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Scotland 15 Tonga 21: Robinson left fighting for his job after abject display

Scotland 15 Tonga 21: Robinson left fighting for his job after abject display

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UPDATED:

19:26 GMT, 24 November 2012

Tonga triumphed in Aberdeen as Scotland slumped to another miserable loss which is sure to pile pressure on head coach Andy Robinson.

Tries from Lua Lokotui and Fetu'u Vainikolo and 11 points from the boot of Fangatapu Apikotoa earned Tonga a memorable win at Pittodrie.

No place to hide: Scotland coach Andy Robinson

No place to hide: Scotland coach Andy Robinson

Greig Laidlaw kicked five penalties for Scotland, who were blunt in attack, as Robinson's men fell to a third defeat of the EMC Test series following losses to New Zealand and South Africa.

It was an attritional affair on a narrow pitch which limited space and, once again, Scotland's passing lacked the accuracy required as the ball hit the floor with alarming regularity.

Scotland lacked ideas to overcome their physical opponents, who had three players sin-binned but were deserved winners as the hosts tasted defeat in Aberdeen for the first time.

A season which featured early World Cup elimination and a RBS 6 Nations wooden spoon was revived by the June wins in Australia, Fiji and Samoa before New Zealand and South Africa inflicted defeats which will see Scotland outside the top eight seeds for the 2015 World Cup draw.

Assuming he is retained, Robinson will next enter his fourth Six Nations, beginning with the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham, needing a remarkable turnaround to avoid another abject spring showing.

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

No contest: Scotland's Rory Lawson runs into Tonga's Sione Timani

Due to a mixture of choice and circumstance, change was required for the final match of 2012, with six alterations from the XV which began the Springboks Test.

Making their first starts were scrum-half Henry Pyrgos and loosehead prop Kyle Traynor, who was released by Edinburgh in the summer but brought in due to decimated front-row resources.

Hooker Scott Lawson, lock Alastair Kellock, flanker Alasdair Strokosch and centre Max Evans also started.

Tonga lost to Italy and beat the United States this month and featured a host of European-based players eager to claim another northern hemisphere scalp following their World Cup win over France in the third Test between the sides.

Scotland were bidding for a morale-boosting win, just as they claimed in 1995 and 2001, but fell behind early on.

Apikotoa missed an early penalty from 45 metres before kicking a second from in front of the posts after Scotland killed the ball.

A Laidlaw penalty attempt careered back off the post before he kicked Scotland level after 11 minutes.

Crestfallen: Dejected Scotland players

Crestfallen: Dejected Scotland players

Tim Visser and Sean Lamont stretched Tonga down the left and a period of concerted pressure followed.

Scotland piled over the line, but it was impossible to rule whether the ball was grounded beneath a heap of bodies.

Scotland struggled to breach the Tonga defence until a gap presented itself to Laidlaw and he took it.

The fly-half ran 30 metres towards the Tonga line, with Visser on his left shoulder, but marked, and Strokosch on his right.

The flanker fumbled Laidlaw's pass as defenders recovered, the danger brought to an end.

Tonga continually infringed and referee Mathieu Raynal lost patience when Lokotui obstructed Richie Gray at a lineout and was sent to the sin-bin.

Prop Halani Aulika was fortunate not to join him after body-checking Matt Scott, with no attempt to tackle using his arms.

Tonga's short-handed scrum were penalised and Laidlaw's kick was successful to give Scotland a narrow half-time lead.

Scotland continued to struggle with ball in-hand, a Lamont carry deep into the 22 one of the few occasions the hosts breached enemy lines.

A penalty followed which Laidlaw kicked to extend the lead to six points, but Tonga kept up the pressure.

Apikotoa missed the chance to reduce the arrears, but Tonga's persistence paid off when they spread the ball wide and Lokotui made amends for his earlier indiscretion by burrowing over. Apikotoa converted to put Tonga 10-9 ahead.

Laidlaw kicked two more penalties to give the hosts a five-point lead entering the final quarter, but the advantage crumbled all too easily.

The ball was spread wide to Vainikolo, who simply stepped up the pace and ghosted down the left, evading substitute Nick De Luca, to score.

The conversion was missed by Apikotoa and Bath fly-half Tom Heathcote came on for his debut.

Nili Latu became the second Tongan sin-binned 11 minutes from time for leaping on top of a maul, but Heathcote's resulting penalty was short.

The task became tougher for Scotland when Apikotoa kicked his third penalty to leave the hosts requiring a converted try to win with six minutes left.

