McGeechan receives a morale boost
June 14, 2000
Ian McGeechan welcomed the successful return of two of his key players as Scotland restored morale with a comfortable win over an East Coast-Poverty Bay side in Gisborne.
Flanker Martin Leslie and lock Scott Murray both did their chances of facing the All Blacks on Saturday week a power of good by playing for more than an hour in the tourists' eight-try 51-10 victory, which featured a first-half hat-trick from centre David Officer.
Wings Cameron Murray and Shaun Longstaff also negotiated their comebacks from injury without problems, the latter capping his with an excellent try, while Chris Paterson marked his first Scotland outing at stand-off with a superb individual double in an 18-point haul.
But with the equivalent of a third Test looming on Saturday against the powerful New Zealand Maoris, McGeechan was understandably pleased with the impressive displays of Leslie and Scott Murray two vital components of his first-choice pack.
``Getting match fitness was the key thing, and all of them came through unscathed so I am delighted with that,'' said the coach.
``Neither Scott nor Martin went hiding and they really went looking for work, particularly in the first half.''
The Scots were 18-0 up at the interval courtesy of Officer's treble, and after a second-half collapse in the opening tour defeat to the New Zealand Vikings McGeechan was encouraged by the manner in which his side rammed home their advantage with five more tries Don Mackinnon, Stewart Campbell and Longstaff all getting on the scoresheet.
``Today was another new group of players which have never played together before, and I thought they bought into our style of play big time,'' he enthused.
``They had to work hard for it, but there were a lot of honest performances out there today.''
McGeechan praised the ``excellent'' contribution of the front row, where hooker Steve Scott and props Barry Stewart and Allan Jacobsen all impressed with their work in the loose, and singled out number eight Jon Petrie for an ``outstanding'' display on his first start at senior level.
``He looked very good and enjoyed the free role that he got, but you have got to work hard to make life look easy,'' McGeechan added.
Petrie's all-action display could move him up the back-row pecking order and provide Ross Beattie with some competition should McGeechan opt for a specialist number eight in the Tests while livewire scrum-half Graeme Beveridge may have earned himself a starting slot against the Maoris if captain Andy Nicol has not recovered sufficiently from bruising to his shin.
``We will have to look hard at some positions, and it has given us some options,'' admitted McGeechan.
``There are a number of players coming through that are playing well, so I am quite pleased.''
In blustery conditions and driving rain for much of the first half, Scotland had most of the possession and territorial advantage. Officer showed a poacher's instinct to be on the end of three flowing moves, crossing in the sixth, 28th and 34th minutes.
Paterson's goal-kicking was initially awry, though, and he missed all three conversions and landed just one penalty before the interval.
But after the Scots conceded an early second-half try to Poverty Bay captain Horace Lewis, it was the 22-year-old stand-off who wrested back the initiative with a sparkling individual try, showing the pace and elusive running skills that make him such an exciting talent.
He added another late on and found his kicking boots to land four conversions, bringing up the half-century with his final effort nine minutes from time.
The hosts never quite allowed the visitors to cut loose, though, and grabbed a second try of their own after 67 minutes when replacement scrum-half Graeme Burns made a hash of dealing with a high ball over the defence.
Against Third Division opposition from New Zealand's National Provincial Championship, Scotland will not get carried away by a victory margin that should probably have been higher against a committed but limited combination side.
But after the opening setback against the Vikings the tourists will at least travel to New Plymouth tomorrow in better heart as they prepare to take on the might of the Maoris.