Players blame infected pitch as 'worms' turn Aussie tie against Scots
Scotland 15 Australia 21
Scotland's hopes of ending their Test year on a high were quite literally undermined on Saturday, with two players suggesting the state of the Murrayfield pitch, which has been hit by a parasitic worm infestation, had been a factor in their defeat by the Wallabies.
The surface carved up badly during this match, as it had during Scotland's two previous autumn Tests against Japan and South Africa. Afterwards, wing Sean Lamont and No 8 Dave Denton said the pitch conditions had made it difficult for the Scots to play the kind of game they wanted, although both acknowledged Australia faced the same difficulties.
Denton said Scotland had been unable to use the scrum as an attacking platform. "Our scrum was dominant, but the pitch didn't let us do much with that," he said.
Lamont suggested the surface had contributed to his failure to score a try late in the first half when he was brought down near the line by man-of-the-match Israel Folau. "I had the angle, but you can't really step much on that pitch," Lamont said. "It's a nightmare. Of course the pitch makes a difference. You always want a firm footing."
The Murrayfield ground staff have been working around the clock for the past two months to keep the pitch playable, but the fact the ground is also used for Edinburgh home games has limited their options. Scotland will play two Six Nations games at Murrayfield next year – France and England – but the indications are that the nematode worms, which feed on the roots of grass, will not have been eradicated before then.
At least the Scots should have some firepower back in their side by the time the Six Nations comes around. Quite aside from their unpatriotic worm population, Scotland's prospects have been damaged just as significantly by the injuries that have kept wing Tim Visser, full-back Stuart Hogg and centres Matt Scott and Alex Dunbar out of the recent action.
Their potency and creativity have been missed, for Lamont's chance was the only clearcut opportunity Scotland produced against the Wallabies. By contrast, Australia carved two and took both, Folau touching down in the first half and Chris Feauai-Sautia adding the second try early in the second.
The pitch also seemed to affect the goalkickers. Both Duncan Weir and Greig Laidlaw missed kicks for Scotland, while Chris Leali'ifano's haul of three penalties from seven attempts, plus only one conversion, added up to a meagre 44pc success rate on a still Edinburgh evening. (© Daily Telegraph, London)