Sione Timani was sin-binned, temporarily reducing Tonga to 13 men.

Latu returned, with an attacking scrum for Scotland as the game ticked into added time.

Scotland nudged forward, but captain Kelly Brown lost control at the base of the set-piece and Tonga scrambled clear.

The last act of the game was Heathcote dropping a Rory Lawson pass as Scottish players stood crestfallen – and defeated – across the pitch.

England set to face Eben Etzebeth after lock cleared of gouging offence

England set to face Enforcer Etzebeth after lock cleared of gouging offence

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UPDATED:

23:16 GMT, 21 November 2012


The new Enforcer: Eben Etzebeth

The new Enforcer: Eben Etzebeth

South Africa are banking on Eben Etzebeth, dubbed the 'enforcer' by head coach Heyneke Meyer, to maintain his dominance against England on Saturday.

The 6ft 8in lock was cleared to play at Twickenham after a four-hour hearing found him not guilty of an eye gouging offence against Scotland last Saturday.

Meyer emphasised the importance of the 21-year-old, who is looked upon as a replacement for World Cup winner Bakkies Botha, when he announced the same team that beat Scotland.

‘It’s great to have him back,’ Meyer said after Etzebeth missed training on Tuesday to plead successfully that any contact with the eye area of Scotland fly half Greig Laidlaw had been an accident.

Meyer claimed Etzebeth had become one of the world’s best locks in a very short period of time, having only made his debut this June in the series against England. So far on this tour, in games against Ireland and Scotland, he has not lost a line-out.

The eyes have it: Etzebeth clashes with Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan

The eyes have it: Etzebeth clashes with Ireland lock Donnacha Ryan

‘He’s really grown as an individual and is one of the enforcers in the team. He’s a physical guy and he brings a physical element to the pack even though he is a youngster,’ Meyer explained.

Meyer quashed talk among Springbok fans that the Etzebeth case had been some kind of conspiracy to upset his team, because the citing officer had been an Englishman, Alan Mansell.

‘The guy was just doing his job,’ Meyer said. ‘We were happy to go there to prove he (Etzebeth) was not guilty.'

South Africa team v England

Kirchner (Blue Bulls); Pietersen (Sharks), de Jongh (Western Province), de Villiers (Western Province, capt), Hougaard (Blue Bulls); Lambie (Sharks), Pienaar (Ulster); Steenkamp (Toulouse), Strauss (Free State), du Plessis (Sharks), Etzebeth (Western Province), Kruger (Blue Bulls), Louw (Bath), Alberts (Sharks), Vermeulen (Western Province).

Subs: Brits (Saracens), H van der Merwe (Leinster), Cilliers (Western Province), F van der Merwe (Blue Bulls), Coetzee (Sharks), Jantjies (Golden Lions), Taute (Golden Lions), Mvovo (Sharks).

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales).

Meyer said he had eased back on training this week because some of his players had looked jaded after a long season.

‘This last game is going to be a very tough game. But, having said that, I want these guys to really dig deep to have one more great performance out of them.

‘But I have to say that I am worried. I can see the guys mentally that it has been a long season. But these guys are warriors and really want to play for their country.’

South Africa have one injury doubt in wing JP Pietersen. He suffered a hamstring strain in the 21-10 win over Scotland and has been given until Friday to prove his fitness.

Scotland 10 South Africa 21

Scotland 10 South Africa 21: Strauss at the double as hosts slump to defeat

PUBLISHED:

16:26 GMT, 17 November 2012

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UPDATED:

16:41 GMT, 17 November 2012

Scotland waited 50 minutes to find their attacking game against South Africa, but a spell of sustained pressure could not overturn an Adrian Strauss double at Murrayfield.

The Scots could not cope with a first-half physical barrage and Strauss went over after a maul before intercepting Mike Blair's pass early in the second period to help open up an 18-point lead.

Replacement scrum-half Henry Pyrgos soon crossed for the home side and sparked half an hour of relentless pressure, but the home side missed a series of chances.

Scotland forced a series of short-range penalties but failed to take advantage through a mixture of poor decision-making, some desperate defending and crucial decisions by referee George Clancy.

Over the line: The away side celebrate as Strauss scores a try with 21 minutes gone at Murrayfield

Over the line: The away side celebrate as Strauss scores a try with 21 minutes gone at Murrayfield

Andy Robinson's side had enough
chances to at least equal the three tries they scored in last weekend's
51-22 defeat by New Zealand, but they had been posted missing as an
attacking force throughout the first half, although they were not helped
by the loss of Richie Gray to a head injury.

