Scotland...45, Barbarians...48

THE game is the thing, runs the old adage. And for once it was true. The Dunblane International was a festival of rugby, a celebration of life and, in difficult circumstances, a fitting and worthwhile memorial to the 17 innocents who died at the hands of a crazed gunman.

The Barbarians had drawn players from eight nations so the sport could do its small bit to help assuage the hurt and grief which enveloped the community of Dunblane. More tangibly the game, too, was staged in aid of the Dunblane fund and, with 32,000 paying spectators, a significant sum will be dispatched to the fund once the accounts have been completed.

There were 15 tries in total and for those alone the admission charge of #15 was well worth paying. There was, too, from both sides some elegant and breathtaking rugby.

Gavin Hastings, back at Murrayfield out of international retirement as captain of the Barbarians, further underlined his stature as national folk hero with a couple of tries.

Not to be upstaged, brother Scott had a brace of tries and won sincere praise from assistant coach David Johnston. Scotland's cap record-holder was, he said, a role model for all youngsters entering the game.

This was just the platform for Scotland's captain for the day, Gregor Townsend, to strut his glorious stuff. Some of Townsend's lightning breaks and his eye for the most tantalising of gaps were wondrous to behold, and the heaviest of hints were made over the weekend that he will be seen more in the No.10 jersey at Northampton.

Rowen Shepherd, too, is a player who has grown into the shirt left vacant when Hastings Sr departed for the shoulder-padded world of American football. Shepherd might be found wanting for pace on occasion, but he is now playing with a confidence and a brio which bode well for the future.

One for the future, too, was the Barbarians' scrum half, Augustin Pichot. The Argentinian, still just 21, brought Latin verve and style to the scrum half's chores and later indicated that once he has done with university he will be in the world-wide market for offers in the new professional era. Remember the name and watch where he ends up.

The back play of both sides, devoid of up-and-unders and where penalty kicks at goal were shunned, was sublime. Both sides ran with sparkling conviction from deep. It was far from an exhibition match, with tackles going in. Both sides managed to contrive tries born deep within their own territory, to the delight of the sun-dappled crowd. Here was yet another testimony in favour of summer rugby. Gavin Hastings has said it and, afterwards on Saturday, SRU rugby director Jim Telfer declared that he was for it too.

There were, though, problems up front for Scotland. Gavin Hastings's assertion afterwards that the Baa Baas had played without a game-plan to speak of must be taken with just a little pinch of salt. Nevertheless, Scotland losing on their own patch to an ad hoc side of talented individuals wasn't part of the Scottish management's script.

The Leicester front row of Graham Rowntree, Richard Cockerill and Darren Garforth - especially the latter two uncapped players - maybe had a point to prove to the England selectors. Scotland toiled to an extent in the scrummage and it will, no doubt, have been a point taken.

Scotland tighthead Peter Wright, who was back in the side after injury in New Zealand, and only because Saturday's first choice Barry Stewart had succumbed to injury too was given a warning by the referee for verbals. When will he ever learn? The Scotland management conceded later that Wright's seeming inability to button his lip is now a matter for serious concern.

Under the new laws the scrummage has taken on added significance and, with the re-emergence of good old-fashioned power scrummaging, a hefty front-row will become a prerequisite for success. Alan Watt - remember him? - was sitting on the Barbarians' bench!

The lineout, too, did not work as it should have done. There was little apparent cohesion between thrower-in and jumpers and this, too, is something that will have to be sorted out.

Scotland were in front 26-22 at the interval and 12 minutes from the end appeared to be in command at 45-36. However, two late and, it has to be said, pretty soft tries, from Iain Morrison (converted by Hastings) and Paddy Johns saw Scotland succumb to a three-point margin.

It is perhaps trite and no doubt a cliche to observe that the game was the winner. It is, though, true. And the 15 tries - worth #300 apiece from Barbarians' sponsor Scottish Amicable - meant that an extra #4500 will be going to the Dunblane Fund. That can't be bad.

SCORERS: Scotland - Stark 2t. Hastings 2t. Townend 1t. Armstrong 1t. Cronin 1t. Shepherd 5c. Barbarians - Hastings 2t, 4c. Underwood 1t. Pichot 1t. Johns 1t. McMcall 1t. Pene 1t. Morrison 1t.

Scotland - R Shepherd; D Stark (both Melrose), S Hastings (Watsonians), R Eriksson (London Scottish), K Logan (Stirling County); G Townsend (Northampton), G Armstrong (Newcastle); D Hilton (Bath), G Ellis (Currie), P Wright (Melrose), D Cronin (Wasps), D Weir (Newcastle), B Renwick (Hawick), E Peters (Bath), I Smith (Gloucester).

Replacements - S Murray (Edinburgh Academicals) for Renwick (28min), T Stanger (Hawick) for Eriksson (40), T Smith (Watsonians) for Hilton (74), C Chalmers (Melrose) for Logan (81).

Barbarians - G Hastings (Watsonians and Scotland); A Bose (Mana), Y Motoki (Kobe Steel and Japan), A McCormick (Toshiba and Japan), T Underwood (Newcastle and England); P Howard (Queensland and Australia), A Pichot (C A San Isidro and Argentina); G Rowntree (Leicester and England), R Cockerill, D Garforth (both Leicester), P Johns (Saracens and Ireland), R McCall (Queensland and Australia), M Gasuna (Mana), A Pene (Kaneka and New Zealand), I Morrison (London Scottish and Scotland).

Replacements - D McIvor (Glenrothes and Scotland) for Gasuna (44min), C Glasgow (Heriot's FP) for Underwood (59), D Hodge (Watsonians) for Hastings (76), K Milne (Heriot's FP and Scotland) for Morrison (79).

Referee - G Black (Ireland).

Telling the world people care...............................P12