Second-class Scots

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The Independent Online
Nottingham 12

London Scottish 19

THERE had been some strange delusions that London Scottish would grace the First Division next season. After their dismal victory yesterday, they retain some slight arithmetical hope but surely no firm belief that they would find life easy at the higher standard.

Yesterday at Beeston, they looked a world away from top-flight rugby as they struggled to overcome a determined, if limited, Nottingham side. Defeat at Wakefield had already dented Scottish hopes of promotion. The scrambled manner of victory yesterday confirmed the gulf between the best and the rest in English League rugby.

London Scottish can thank the butterfingers of the Nottingham scrum- half, Alan Royer, who dropped the ball as he went to ground it with the game finely balanced. The only actual try was unspectacular: the Exiles' second-row Dave Orr-Ewing was shunted over the Nottingham line in a maul. Apart from that, the outside halves dominatedwith their penalty kicking, with four successful kicks apiece to Nottingham's Simon Hodgkinson and Scottish's John Steele.

Any London Scottish optimist seeking heroism would probably cite the hooker Logan Mair who took a strike against the head at a scrum on his own line in the dying minutes of the game. It was, though, precious little to shout about.

It was a contest between the bristle of the Scottish forwards and the bustle of the Nottingham backs. The Exiles' captain Simon Holmes was rarely far from the ball, continually winning loose possession in a good display of flanker's guile. The trouble was that his backs often didn't quite know what to do with it, running away from space into the solid wall of Nottingham defenders.

At least the home side made up for a paucity of skill with an abundance of pluck. They were willing to run hard and attack, but only in utterly predictable, straight lines. London Scottish just put up the barriers against them, particularly in the last 15 minutes, when the home side turned the pressure up.

It was all very far from when Nottingham were a power in the land. Seemingly aeons ago, from Brian Moore back, Nottingham were a side to make the strongest quake. It is not like that at Beeston these days. Only the rule-makers have saved them from relegation this season. They languish at the foot of Division Two, kept up only by the fact that there will be no relegation.

Roger Whittaker, Nottingham's director of rugby, is turning his attention to matters off the field to bolster his side for what threatens to be an even tougher season next year. "Much talk and effort is going into making Nottingham competitive," he said. "No news on the recruitment front does not mean that nothing is happening." Negotiations are underway. On yesterday's evidence they had better be successful if Nottingham is to thrive again.

For London Scottish, a narrow victory merely reminds them how far they have to go to reach First Division standard. Nottingham have a long way to go before even thinking about it.

Nottingham: R Byrom; S Reed, N Carroll, R Bygrave, A Smallwood; S Hodgkinson, A Royer; M Freer, M Ireland, M Downey, C Gray (capt), L Jones, M Bradley, G Rees, N Mallik.

London Scottish: G Fraser; T Watson (N Robinson, 57), F Harrold, R Eriksson, J Clarke; J Steele, D Millard; D Signorini, L Mair, T Burnell, A Nisbet, D Orr-Ewing, M Duthie, S Holmes, T Jankovich.

Referee: A C Rossall (Liverpool).