Robinson was expecting a direct
threat from South Africa and they did not disappoint in the opening
moments with several kicks towards Scotland's left side,.

The visitors chose to kick the ball
into touch after an offside offence and looked set to drive over from
the resulting maul, but referee Clancy pulled them up for obstruction.

The tourists opened the scoring in
the seventh minute when Patrick Lambie kicked a penalty after the Scots
were penalised for holding on.

Scotland had barely been within 40
metres of the South Africa line but were level on 10 minutes when Greig
Laidlaw kicked a long-range penalty, only for Laidlaw himself to be
penalised for offside three minutes later and Lambie made no mistake
with the penalty.

Gray took a heavy hit as the South
Africa forwards quickly closed him down after a kick over the top and
the pressure told in the 21st minute when the Springboks instigated a
maul after a four-man lineout and once again drove Scotland back with
Strauss touching down.

Double: Strauss scores for a second time

Double: Strauss scores for a second time

Gray went off with concussion
immediately after the try with Al Kellock coming on. There was some
respite for Scotland as Lambie missed the conversion.

Springboks flanker Francis Louw then
burst through the home defence and won a penalty from Murray with Lambie
dispatching a simple kick to make it 14-3.

A penalty near the halfway line on 33
minutes allowed Scotland to put their opponents under serious threat
for the first time as they kicked for a lineout six metres from the try
line.

Scotland's forwards exerted severe
pressure as they looked for an opening but Clancy controversially
penalised Kellock for holding on.

Scotland survived the first wave of
South Africa attacks after the break but some slack play at both ends of
the park in the 46th minute led to them conceding a second try.

Hogg kicked well into the tourists' 22 but was too easily sidestepped by flanker Willem Alberts after chasing the ball.

South Africa quickly worked the ball
back into Scotland's half but Blair had possession under little stress
and saw his pass intercepted by Strauss. The hooker quickly got the ball
under control and ran 40 metres under the posts.

Simple: Pyrgos goes over for Scotland after captain Kelly Brown won a line-out

Simple: Pyrgos goes over for Scotland after captain Kelly Brown won a line-out

Blair was replaced by Pyrgos as Lambie converted and he got Scotland back into the game in the 51st minute.

Scotland opted to kick for touch from
a penalty and Pyrgos ran in unchecked inside of Kelly Brown to collect
the instant pass and cross over.

Scotland soon had South Africa on the
rack and were moving the ball quickly but Laidlaw inadvertently
relieved the pressure by trying to chip over the top.

The visitors could not break away though and Ruan Pienaar had a kick charged down as Scotland stepped up the pace.

Jim Hamilton was over the line at one
stage but was pushed back before he could touch down and Nick De Luca
almost broke through as South Africa defended on their line.

Scotland forced a penalty and opted
for a lineout but Ross Ford was penalised for not throwing straight, in
what looked a marginal decision, and Clancy soon decided Scotland had
collapsed the scrum.

Brown's interception ensured the
Springboks' respite was brief and Scotland forced another chance after a
lineout from a penalty, but substitute Ruaridh Jackson attempted to
kick over the try line from 10 metres out and Zane Kirchner comfortably
averted the danger.

Again there was no let-up and Flip
van der Merwe paid the price for the growing number of infringements
when he was shown a yellow card in the 77th minute.

Denton almost went over from the
resulting set-piece and Scotland worked a chance on the left wing, but
Tim Visser could not hold Jackson's close-range pass and the knock-on
was called as De Luca crossed in the corner.

Scotland 22 New Zealand 55: Match report

Scotland 22 New Zealand 51: Ruthless All Blacks begin autumn series with a bang

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UPDATED:

17:20 GMT, 11 November 2012

Tim Visser scored two tries for Scotland, but world champions New Zealand triumphed in the EMC Test at Murrayfield to extend their unbeaten run to 18 Tests.

Visser scored a try in each half and Geoff Cross also went over for the hosts, for whom Greig Laidlaw kicked seven points, but the All Blacks ruthlessly punished any mistakes.

Julian Savea (two), Israel Dagg, Corey Jane, Andrew Hore and Ben Smith crossed for the All Blacks, with Dan Carter kicking 21 points.

Try time: Hore touches down for another New Zealand score at Murrayfield

Try time: Hore touches down for another New Zealand score at Murrayfield

The one blot on the tourists' record came when Adam Thomson was sin-binned for stamping on Alasdair Strokosch's head.

Scotland had not scored a try against
New Zealand since 2005 and they scored three for the first time since
1996, two for a Holland-born Edinburgh wing who qualified through
residency in June.

