding Ian McGeechan as national coach. There was little chance of the Australian drinking himself into hangover territory, not least because he now faces two fixtures of a rather different magnitude against his own countrymen, but the unexpected scale of this victory gave him a warm glow all the same. "It's not so much a feeling of relief as one of faith repaid," he said afterwards.

His opposite number, the great All Black flanker Michael Jones, is a man of faith himself - such profound faith that he famously refused to play on Sundays and spurned any number of opportunities to earn himself a fortune in big business to embark on a lifetime's work with the under-privileged people of Auckland's less salubrious neighbourhoods. There was precious little to comfort him here, though. If Jones did not expect to win this game at a canter, he certainly did not anticipate seeing his side reduced to a standstill.

"I am troubled," he admitted. "We showed so little of what is of value in our rugby, and I'm at a loss to explain the lack of urgency. Sure, we would have preferred to play the Scots in 30 degrees of heat, but if we are serious about being a force in the world game, we have to front up in rain, hail and snow. This is a great let-down for the people who are working so hard to get these games organised, and we have failed our community and our tradition. The flip-side is that real men learn from such experiences."

Experience, or lack of it, was Samoa's problem - that and the below-par performances of many of the full-time professionals who participated in the epic encounter with England in Melbourne last October. Only Brian Lima and Tanner Vili asked questions of an excellent Scottish defence; up front, the likes of Semo Sititi and Opeta Palepoi were a scarcely visible shadow of their World Cup selves.

Scotland were three points up and ruling the roost in the line-out when Gordon Ross dummied his way between the Samoan centres to maximise a fierce drive to the posts by Hogg. A minute into the second half, Ross found Ben Hinshelwood with a long pass and sent the centre bouncing over for a second try. When Cusiter pickpocketed Sititi from the base of a Samoan scrum midway through the third quarter and created the platform for a close-range try by Hogg, the tourists were clear at 26-3.

They could certainly have done without the sight of Chris Paterson, their full-back, heading towards hospital with a worrying injury to his cheekbone, but late scores from Simon Webster and Mike Blair eased the pain. The Scots will need Paterson against the Wallabies, but they needed this victory more.

Samoa: Penalty Warren. Scotland: Tries Ross, Hinshelwood, Hogg, Webster, Blair; Conversions Paterson, Parks; Penalties Paterson 3.

Samoa: T Vili (Borders); L Fa'atau (Marist St Patrick's), D Rasmussen (Exeter), B Lima (Secom), S Tagicakibau (Clifton, Taranaki); R Warren (Marist St Joseph's), S So'oialo (Orrell); K Lealamanua (Marist St Patrick's), J Meredith (Ponsonby), T Leupolu (Suburbs), L Lafaiali'i (Sanyo), O Palepoi (Exeter), S Vaili (Exeter), U Ulia (Afega), S Sititi (Newcastle, capt). Replacements: M Von Dincklage (Waitemata) for Palepoi 42; D Lemi (Marist St Joseph's) for Tagicakibau 51; S Lemalu (Marist, Northland) for Leupolu 51; K Viliamu (Manchester) for Ulia 51; M Schuster (Warriga) for Rasmussen 61; J Senio (Ponsonby) for Warren 65; L Tafunai (Vaiala) for Meredith 67; Leupolu for Lealamanua 71.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh); S Lamont (Glasgow), B Hinshelwood (Worcester), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Webster (Edinburgh); G Ross (Leeds), C Cusiter (Borders); T Smith (Northampton), G Bulloch (Glasgow), B Douglas (Borders), S Murray (Edinburgh, capt), S Grimes (Newcastle), J White (Sale), D Macfadyen (Glasgow), A Hogg (Edinburgh). Replacements: H Southwell (Edinburgh) for Webster 12-15 and 31-38, and for Paterson 62; D Parks (Glasgow) for Ross 30-34 and 65; C Smith (Edinburgh) for T Smith 43-47 and 69; J Petrie (Glasgow) for Macfadyen 69; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter 75; S Scott (Borders) for Bulloch 75; I Fullarton (Saracens) for Grimes 75.

Referee: K Deaker (New Zealand)

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