The last time Scotland enjoyed a lengthy winning run at their home ground, a streak of 13 matches, it took them all the way from the start of the 1989 Five Nations to the semi-final of the 1991 World Cup and the pain of a late Rob Andrew drop goal. It remains to be seen how far the Scots will get this time, but after their success yesterday against the combined forces of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji, Frank Hadden's side are up to five wins in a row at Murrayfield.
Ultimately, it had to be logged as a qualified success. After running in four tries in the opening half-hour, Scotland conceded the same number in the final 42 minutes and only troubled the scoreboard in the second half with a Marcus Di Rollo drop goal.
Hadden's men will need to raise their collective game when the Wallabies come calling next Saturday if they are to make it a perfect home run for 2006. Scotland have not beaten Australia, home or away, since 1982.
"The quality of our play was excellent in the first half," Hadden said. "The challenge now is to up it and sustain it for 60, 80 minutes." Unfortunately for the Scotland coach, it was a victory achieved at a cost. Pat Lam's Islanders were always liable to cause some collateral damage, and with seven minutes on the clock Johnnie Beattie was the first victim, damaging his left ankle at the bottom of a bruising ruck and departing on a medical truck. The young Glasgow No 8 became the latest victim of Scotland's back-row curse, joining Jason White and Allister Hogg on the casualty list. David Callam, Beattie's replacement, did not take long to make his presence felt, although before the Edinburgh flanker could do so Scotland lost another of their starting XV.
This time the scrum-half Chris Cusiter was on the receiving end, apparently taken out off the ball and left with a damaged shoulder in the passage of play that led to Di Rollo breezing through a gap to score the opening try in the 11th minute. Not that Scotland's positive, attacking first-half play suffered any serious disruption.
Callam collected an excellent long pass from Dan Parks to score try No 2 in the right corner and then - after Epi Taione had been sent to the sin-bin for some aggressive footwork at a ruck - Kelly Brown emerged from the back of a five-metre scrum to claim No 3, a deserved reward for a fine afternoon's work by the Borders' openside flanker.
When Simon Webster was held up just short of the line in the 30th minute, Andy Henderson was left with a simple pick-up to score in the left corner. With Chris Paterson maintaining a perfect record with the boot, landing four conversions and a penalty, the Islanders had leaked four tries and 31 points by the interval - as they had done against Wales in Cardiff the previous Saturday.
Once again, they launched a fightback just before half-time, Rupeni Caucaun- ibuca scoring on the overlap in the right corner. This time, however, they quickly built up momentum after the break too, the Saracens centre Kameli Ratuvou stealing possession from Sean Lamont and scoring to the right of the posts, then the Wasps lock Daniel Leo finishing a move sparked by the rampaging Caucaunibuca.
That made it 31-15 with 34 minutes still remaining, and Scotland's proud home record was suddenly on the line. To their credit, though, Hadden's men took the protective measures that the situation required, tightening their discipline and their defence.
They made the game safe long before Di Rollo landed his drop goal, rendering Ratuvou's second score of the afternoon little more than an injury-time irrelevance. Not that a try count of four apiece made for entirely satisfying Scottish reflection.
Scotland: C Paterson (capt); S Webster, M Di Rollo (all Edinburgh), A Henderson (Glasgow), S Lamont (Northampton); D Parks (Glasgow), C Cusiter; G Kerr (both Borders), D Hall (Edinburgh), E Murray (Glasgow), N Hines (Perpignan), S Murray, S Taylor (both Edinburgh), K Brown (Borders), J Beattie (Glasgow). Replacements: D Callam (Edinburgh) for Beattie, 7; M Blair (Edinburgh) for Cusiter, 12; R Ford (Borders) for Hall, 58; A Jacobsen (Edinburgh) for Kerr, 58; H Southwell (Edinburgh) for Lamont 63-64, 78; A Kellock (Glasgow) for Taylor, 66; P Godman (Edinburgh) for Parks, 73.
Pacific Islanders: N Ligairi (Fiji); L Fa'atau (Samoa), K Ratuvou (Fiji), E Seveali'i (Samoa), R Caucaunibuca (Fiji); T Pisi (Samoa), M Rauluni (Fiji); T Felise (Tonga), M Schwalger (Samoa), T Taumoepeau (Tonga), S Raiwalui (Fiji, capt), D Leo (Samoa), V Viki, N Latu, E Taione (all Tonga). Replacements: A Lutui (Tonga) for Schwalger, 30; M Molitika (Tonga) for Vaki, 54; S Sititi (Samoa) for Taione, 54; S Rabeni ( Fiji) for Caucaunibuca, 54; J Va'a (Samoa) for Filise, 66.
Referee: B Lawrence (New Zealand).Reuse content