Visser's 14th-minute score put
Scotland in front, but three converted tries in a 10-minute spell turned
the contest in the All Blacks' favour and Andy Robinson's men will now
seek to bounce back against South Africa and Tonga.

New Zealand, meanwhile, resumed
winning ways after a draw against Australia in their prior Test saw them
miss a record-equalling 17th successive Test win.

Now the All Blacks face Italy, Wales and England as they bid to finish the calendar year unbeaten.
Hopes were high in 2010 of a Scotland
upset, only for the hosts to lose 49-3, and two years on ahead of the
29th Test between the sides, Scottish expectation was tempered in the
build-up, despite summer successes in Australia, Fiji and Samoa.

Murrayfield's famous pre-match
welcome included a parade by Scotland's Olympians and Paralympians as
well as a match-ball presentation by cyclist Sir Chris Hoy.

Star performer: Visser scored two tries for Scotland who impressed at stages during the match

Star performer: Visser scored two tries for Scotland who impressed at stages during the match

Star performer: Visser scored two tries for Scotland who impressed at stages during the match

There was also a statement of intent
from the hosts, who walked towards the Haka, led by Kelly Brown on his
50th Test and first as captain.

But in the opening minute the
pressure was released as Scotland openside flanker Ross Rennie was
penalised for hands in the ruck and Carter kicked over the resulting
penalty.

Carter missed a penalty kick before his pass was intercepted by Matt Scott at the halfway line.
The centre popped the ball to supporting wing Visser, who touched down on his Murrayfield debut. Laidlaw converted.

New Zealand reclaimed the lead with
ease, with Carter's midfield break the spark. Dagg went over on the
right and Carter converted.

Scotland suffered a further blow as
Rennie went off with a shoulder injury, with David Denton coming on,
before Laidlaw and Carter exchanged penalties.

New Zealand then elected to raise the tempo and scored three times in quick succession to take a commanding lead.

First, Scotland were stretched from one wing to the other and Savea breezed by Visser to score in the left corner.

Free scoring: New Zealand laid down a marker for the remaining autumn Tests

Free scoring: New Zealand laid down a marker for the remaining autumn Tests

Free scoring: New Zealand laid down a marker for the remaining autumn Tests

A poor kick-off gifted the ball back
to New Zealand and Wyatt Crockett punched a hole through the Scotland
defence to create an overlap which allowed Jane to score in the right
corner.

The direct route was next, with
hooker Hore rolling out of an attempted Cross tackle to dot down on the
right. Carter kicked his fourth conversion of the match, but there was
still time for a Scotland response before the half-time whistle.

They laid siege on the All Blacks
line. Denton bounced out of a McCaw tackle, Sean Lamont was stopped
short of the line and then the television match official ruled against
Scott.

Another penalty followed, though, and
Richie Gray twice went close before Cross bundled over for his first
Test try. Laidlaw converted.

Scotland had a numerical advantage
for 10 minutes early in the second half when Thomson trod on Strokosch's
head at a ruck. Replays suggested Thomson's punishment might have been
more severe than 10 minutes in the sin-bin.

A succession of lineouts followed, but Brown was unable to gather Ross Ford's throw, allowing the All Blacks to clear.

Warm welcome: The Kiwis performed their traditional Haka and Sir Chris Hoy was in attendance, too

Warm welcome: The Kiwis performed their traditional Haka and Sir Chris Hoy was in attendance, too

Warm welcome: The Kiwis performed their traditional Haka and Sir Chris Hoy was in attendance, too

Scotland surged back, but loose play
saw the ball in All Black possession once more, only for the tourists to
uncharacteristically lose it at the breakdown.

Centre Tamati Ellison was tackled and
Laidlaw stepped over to kick the ball through for Mike Blair to scoop
it up. Blair in turn fed Visser for the wing to claim his second try of
the afternoon.

Despite toiling in their own half for much of the third quarter, New Zealand then scored a fifth try.
Carter chipped to the left where Savea gathered and scorched past Stuart Hogg for his second try of the game.

Numerous changes ensued, with Glasgow
Warriors scrum-half Henry Pyrgos among them to make his debut, before a
flat conclusion to the contest was enlivened by the tourists' sixth
try.

Scotland substitute Max Evans missed a
tackle on Carter and Ben Smith was able to go over in the corner.
Carter converted to complete a handsome victory.

