Narrow-minded Scotland fall foul of rampant Rathbone

Scotland 14 - Australia 31
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The last time Australia were confronted by a pre-match clipping in the wing department, it made a bigger difference than it did in the narrowed confines of Scotland's national stadium on Saturday. The hamstring pulled by Wendell Sailor while warming up to face England in Brisbane in June allowed Clyde Rathbone, a centre on his international debut against Scotland a fortnight earlier, to show his super-charged paces as a wide boy of world class distinction. He ran in a hat-trick of tries in the Wallabies' 51-15 walloping of the world champions.

The last time Australia were confronted by a pre-match clipping in the wing department, it made a bigger difference than it did in the narrowed confines of Scotland's national stadium on Saturday. The hamstring pulled by Wendell Sailor while warming up to face England in Brisbane in June allowed Clyde Rathbone, a centre on his international debut against Scotland a fortnight earlier, to show his super-charged paces as a wide boy of world class distinction. He ran in a hat-trick of tries in the Wallabies' 51-15 walloping of the world champions.

The bullocking Rathbone was two-thirds of the way to another hat-trick on Saturday when he made his departure, 14 minutes into the second-half, with a badly-bloodied left hand. For all the fuss Eddie Jones took characteristically impish delight in making about the narrowing of the Murrayfield playing surface from 70 metres to 65, the most acute concern for the Wallaby coach as he left the ground was Rathbone's health.

In the immediate aftermath, Jones feared that Rathbone might have severed an artery or suffered a fracture. "We might have to fly over a replacement," he lamented. By the time the Wallabies flew from Edinburgh to Paris yesterday, however, Rathbone had been patched up with seven stitches and medically cleared for the remaining three matches of Australia's European tour.

On the strength of Rathbone's rampant first-half in Edinburgh, that is seriously bad news for France, who face the Wallabies in Paris on Saturday, for Scotland, who confront them again at Hampden Park a week later, and for England, who have a Twickenham date with them on 27 November. Murrayfield was nowhere near narrow enough to contain the 23-year-old Durban native. Rathbone captained South Africa to the Under-21 World Cup three years ago, in which they beat Australia in the Johannesburg final, before joining the Brumbies and, courtesy of his grandmother's roots, becoming an Aussie.

Rathbone's break through the middle set up the opening try for Stirling Mortlock and it was his high-speed finishing which secured the second and third scores, albeit after some wonderfully slick midfield manoeuvring by his colleagues, not least the outstanding Mortlock and the flanker George Smith. There was a fourth try, for Lote Tuqiri, and there might have been a fifth for Steve Larkham without some questionable video analysis.

As it was, the Wallabies went into mental walkabout for the second half and a raw Scottish side, weakened by injuries and Zurich Premiership commitments, followed their 28-0 first half deficit with a morale-lifting 14-3 second-half "victory". It might have been different if the tourists had kept spreading their wings for the whole 80 minutes but Jones was in full whingeing Wallaby mode after the final whistle.

"Considering we were playing on an under-16s pitch, we're pretty happy with our game," he said, sardonically. "I know the width was five metres short because I measured it. It's a bit comical but we have made an official issue of it with the referee. It's not in the spirit of rugby."

Perhaps not. But it was well within the scope of the International Rugby Board's laws 1.2 (a) and (b), which stipulate only a maximum width for a pitch, 70m, and no minimum measurement. According to a spokesman for the Scottish Rugby Union, the sidelines were adjusted to accustom the home side to the less expansive football surfaces they will be treading against Japan at McDiarmid Park in Perth this Saturday and against Australia at Hampden a week later.

If nothing else, putting the squeeze on Jones was another sign of progress for Scotland and their Australian coach, Matt Williams, given that the head Wallaby usually reserves his verbal sniping for the big hitters of world rugby.

Williams has a long way to go before he can get his team anywhere near to the major playing nations, although in Hugo Southwell and Sean Lamont he looks to have found the kind of potent attackers Scotland have sorely lacked in recent times. Both claimed tries in a second-half fightback that snatched respectability from the beckoning jaws of humiliation.

SCOTLAND: S Moffat (Borders); S Lamont (Glasgow), G Morrison (Glasgow), A Henderson (Glasgow), C Paterson (Edinburgh); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter (Borders); A Jacobsen (Edinburgh), G Bulloch (Glasgow, capt), B Douglas (Borders), N Hines (Edinburgh), S MacLeod (Borders), S Gray (Borders), D Macfadyen (Glasgow), A Hogg (Edinburgh).

Replacements: H Southwell (Edinburgh) for Moffat, 40; J Petrie (Glasgow) for Gray, 40; A Kellock (Edinburgh) for MacLeod, 50-59, 67; C Smith (Edinburgh) for Douglas, 63; A Craig (Glasgow) for Morrison, 64; R Ford (Borders) for Bulloch, 76; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, 76.

AUSTRALIA: C Latham (Reds); C Rathbone (Brumbies), S Mortlock (Brumbies) M Giteau (Brumbies), L Tuqiri (Waratahs); S Larkham (Brumbies), G Gregan (Brumbies, capt); B Young (Brumbies), J Paul (Brumbies), A Baxter (Waratahs), J Harrison (Waratahs), D Vickerman (Waratahs), G Smith (Brumbies), P Waugh (Waratahs), J Roe (Reds).

Replacements: D Lyons (Waratahs) for Waugh, 45; W Sailor (Reds) for Rathbone, 55; M Dunning (Waratahs) for Young, 67; E Flatley (Reds) for Larkham, 69; M Rogers (Waratahs) for Mortlock, 69; M Chisholm (Brumbies) for Vickerman, 75; B Cannon (Waratahs) for Paul, 79.

Referee: S Walsh (New Zealand).

Comments