Pountney shoots downs the Eagles

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The Independent Online

Cut-price crowd, stop-go Scotland. A try by Budge Pountney, the new captain, steered the Scots towards eventual domination in front of 35,000 spectators, but it was slow going from the delayed kick-off onwards.

Cut-price crowd, stop-go Scotland. A try by Budge Pountney, the new captain, steered the Scots towards eventual domination in front of 35,000 spectators, but it was slow going from the delayed kick-off onwards.

At times in recent seasons Murrayfield has been the ground no one wanted to come to. With the turnstiles locked until under an hour before kick-off last night, it was the ground that no one could get into.

It was a duff note that sounded on an otherwise uplifting effort by the Scottish Rugby Union to boost crowds for the less-attractive fixtures. Ticket prices ranged from £10 down to, well, nothing at all in several categories. They were bracketed with an evening kick-off designed to appease the club members who had been watching their teams in domestic cup action during the afternoon. A coach-load of fans decked out in the red and white of the USA were spotted outside. Sadly these were Aberdonians heading home from the football at Tynecastle.

All in all, Murrayfield's mixture of aficionados and grant-saving students clutching their free tickets needed convincing of the merits of both sides. The USA have performed abysmally against the Home Unions recently, shipping 106 points at Twickenham and 136 more in two fixtures against Ireland.

Scotland, meanwhile, were thankful for the Grand Slam-busting defeat of England here in April to break up an otherwise miserable run of results including two Tests in New Zealand during the summer when they conceded 195 points.

The Scots are playing the in-vogue 15-man game. The second rows Scott Murray and Stuart Grimes not only commanded the USA's drop-outs, but wanted to be involved in every other movement. The Americans, by contrast, deployed forwards to win the ball, and backs to use it, in the old-fashioned style. At times it looked slicker than the Scots' over-elaborateploys.

Gregor Townsend, restored at fly-half, had as much ball as he wanted to feed his centres and it seemed only a matter of time before Alan Bulloch, one of three new caps, would make his dashing incursions pay. But the first half was full of frustration with too many dropped passes ruining their territorial gains. They had the Americans where they wanted them in the scrum but could not find the gaps out wide. It was left to Townsend, four times in the first 18 minutes, and once more with the last kick before the interval to put points on the board with penalties.

The Eagles knew where their wings were but were restricted to one sweet move from a line-out that used the width of the field before Kurt Schuman and then Dan Lyle were held up just short.

It took an American error to spark a game-breaking burst of three Scotland tries in the third quarter. Shuman attempted to run out of defence but was caught on half-way and his pass inside was plucked from the air by John Leslie. The former Scotland captain was swiftly supported by Cameron Murray and Bryan Redpath with the run-in going to Pountney, who handed off the rather lumbering attentions of Philippe Farner on the way.

Jovesa Naivalu was yellow carded for knocking a pass down, and from the penalty Scotland took a line-out, moved into midfield and drove Leslie over to the left of the posts, Townsend converting. The best score of the trio came next, with Bulloch twice involved in a ranging move that ended with Chris Paterson going over and Townsend adding the extras.

Grant Wells kicked his second penalty to make it 34-6 but Townsend dummied his way over for Scotland's fourth try after 66 minutes and whatever the floodlit version of daylight is, it was now comfortably between the teams.

Pountney, more Bergerac than Braveheart by virtue of the Channel Islands-born grandmother who gave him his Scottish qualification, urged maximum effort to the end. Both Leslie and Townsend claimed their second tries in the last three minutes to bring up the half-century.

Scotland: C Paterson (Edinburgh Reivers); C Murray (Edinburgh Reivers), A Bulloch (Glasgow Caledonians), J Leslie (Newcastle), J Steel (Glasgow Caledonians); G Townsend (Castres), B Redpath (Sale); T Smith (Brive), S Bortherstone (Northampton), G Graham (Newcastle), S Murray (Saracens), S Grimes (Newcastle), J Petrie (Glasgow Caledonians), B Pountney, (Northampton, capt) S Taylor (Edinburgh Reivers).

United States: K Shuman (New York Athletic Club); J Naivalu (San Mateo), P Eloff (Chicago Lions), J Grobler (Denver Barbarians), M Delai (OMBAC); G Wells (Golden Gate), K Dalzell (Montferrand); J Clayton (Old Blues) , K Khasigian (Sydney University), P Still (Golden Gate), L Gross (Roma), P Farner (Roma), D Hodges (OMBAC, capt), O Fifith (Hayward Griffins).

Referee: P Deluca (Arg)