Edinburgh 0 Saracens 45: Charlie Hodgson inspires bonus-point thrashing

Edinburgh 0 Saracens 45: Perfect start as Hodgson inspires bonus-point thrashing

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UPDATED:

14:49 GMT, 13 October 2012

Saracens got their Heineken Cup campaign off to a splendid start with a one-sided bonus-point victory over last season's semi-finalists Edinburgh.

Charlie Hodgson's right boot was in fine form, with the former England fly half scoring the last of five tries to complete a personal haul of 25 points.

More follows…

Over the line: Chris Ashton scores the third try

Over the line: Chris Ashton scores the third try

Match facts

Edinburgh: Brown, Jones, De Luca, Scott, T. Visser, Laidlaw, Rees, Yapp, Ford, Nel, Gilchrist, Cox, Denton, Rennie, McInally.

Replacements: Fife for T. Visser (41),
Leonard for Laidlaw (41), Leck for Rees (70),
Hislop for Yapp (70), Titterrell for Ford (62),
Cross for Nel (70), McAlpine for Gilchrist (77),
Talei for McInally (65).

Saracens: Goode, Ashton, Tomkins, Barritt, Strettle, Hodgson, Wigglesworth, Vunipola, Brits, Stevens, Borthwick, Botha, Brown, Fraser, Wray.

Replacements: Farrell for Tomkins (56),
Wyles for Strettle (70), de Kock for Wigglesworth (56),
Gill for Vunipola (56), Smit for Brits (65),
Du Plessis for Stevens (65), Kruis for Botha (56),
Saull for Brown (56).

Tries: Tomkins, Farrell, Ashton, Goode, Hodgson.

Cons: Hodgson 4. Pens: Hodgson 4.

Att: 6,543

Ref: John Lacey (Ireland).

Celtic 4 Raith Rovers 1

Celtic 4 Raith Rovers 1: No fairytale for Fife side as four-goal Hooper runs riot

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UPDATED:

22:04 GMT, 25 September 2012

Like all the best strikers around, Gary Hooper has a gluttonous appetite. The Englishman rarely knows when he is done.

On the final day of the SPL season in May he helped himself to a first-half hat-trick against Hearts, then added two more to finish on five.

On Tuesday night, against First Division opponents, he satisfied himself with a mere four. At the end of it all, Celtic’s place in the last eight of the Scottish Communities League Cup was almost an afterthought.

Main man: Gary Hooper scored all four goals for Celtic against Raith Rovers

Main man: Gary Hooper scored all four goals for Celtic against Raith Rovers

Match facts

Celtic: Zaluska, Matthews, Rogne, Wilson, Mulgrew, McGeouch, Ambrose, Kayal (Ledley 61), Forrest (Commons 82), Watt (McCourt 71), Hooper.

Subs Not Used: Forster, Wanyama

Goals: Hooper 12, 37, 58, 60.

Raith: McGurn, Thomson, Mensing, Hill, Malone (Ellis 89), Grant Anderson (Smith 68), Stuart Anderson, Walker, Hamill, Spence (Callachan 68), Graham.

Subs Not Used: Laidlaw, Donaldson.

Booked: Grant Anderson

Goal: Walker 28.

Att: 14,737

Ref: Alan Muir

On these occasions, a puzzled press box invariably rakes back years into the record books to recall the last time a Celtic striker achieved such a feat. Rarely, if ever, is the answer as recent as four months.

If nothing else, Hooper’s knack of prompting historical trawls cut short another walk down memory lane.

It was 18 years ago that Raith Rovers overcame Celtic to win the Scottish League Cup. The events of November 27 1994, when Paul McStay missed the penalty of his life, began the greying process for the late Tommy Burns.

On waking on Wednesday morning, Neil Lennon’s hair will be as red as ever. The prodigious Hooper made sure of that.

To say this was a night without mishap or anxiety would be to do Grant Murray’s Raith a disservice.

For Celtic it turned out fine in the end, yet Raith played the role of archetypal plucky underdogs with some distinction.

Star of the show: Hooper made sure Celtic were not embarrassed in the League Cup

Star of the show: Hooper made sure Celtic were not embarrassed in the League Cup

LEAGUE CUP RESULTS

Hearts 3 Livingtson 1

Queen of the South 0 Dundee United 1

St. Johnstone 4 Queen's Park 1

St. Mirren 1 Hamilton 0

Stenhousemuir 1 Inverness CT 1 AET (Inverness win 6-5 on penalties)

They were better than the final scoreline suggests, offering more in attack in 45 minutes than most SPL clubs will in 90.

Pursuing the only domestic trophy to have eluded him in his Celtic tenure, however, Lennon took no chances.

