No party mood for victors Scotland
Scotland outgunned the Pacific Islanders 34-22 at Murrayfield on Saturday but they weren’t in any mood for a party at the final whistle.
The triumph was soured by two more serious-looking injuries in the build-up to the Six Nations Championship and the World Cup.
With several frontliners already on the casualty list, scrumhalf Chris Cusiter and breakaway forward Johnny Beattie were taken to hospital after being carried off in the opening 10 minutes.
Cusiter appeared to have hurt his shoulder again while Beattie suffered a suspected ankle fracture, a week after marking his first cap with a try.
Scotland coach Frank Hadden said afterwards: “I don’t want to make any observations until I have watched the match on video.
“But I have to stress that losing two such important players so early in the game showed that we could make a seamless transition on the park. The fact that other players could come in so easily underlined the maturity in the squad.
“I feel heartbroken for Chris. He has had dreadful luck over the past couple of years.”
Hadden is already resigned to being without skipper Jason White and breakaway colleague Ally Hogg long-term.
And the Beattie situation will be a major worry, not only for next weekend’s encounter with Australia, but the looming Six Nations campaign.
The other big concern for Hadden was his side’s failure to ram home their superiority in the second half after leading by 26 points at the break.
The Scots, buoyed by their runaway triumph over Romania, had made a storming start.
Then came number eight Beattie’s moment of agony as he was stretchered off following a big hit at the base of a ruck by Tongan prop Taufa’ao Felise.
David Callam entered the fray, and made an instant impression by ploughing over the line from the fragmented tail of a line-out, but he couldn’t get the ball grounded.
Seconds later centre Marcus Di Rollo darted through a half-gap in midfield to snap up the first try.
Chris Paterson slotted the simple conversion—but there was no sense of celebration in the Scots camp as they were rocked by their second major injury blow.
Cusiter was the casualty with what looked like a recurrence of a shoulder problem after a robust challenge by flanker Viliami Vaki.
On came his great friend and rival Mikey Blair with the aim of helping Scotland maintain their early momentum.
And they did just that.
A marvellous long pass by Dan Parks left three visiting defenders marooned, allowing Callam—lurking on the right-hand touchline—to gleefully beat off Tusi Pisi’s tackle and dive over in the corner.
The conversion was from the widest possible angle, but Paterson made it look like a formality. The Islanders were rocked by three further triple setbacks in quick succession.
Backrower Epi Taione was yellow-carded for a ruck offence seconds before Kelly Brown galloped in for try number three from close range.
Then centre Andy Henderson flopped over for another after the unlucky Simon Webster was brought down only a pace short of the target. Paterson preserved his 100% record with the boot to give Scotland a 28-point cushion.
Taione returned to the action and immediately the visitors broke their duck with a touchdown by Fijian cult hero Rupeni Caucaunibuca, capitalising on good work by Pisi.
There was still time before the interval for Paterson to thump over a penalty from almost 50m. But the Scots were made to pay for defensive lapses after the restart.
First, centre Kameli Ratuvou pounced when Sean Lamont meekly surrendered possession inside his own half with no supporting players around him.
Then lock Daniel Leo finished in style at the end of a fast and clinically executed handling move down the centre of the field.
Scotland couldn’t turn constant pressure into points, allowing the Islanders to retain a glimmer of hope.
And the frustration of Scotland was underlined when Di Rollo was reduced to notching their first points of the half with a drop-goal three minutes from time.
The visitors refused to buckle and Ratuvou completed his double. Pisi converted.
In another rugby international played on Saturday, Argentina beat Italy 23-16.—AFP