Stanger on centre stage

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Scotland A 24

Ireland A 18

Tony Stanger fell head first into the spotlight once more when he marked his Scotland A debut as a centre by scoring a second try in injury time to defeat Ireland A at Myreside, Edinburgh yesterday.

Capped 36 times on the wing, Stanger also struck from long range in the 55th minute to send a clear message to the Scottish selectors that he has a top level future in the position he has occupied for his club, Hawick, for most of his career.

Stanger, who marked his full international debut with a hat-trick of tries against Fiji in 1989 and scored the decisive try in the Grand Slam victory over England the following year, had plenty of work to do in adding to his reputation as a finisher.

After 55 minutes, with Ireland A leading 11-9, Stanger took a pass from Hugh Gilmour 35 metres out to leave the Irish cover defence standing.

The second try was also a gem and involved in the build-up was the Scotland A full-back, Rowen Shepherd, who has emerged as a strong alternative to Gavin Hastings. Taking a pass on half-way, Stanger spotted a gap and took off to leave the cover in his wake.

"When I said I wasn't fast enough on play on the wing for Scotland I was maybe misunderstood," Stanger said. "I didn't have the electric pace over five or 10 yards but I have been working like a dog to make it up in other ways. "I'm much more physically tired from playing centre than I ever was playing on the wing," added Stanger, who scored a try on his last appearance for Scotland, against South Africa in November. "It was experience at A level that I think I needed."

Scotland may well have found an ideal World Cup blend in Stanger and Scott Hastings, who produced a vital tackle when he got underneath the Ireland A full-back, Pat Murray, as he dived across the Scottish try-line midway through the second half.

Ireland A also scored two tries but had to bow to the more accurate goal-kicking of Stuart Laing.

The winger Daragh O'Mahony went between Stanger and Shepherd before shrugging off challenges from Hastings and Stuart Laing, whose defence was also found wanting when Mark McCall went over in the 72nd minute.

With the conversion Ireland A led 18-14 and seemed poised for victory, even though Laing kicked his fifth penalty with four minutes remaining.

Scotland A: Tries Stanger 2; Conversion Laing; Penalties Laing 4. Ireland A: Tries Daragh O'Mahony, McCall; Conversion Malone; Penalty McGowan; Drop goal McGowan.

SCOTLAND A: R Shepherd (Edinburgh Acads); H Gilmour (Heriot's FP), A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), D Stark (Boroughmuir); S Laing (Instonians), G Burns (Stewart's Melville FP); J Manson (Dundee High), M Scott (Orrell), S Paul (Heriot's FP), J Richardson (Edinburgh Acads, capt), R Scott (London Scottish), F Wallace (Glasgow H/K), S Reid (Boroughmuir), I Smith (Gloucester).

IRELAND A: P Murray (Shannon); R Wallace (Garryowen), L Boyle (Harlequins), M McCall (Bangor, capt), Daragh O'Mahony (UCD); A McGowan (Blackrock), David O'Mahony (Cork Constitution); J Fitzgerald (Young Munster), W Mulcahy (Skerries), P Wallace (Blackrock), D Tweed (Ballymena), R Costello (Garryowen), E Halvey (Shannon), R Wilson (Instonians), D Corkery (Cork Constitution). Replacements: N Malone (Leicester) for Boyle; C Clarke (Lansdowne) for McGowan.

Referee: B Campsall (England).