The Northern Irishman was almost forced to field Hooper by dint of injuries to new Bhoys Lassad, Miku and the more familiar figure of Georgios Samaras,

Still, however, he began the match with a grand total of seven full internationalists, handing new signing Efe Ambrose his first start.

When Hooper slotted the first goal in 13 minutes, the lingering anxieties of a sparsely populated Celtic Park abated rapidly. With James Forrest on the left and Dylan McGeouch on the right, the home team offered considerable menace on the flanks. And used it to full effect.

When right back Jason Thomson catastrophically gave away possession to Forrest on the halfway line, the winger raced forward and fed McGeouch on the right. Darting past Eddie Malone, the youngster hammered a low centre into the danger zone, where an unmarked Hooper slotted the ball with nonchalance into the net.

Equaliser: Raith Rovers' Allan Walker (right) sees his shot loop up and over Lukasz Zaluska to level the score.

Equaliser: Raith Rovers' Allan Walker (right) sees his shot loop up and over Lukasz Zaluska to level the score.

The top tier of this vast arena completely empty, a crowd in the region of 15,000 said much for the dwindling interest levels in this old tournament. And also for the limited resources of a support also asked to dig deep for Champions League tickets.

When the radio airwaves began to crackle with news of a Raith Rovers equaliser, however, ears pricked up rapidly all over the country.

Darting onto a Brian Graham pass in 27 minutes Allan Walker’s heavily deflected shot spun up off the leg of the lunging Kelvin Wilson and reared over the head of Celtic keeper Lukasz Zaluska.

And just for a few minutes we were there again. Back at Ibrox in 94, Gordon Dalziel lunging downwards to head past Gordon Marshall. Paul McStay with his head in his hands.

Overlooked in the sepia-tinged memories of that final, for the 1,000 or so Raith fans before kick-off, were some inconvenient truths.

In the 18 years since winning this trophy they had witnessed some pretty barren days against Celtic.

Eleven times the clubs had met, the team in green and white winning nine of them and the other two meetings drawn. In 2000, indeed, they had met in this competition — the current SPL champions winning 4-0.

Short lived: Walker celebrates his equaliser but Raith were soon behind again

Short lived: Walker celebrates his equaliser but Raith were soon behind again

The odds on Celtic prevailing in the end, then, were always short. And so it proved when Hooper scored a superb second goal eight minutes before half-time.

Again Forrest had the run on Thomson, the winger simply knocking the ball past the former Hearts player and running at some speed towards the byeline. It barely required a lift of the head to know that Hooper would be there, sniffing like a ferret up a drainpipe.

When the ball was delivered at some pace, the English striker volleyed it into the net with the minimum of fuss from eight yards out. On the back of his first league goal of the season against Dundee, he looks to be hitting top form.

That Raith were never out of it was a testimony to their passing composure and attacking flair. They missed a truly excellent chance to equalise again early in the second half when unmarked striker Brian Graham failed to head a pinpoint diagonal cross from Walker on target. It was a damaging moment for the Fifers.

The temptation on these occasions is to blame Celtic lethargy and indifference for ropey nights. On this occasion, however, it wouldn’t be true.

Immediately after the opening goal, McGeouch produced a terrific save from Davie McGurn in the Raith goal, the 19-year-old’s deft one-two with Hooper ending with a low shot which the keeper did well to halt low to his right.

Unstoppable: Hooper completes his hat-trick against Raith Rovers at Celtic Park

Unstoppable: Hooper completes his hat-trick against Raith Rovers at Celtic Park

Thomas Rogne then scorned another terrific chance minutes later, somehow hitting the post from 10 yards right in front of goal after McGurn had foiled McGeouch and Ambrose had failed to apply a finish.

Thankfully for Celtic, Hooper well and truly had his eye in.

The hat-trick came in 58 minutes when he sealed a fine piece of team play by Forrest and Adam Matthews by slotting an angled finish low into the net for 3-1.

His fourth was by far the simplest of the lot, a simple toe prod from six yards after Beram Kayal — with the last contribution of his comeback from an ankle injury — had a low shot spilled by a helpless McGurn. Hooper won’t score an easier goal this season.

On 75 minutes, the striker became provider as Celtic turned on the style. A delicate lay-off on the edge of the box allowed Forrest to smash a right-foot shot which cannoned off the inside of McGurn’s left hand post to safety.

Few begrudged Raith their moment of good fortune. The applause of their appreciative fan base at time up was deserved.

Better teams will fall victim to Gary Hooper this season.

