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Patience of Scots earns its reward

IT must have been satisfying to Ian McGeechan and his fellow world cup coaches to note how patience and perseverance allied to faith in their strategy eventually brought its reward against a Romanian side with strong set-piece capability but little imagination elsewhere.

Scotland have been seeking and, at times, achieving a stunning form of interplay involving backs and forwards, with longer spells of continuous action through keeping the ball alive and constantly switching the point of attack. They were unable to pull the threads together in the disjointed action of the first half because the Romanians were vigilant and abrasive in their fringe work, worldly wise in killing ball on the floor, and possessed of a world-class lineout exponent in Christian Raducanu.

But the Scots didn't allow frustration to wreck their concentration and eventually had some spells in which their running off the ball and linkage were of the highest class. One sequence in particular exemplified the kind of pattern McGeechan seeks from this talented Scottish outfit.

Damian Cronin's reputation as a lineout purveyor suffered some damagebut this time he palmed the ball to David Sole, who set in train an example of total rugby that even the All Blacks would have been proud to emulate.

Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey, and Paul Burnell each did his bit at high speed before Gary Armstrong fed Douglas Wyllie, whose miss pass was gobbled up by Scott Hastings as the player missed out, Sean Lineen, looked and took it on with help from Jeffrey. Whereupon Armstrong did his flank forward bit and Burnell and Ken Milne got in on the act before Sole was tackled into touch by Gheorghe Leonte.

Another important factor is the speed generated by Armstrong when he takes off in his flanker role, because that really does make the forwards pick up their feet to get to him in support.

Of course, no-one epitomises this pack's speed more than Derek White, especially in his scrummage pick-up work. The combination of his positioning between flanker and lock, perfect near-channel delivery by Milne of quick ball, and then White's explosive pace and choice of running angle, presents a fearsome challenge to the first defender.

There was evidence also of Scottish homework in the clever use made of Gray at the early lineouts. The Romanians favoured positioning a flanker and No.8 in the front two positions, so that Gray won quite a bit of early ball at No.2 because the throw-in was lobbed gently high to exploit his greater height, jump, and reach.

The Scots also made helpful use of knowledge of rugby law. Prior to Tony Stanger's first try, Wyllie was tackled, released the ball, and made to get to his feet. Actually he retrieved it and fed it on to Scott Hastings while still on one knee and so could have been penalised. But he knew what he was doing. So did Stanger. He went to ground prior to scoring that try. Others might have released the ball but Stanger knew he didn't have to do so as he had not been held and therefore tackled. Of course, that's not so surprising. Hawick players always have played to the laws!

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