Hutton casts aside shackles of self-doubt after half an hour to forget

FOR MORE than half an hour Rory Hutton looked as if his competitive debut for Edinburgh would be a deeply inauspicious event with the outside potential to become a car crash.

The young stand-off kicked the ball with all the elan of a man hoofing a plastic bag full of water, he threw looping hospital passes to poor John Houston, got caught in possession more often than Pete Docherty and tackled with all the conviction of Dan Parks. Actually, that last bit is unfair because he did at least get in the vicinity of Ceri Sweeney, but you get the gist.

And then it happened. With half-time looming and almost a full half of risk-free rugby league-style phase play having meandered meekly under the bridge, the crowd of 1,600 frozen souls was shaken out of its torpor by a sublime moment of skill which not only turned heads but turned the game.

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With Edinburgh just inside the Cardiff half but looking no more likely to unpick the visitors' defence than they had for the preceding 35 minutes, Hutton picked up the ball, virtually standing still. Feinting left, then stepping off his right foot, he accelerated through a gaggle of light blue shirts, leaving the would-be Cardiff tacklers grasping at his slipstream as he set off with a languid, deceptively fast turn of pace.

Into the wide open tundra behind the thin blue line, Hutton kicked into third gear and sped towards the line, with a brace of Edinburgh players struggling to catch up with their stand-off. So, too, was the Cardiff cover, with players closing from all sides. Yet just as Hutton slowed and the cover looked to take the ball-carrier, so he accelerated again, punching towards the line and flipping the ball up to Ross Rennie when he was eventually dragged to ground by fullback Leigh Halfpenny, with the openside flanker stretching to plonk the ball down on the line for the first try of a game that had, until then, been finely balanced.

It was as if the shackles had been removed from a player who had waited so long for this rare chance that for the first half an hour he was in danger of being almost totally overwhelmed by nerves. That stunning break, though, infused him with the sort of glorious swagger that has been all too rare in stand-offs in these parts. All of a sudden he was trying things, hitch-kicking and dummying, even after he was tag-teamed and slammed into the turf by Cardiff second rows Paul Tito and Deiniol Jones.

If Hutton had been hiding his light under a very large Borders bushel for much of the first half, after the interval the Hawick man's palpable determination to seize this chance lit up Murrayfield. Within two minutes of the restart he had made another telling break, taking the ball just outside the Cardiff 22 and displaying a gutsy streak to carve past two tacklers before being brought to ground. Even then he was looking for the offload, swinging the ball in a wide one-handed arc as if he was a Fijian sevens players. With no sure pass, he went to ground, and with the defence in disarray when the ball was whisked out to the left, Tim Visser and Jim Thompson combined for the try which effectively sealed this win.

At 22, the former electrician is no youngster, so with his mark already made on the game he set about displaying all his skills, including those which he gleaned while on the sevens circuit with Scotland. Effortlessly running through his repertoire, he looked like a man transformed, putting in a neat grubber down the right touchline for Thompson to chase one minute, pirouetting through Sweeney's kamikaze tackling the next.

When Rob Moffat took him off after 60 minutes, presumably to make sure nothing spoiled a dream debut, it was to a standing ovation. Scottish rugby has been crying out for a No.10 for so long that it is inconceivable to think that Hutton won't be given further chances to prove his worth in the near future. Whether this was a match in which a star was unveiled will only become apparent with time, but yesterday the way in which Hutton grabbed the game by the scruff of its sorry neck was eerily reminiscent of the way in which John Rutherford jinked, dummied and shimmied his way through the 1980s. Hutton's passing is weak and, like the young Rutherford, his kicking looked woefully inadequate, but if he can follow the Selkirk legend's lead and graft a kicking game on to his elusive running skills, then the boy could really be a player.

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