Rob Harley in line to make Scotland debut

Scotland's rookie roll-call could extend to five with Harley named on bench to face Samoa

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UPDATED:

13:40 GMT, 20 June 2012

Glasgow flanker Rob Harley could become
the fifth player to make his international debut during Scotland's
current tour after he was named on the bench for Saturday's game against
Samoa.

His inclusion in the squad is the only change in the match-day 22 compared with the one which beat Fiji 37-25 on Saturday.

Call up: Harley is poised to make his full debut

Call up: Harley is poised to make his full debut

The 22-year-old Harley was the obvious candidate among the tour squad to replace John Barclay, the flanker who has gone back home to prepare for his wedding, but his inclusion in the 22 does mean all the uncapped players in the 28 originally selected for the trip could go home having become full Test players.

Prop Ryan Grant and wing Tom Brown won caps against Australia, while Tim Visser and Tom Ryder got theirs against Fiji.

Harley's involvement is far from certain as head coach Andy Robinson is reluctant to use his bench when things are going well.

But in the heat and humidity of Samoa, it is likely he will have little choice about using all his resources against a team who are used to the conditions.

As expected, both Mike Blair and Max Evans, who started against Fiji, are included among the replacements, swapping roles with Chris Cusiter and Sean Lamont who were named in the starting XV earlier this week.

Scotland team

S Hogg (Glasgow); S
Lamont (Glasgow), N De Luca (Edinburgh), M Scott (Edinburgh), T Visser
(Edinburgh); G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), C Cusiter (Glasgow); R Grant
(Glasgow), R Ford (C) (Edinburgh), E Murray (Newcastle), A Kellock
(Glasgow), R Gray (Sale), A Strokosch (Perpignan), R Rennie (Edinburgh),
R Vernon (Sale).

Replacements: S Lawson (London Irish), G
Cross (Edinburgh), T Ryder (Glasgow), R Harley (Glasgow), M Blair
(Brive), D Weir (Glasgow), M Evans (Castres).

Fiji 25 Scotland 37: Tim Visser shines on debut

Fiji 25 Scotland 37: Visser shines as tourists survive fightback to record second victory

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UPDATED:

07:04 GMT, 16 June 2012

Tim Visser got his international career off to a perfect start as his two tries helped Scotland to a hard-fought win over Fiji, their second of the tour.

Scotland led 24-11 at half-time in blistering heat in Lautoka thanks to tries from Greig Laidlaw and Visser which sandwiched a penalty try.

Fiji, for whom Josefa Domolailai crossed in the first period, fought back after the break and got scores from Waisea Nayacalevu and Metuisela Talebula, which put them within two points at 27-25 with 12 minutes to play.

On the march: Scotland's lock forward Ritchie Gray runs with the ball against Fiji

On the march: Scotland's lock forward Ritchie Gray runs with the ball against Fiji

But Visser claimed his second try eight minutes from the end and Laidlaw converted, taking his personal tally to 22, to settle Scotland nerves.

Fiji dished out some huge hits early on and with Scotland failing to control either the ball or their discipline, they soon conceded early penalties, two of which Jonetani Ralulu banged between the posts though he also missed one from inside his own half.

Scotland had hardly seen the ball inside the first quarter but when they did get it, they at last managed to show what they have been threatening all season with a flowing move that sent the ball both ways before Visser, on his debut, was sent clear on the left.

He had support inside and though Al Kellock was caught a yard short, Laidlaw was there to pick up and dive over.

Winning feeling: Scotland's hooker Max Evans (centre) charges forward against Fiji

Winning feeling: Scotland's hooker Max Evans (centre) charges forward against Fiji

Two minutes later, they were at it again. This time is was Max Evans, the wing, who was stopped short. Fiji killed the ball, and from the resulting penalty Scotland went for the scrum, drove almost to the line and were awarded a penalty try when Fiji illegally kicked the ball out inches before it crossed the line.

Laidlaw converted both but it was not the start of a Scottish try-fest, the next score coming at the opposite end of the park where scrum-half Nikola Matawalu nipped through the side of a ruck and slipped the ball inside to Domolailai, the replacement flanker, who was waiting to crash over.

Ralulu missed the conversion, and Scotland were able to stretch their lead with a Laidlaw penalty before the moment all Scottish fans had been waiting for – Visser's first try in Scotland colours.
It was set up by another immense scrum drive, before the ball was released wide and Nick De Luca gave him the sort of space that he was never going to squander.

