Wallabies limp past the Scots

Scotland A 20 Australia 47

The injury jinx which has affected Jason Little since the 1991 World Cup struck again yesterday as Australia launched their British tour with a victory over Scotland A at Gallashiels.

The 26-year-old, whose haul of 38 caps would surely have been higher but for a collection of setbacks, suffered damage to knee ligaments and left the field after 20 minutes. Little will be allowed time to recover before it is determined whether a replacement will be needed, but he has definitely been ruled out of the Test against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday week.

At least Little would be largely exempt from the criticism of the Wallabies by their coach, Greg Smith, despite scoring five tries in damp conditions. Smith was particularly concerned at the amount of possession turned over and said: "I can't keep making excuses for people. They're earning a lot of money and should be able to catch and pass the ball without dropping it. I've told them that many times. I always tell the truth."

If it was established that these Australians have high standards most of their other likely trump cards were kept in reserve, although Tim Horan's transition from centre to wing appears to be going smoothly and he was on hand for two of the touchdowns.

Horan also set up the try for Matt Burke in the 56th minute which saw Australia finally begin to shake off the persistent Scottish side. With the touchline conversion, Burke opened up a 26-17 lead. From then on it was only a question of by what margin Australia would win as Scotland A fell away when Shade Munro, their best line-out forward, retired with Achilles tendon trouble. Sam Payne and Mark Connors both added late tries to boost the scoreline.

Graham Hogg, the Scotland A coach, praised the finishing of the Australians but in the early stages his side were every bit as ruthless. Duncan Hodge landed a drop goal with his first touch and prop Tom Smith was driven over for a try which opened up an 8-0 lead after 11 minutes.

Smith had an outstanding match and both he and open side flanker Murray Wallace staked major claims for first caps when Scotland name their Test side tomorrow while Ronnie Eriksson at centre will also be a strong contender.

"At half-time I thought we were going to win but Australia were so clinical that when they got a sniff it was seven points against us and not just three," Hogg said.

Scotland A: Try Smith; Penalties Hodge 4; Drop goal Hodge. Australia: Tries Horan 2, Burke, Connors, Payne; Conversions Burke 5; Penalties Burke 4.

SCOTLAND A: S Lang (Heriot's FP); A Stanger (Hawick), M Craig (Nottingham), R Eriksson (London Scottish), J Kerr (Watsonians); D Hodge (Watsonians), G Burns (Watsonians); T Smith (Watsonians), G Ellis (Currie), S Ferguson (Peebles), S Munro (GHK), S Murray (Bedford), P Walton (Newcastle), C Hogg (Melrose, capt), M Wallace (GHK). Replacements: A Watt for Munro, 61.

AUSTRALIA: M Burke; T Horan, D Herbert, J Little, J Roff; P Howard, S Payne; A Heath, M Foley, A Blades, J Eales (capt), D Giffen, T Kefu, M Brial, D Wilson. Replacements: R Tongs for J Little, 20; M Connors for M Brial, 61.

Referee: J Pearson (RFU).

n The Midlands have been forced to switch their matches against Queensland and Argentina to Stourbridge and Northampton Town FC's ground next month after English Professional Rugby Union Clubs asked members to withdraw their facilities for divisional rugby. However, the game against South Africa A will go ahead as planned at Coventry on 1 December as the club have decided to ignore Epruc's pleas.

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