Scotland 15 Australia 44: Larkham's class pulls weakened Scots to pieces

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The Independent Online

For Hugo Southwell at least, it could have been worse. An England cricketer at Under-15 level, he might have been on the other side of the world taking a walloping from the Wallabies' fellow countrymen. It was bad enough being Scotland's last line of defence at Murrayfield, on the suffering end of the rugby equivalent of a cricket score.

When the one-time Sussex county pro took his place on the field, as an eighth-minute replacement for Simon Webster but in Chris Paterson's full-back berth, Scotland - the land of his maternal grandmother - were 10-0 up and on course to update the history books. By the final whistle, though, instead of savouring a first win against Australia since 1982 Scotland were lamenting a record loss of points to a Wallaby Test side on home soil.

As Southwell was left to reflect: "We honestly believed we could win this game. To lose by such a margin was very disappointing."

Indeed it was. The Scots in the 64,120 crowd came with great expectations, only to be confronted with the worst of times - the first major setback of Frank Hadden's coaching reign. As he said beforehand, Hadden believed his hitherto improving side were in with "a genuine chance of taking a famous scalp".

To seize that chance, though, the Scotland coach needed all of his players firing on all of their cylinders for 80 minutes, and the Wallabies to be as flaky as they had been against Italy in Rome and against Ireland in Dublin.

In hindsight, Hadden also needed Jason White and Ally Hogg, the back-row battering rams who hammered Scotland to famous victories against France and England in last season's Six Nations' Championship. It did not help that both were on the injured list, or indeed that Nathan Hines was withdrawn on the morning of the match thanks to a belatedly enforced suspension for foul play in French league action, further weakening Hadden's pack.

Then again, the lack of cutting edge behind the Scotland scrum, evident throughout the Six Nations, was underlined in bold against heavyweight southern hemisphere opposition. Had a couple of defenders not slipped when Webster cut inside from the left wing for his early score and had Lote Tuqiri not done likewise before Sean Lamont's 54th-minute try, Hadden's men might well have failed to cross the Wallaby whitewash.

For all the improvements Scotland have made under their coach of 14 months, their playing resources remain strictly limited and their creative powers stop a good way short of those that the likes of Australia - for all of the flaws they have had exposed in recent weeks - can boast.

On Saturday the fly-half Stephen Larkham was at his supreme orchestrating best, striking the first try- scoring note himself and calling the tune for the bulk of the four that followed. If John Connolly has learnt nothing else on his maiden voyage to Europe as Wallaby coach, it is that Larkham, whom he used in the centre to begin with, is a baton-wielder of first-class distinction at first-five-eighth rather than a second-class member of the orchestra in the second-five-eighth position.

Scotland: Tries Webster, Lamont; Conversion Paterson; Penalty Paterson. Australia: Tries Larkham, Gerrard 2, Moore, Latham; Conversions Mortlock 5; Penalties Mortlock 3.

Scotland: C Paterson (capt); S Webster, M Di Rollo (all Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Lamont (Northampton); D Parks (Glasgow), M Blair (Edinburgh); G Kerr (Borders), D Hall (Edinburgh), E Murray, A Kellock (both Glasgow), S Murray, S Taylor (both Edinburgh), K Brown (Borders), D Callam (Edinburgh). Replacements: H Southwell (Edinburgh) for Webster, 8; P Godman (Edinburgh) for Di Rollo 47-57, for Parks, 57; A Jacobsen (Edinburgh) for Kerr, 48; J Hamilton (Leicester) for S Murray, 68; A Strokosch (Edinburgh) for Brown, 68; R Lawson (Gloucester) for Blair, 71; Kerr for E Murray, 78.

Australia: C Latham (Queensland Reds); M Gerrard, S Mortlock (capt, both ACT Brumbies), S Staniforth (Western Force), L Tuqiri (New South Wales Waratahs); S Larkham (Brumbies), M Giteau (Western Force); B Robinson (Waratahs), S Moore (Reds), G Shepherdson (Brumbies), N Sharpe (Western Force), A Campbell, R Elsom (both Waratahs), G Smith (Brumbies), D Lyons (Waratahs). Replacements: W Palu (Waratahs) for Lyons, 60; P Waugh (Waratahs) for Smith, 60; M Chisholm (Brumbies) for Elsom, 69; T Polata-Nau (Waratahs) for Moore, 72; M Rogers (Waratahs) for Staniforth, 76; A Baxter (Waratahs) for Robinson, 77; J Valentine (Reds) for Larkham, 77.

Referee: D Courtney (Ireland).

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