No way through: Fiji's half back Nikola Matawalu (centre) is tackled by Scotland's players

No way through: Fiji's half back Nikola Matawalu (centre) is tackled by Scotland's players

Comfortably ahead at the break, the question was whether Scotland would wilt in the heat or press home their advantage.

A brilliant solo break from Matawalu threatened a Fiji fightback, but Evans got back to save his side before Laidlaw extended the lead with a penalty.

They needed it too as Watisoni Votu made a superb solo break to create the threat, finished on the other side of the field by Nayacalevu.

Suddenly Fiji had their tails up and the crowd started to get into the game, rousing the players who started to show all the fluency and imagination for which they are famed.

Too little: Fiji's winger Metuisela Talebula dives over for as try against Scotland

Too little: Fiji's winger Metuisela Talebula dives over for as try against Scotland

Somehow Scotland held firm for a while but the brilliance of the Fijians could not be denied.

A high kick was tapped back to support and centre Vereniki Goneva raced through the Scotland defence before finding Talebula, the replacement full-back, for a run to the line from a move that had started on their own 22.

For all their attacking flair, Fiji can still self destruct, and their failure to handle a high kick under pressure from Matt Scott presented Visser with simple run-in for his second try, to wrap up a nervy but satisfying win for Scotland.

Joe Ansbro suffers cut head celebrating with Alasdair Strokosch

Ouch! Scotland star left with badly-cut eye after sickening clash with team-mate CELEBRATING win in Australia

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UPDATED:

12:56 GMT, 5 June 2012

There's no doubt that rugby is a pretty brutal game.

But the last thing players expect is a bloodied gash to the head from their own team-mate while they celebrate a last-gasp victory.

SCROLL DOWN TO WATCH THE VIDEO…

Bloodied: Joe Ansbro is taken off the field after suffering the cut

Bloodied: Joe Ansbro is taken off the field after suffering the cut

Wild party: Scotland celebrate their last-minute victory in Australia

Wild party: Scotland celebrate their last-minute victory in Australia

Yet, that was excatly what happened when Scotland secured their 9-6 win over Australia.

After Greg Laidlaw sent over his winning penalty at the death, the tourists swarmed together in delight at their shock triumph.

As the mass of players grew, Joe Ansbro and Alasdair Strokosch raced in to join their team-mates.

But as they both dived to jump on top of the pile of bodies, they clashed heads in sickening fashion.

While powerful Strokosch appeared to emerge unscathed, centre Ansbro suffered a big cut above his left eye.

Let's hope the inevitable black eye didn't stop him enjoying a beer with his pal later on…

Andy Robinson rings the changes for Australia Test as Scotland look for upturn in form

Robinson rings the changes for Australia Test as Scotland look for upturn in form

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UPDATED:

11:41 GMT, 2 June 2012

Andy Robinson has named a side featuring six changes from that which finished the RBS Six Nations defeat to Italy as he seeks to arrest a run of poor results against Australia on Tuesday.

Glasgow prop Ryan Grant will win his first cap while Edinburgh centre Matt Scott will make his first start as he wins a second.

At least this time he will be able to prepare to play in his preferred position, unlike when his debut when he was called into the squad at 20 minutes notice, and then came off the bench to play at wing for the first time in his career.

Call-up: Ryan Grant

Call-up: Ryan Grant

Scotland side

S Hogg (Glasgow); J Ansbro (Edinburgh), N De Luca (Edinburgh), M Scott (Edinburgh), S Lamont (Scarlets); G Laidlaw (Edinburgh), M Blair (Edinburgh), R Grant (Glasgow), R Ford (C) (Glasgow), E Murray (Newcastle), A Kellock (Glasgow), R Gray (Glasgow), A Strokosch (Gloucester), R Rennie (Edinburgh), J Barclay (Glasgow). Replacements: S Lawson (Gloucester), J Welsh (Glasgow), T Ryder (Glasgow), R Vernon, C Cusiter (Glasgow), D Weir (Glasgow), T Brown (Edinburgh).

Not all of Robinson's changes are through choice. Jim Hamilton is out after fighting on the final weekend of the Aviva Premiership season, while Castre refused to release Max Evans in time – much to the anger of the Scotland coach.

Grant has won the battle against Jon Welsh, his clubmate at Glasgow, who started the last match after Allan Jacobsen, who has been rested for the tour, twisted an ankle in the pre-game warm-up.

Scott, however, probably realised he had a strong chance of starting every game at inside centre after Graeme Morrison, who filled the berth in the last game, was left at home.

The one-off Test against the Wallabies will be played at Newcastle, in Australia's Hunter Valley, on Tuesday.