Scotland 41 Canada 0: Scotland finally satisfy hunger for try feast
However, that was how this comfortable win over lowly-ranked Canada probably felt at full-time for the Scotland supporters, who braved the icy chill of the north-east, not to mention the players wearing the blue jerseys and those who had helped to clear the pitch of snow beforehand. Having survived on a diet of one home win in the past year, and that from a game against England that yielded no tries, Scots rugby fans had a raw hunger as they trooped inside Aberdeen's football ground.
The quality of the opposition meant this would never be a victory to make up for the missed chances against New Zealand and, particularly, South Africa, nor did it really solidify any personnel choices, as the Scots still had their fumbling moments, in slippy conditions, and missed chances.
But the team did what they were asked to do, dominating the game from start to finish, out-muscling Canada in the scrummage and contact areas and, crucially, scoring a hatful of tries.
Scotland's six tries came from skilful, decisive attacks and, fittingly, it was Aberdeen-born Nikki Walker, who started it with a try in the third minute from possession retained from the kick-off. As the big Ospreys wing dived over in the left-hand corner and threw the ball to the crowd, an early penalty having been passed up by Mike Blair for a tap-and-go, there was a sense that Scotland might easily surpass the six tries scored against Romania at Murrayfield last year.
But a combination of Scottish profligacy, the weather and Canada's stubborn refusal to buckle under pressure ensured a contest. With the Scottish front five again dominating the set-piece, it was left to the odd lineout grapple, and back rows Adam Kleeburger, the highly-rated flanker, and No 8 Aaron Carpenter to ensure Scotland did not have everything their own way while half-backs Ed Fairhurst and Matt Evans toiled manfully with little ball to find chinks in Scotland's defence.
Fairhurst even got to within ten metres of the Scots' try line, after a good break by Ciaran Hearn and debutant wing Sean Duke on the right flank; the visitors stole a lineout and had a scrum five metres out, but, each time, Scotland scrambled well and survived.
The hosts' attacking intent was clear when another fine flowing move ended with John Barclay, the openside flanker, diving into the right-hand corner in the 17th minute, but the try was ruled out for a foot in touch. Nick De Luca, Rory Lamont and Simon Webster injected pace into regular counter-attacks, Simon Taylor and Alasdair Strokosch took ball forward well, but, with players slipping on the snowy turf, the tries did not flow.
After a couple of try chances were lost, Godman kicked a penalty to get the scoreboard ticking again and only slick work by Blair, followed by a good Scottish scrum, denied Carpenter after the No8 had charged down a Walker clearance kick.
A lineout stolen by Jim Hamilton provided the chance for Scotland to finish the half in style, the lock feeding his second row colleague Nathan Hines, who spun a pass to the backs, and De Luca took off through a gap and into space. Repeating the kind of runs they make weekly at Edinburgh, De Luca and Cairns bore down on the Canadians' last line of defence, and De Luca fed Cairns whose pace ensured a first international try.
Godman's conversion put Scotland 15-0 ahead at the break and, with the half-time message clear – to be more direct – a Godman kick led to Canada conceding a scrum two minutes into the second half, from which Lamont charged and Barclay dived over to grab his first Test try. Taylor seemed certain to score after stealing a Canada lineout, but was caught by wing Justin Mensah-Coker. However, the fourth try was only briefly delayed as Strokosch then dived over from a close-range ruck, also for his first Test try, in the 57th minute.
De Luca and Cairns almost grabbed another try before a strong Scotland finish clinched a brace for Walker and Lamont, the full-back ignoring the big man's pleas for a hat-trick outside him in finishing a fine training ground move from a lineout on the opposite side of the field that had allowed Max Evans – on for Webster on the right wing – to reveal his deft attacking skills.
Canada had faded in the second half, their tiredness and 25 missed tackles underlining the physical difference between the teams. As the teams departed the first full rugby international at Pittodrie and snow began to fall again, it was those of a Scottish persuasion who left the heartier with a long-awaited home win to bring some pleasure to the end of a tough autumn.
Scorers: Scotland: Tries: Walker 2, Barclay, Cairns, Strokosch, Lamont. Pen: Godman; Cons: Godman 3, Parks.
Scotland: R Lamont; S Webster, B Cairns, N De Luca, N Walker; P Godman, M Blair (capt); A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray, N Hines, J Hamilton, A Strokosch, S Taylor, J Barclay. Subs: A Dickinson for Jacobsen, S Gray for Barclay, both 51mins, D Parks for Godman, R Lawson for Blair, both 59, M Evans for Webster, D Hall for Ford, both 64, M Mustchin for Hines 72.
Canada: J Pritchard; S Duke, C Hearn, R Smith, J Mensah-Coker; M Evans, E Fairhurst (capt); K Tkachuk, M Pletch, S Franklin, T Hotson, J Jackson, J Sinclair, A Carpenter, A Kleeburger. Subs: N Hirayama for Evans 47mins, B Keys for Hearn, M Burak for Jackson 64, F Walsh for Tkachuk, J Marshall for Kleeburger, both 67, M Williams for Fairhurst 70.
Rory Lamont 7/10
Not much to do at full-back. In right place to score the final try
Simon Webster 6/10
Hungry for the ball but never really got going on the narrow pitch before being replaced
Ben Cairns 8/10
Scored his first international try and finally showed more than just potential
Nick de Luca 8/10
Showed what he can do when his team are on the front foot
Nikki Walker 8/10
Two well-taken tries and intelligent running
Phil Godman 6/10
Used the regular stream of possession well to keep his line moving in wave after wave of attacks until replaced
Mike Blair 7/10
Combative and alert, his usual dynamism was perhaps not so noticeable with the rest of the team firing on all cylinders
Allan Jacobsen 8/10
Another bravura display as he rumbled around in the loose for his 52 minutes on the pitch
Ross Ford 6/10
All action at the centre of a scrum that created platform
Euan Murray 7/10
Anchored the scrum with ease and ensured Canada never once threatened
Nathan Hines 6/10
Quiet but effective in scrum and lineout
Jim Hamilton 7/10
Dominated the lineout, steadied the scrum and put in some crunching tackles
Alasdair Strokosch 7/10
Good blindsider's try when he was bundled over by the pack. Impressive overall
Simon Taylor 7/10
Back to something near his best as a ball carrier
John Barclay 7/10
Denied a try in the first half, he got on the score sheet in the second. Downed everything in a red shirt
Replaced Ford for last 15 minutes
Sent on for final five minutes
Replaced Barclay on the openside for last half hour
Replaced Godman at stand off for last quarter
Came on at scrum half after 58 minutes
Took over at tighthead after 58 minutes
Replaced Webster on right wing and made scoring pass to Lamont for sixth try