The long wait just got longer as Scotland went down to England at Twickenham yet again. Godot shows up more often than the Scots manage a win in west London.
England - Tries: Ashton, Twelvetrees, Parling, Care. Cons: Farrell 3. Pens: Farrell 4.
Scotland - Tries: Maitland, Hogg. Con: Laidlaw. Pens: Laidlaw 2.
The visitors scored two good tries, they tackled themselves to a standstill and they shed blood and tears aplenty in the cause and still the final score was not remotely close. We are where we are, to borrow from the philosopher/coach Scott Johnson.
The damage was done in the middle of the match, with England scoring a try either side of half-time. The Scots were trailing by one point with half an hour on the clock but that gap had ballooned to 15 points just minutes after the start of the second half. At one point England threatened to cut loose altogether and run riot but somehow the Scots stopped the rot, at least for a while.
There was scarcely a facet of play that England did not win at a canter. They were better at the set piece, where Scotland’s giant pack lost at least one scrum put-in against the head as well as conceding a couple of penalties. The Scots lineout was poor but the breakdown is the real reason to reach for a cigarette and the revolver. Skipper Kelly Brown won a couple of balls and a penalty or two but in general the Scots were roasted to a crisp in this key battle ground, lucky to come second.
The story of the match was of ill-discipline (Scotland conceded 12 penalties, England seven) and last-ditch defence from Scotland allied to England’s odd inability to score more than one quarter of the countless scoring changes they carved out for themselves. Had they finished with the same brutal efficiency they brought to every other aspect of play this would have been a proper hiding. Time and again it seemed as if the white shirts would completely overwhelm the thin blue line but the Scots somehow held firm for 30 minutes, which is when Chris Ashton found a small gap with between Ruaridh Jackson and Sean Maitland.
The Scots were again complicit in their own downfall. In the lead-up to Ashton’s try, Jackson fluffed a penalty to touch and had a cross-field kick charged down: when will the stand-off realise that he simply doesn’t have the luxury of time at Test level? In between those two mistakes, Greig Laidlaw had kicked the ball straight into touch and lost his side 40 yards.
Richie Gray did well to reclaim the second-half restart but yet another Scottish penalty, this one for sealing off, gave the home side an attacking lineout which they made good use of. One series of attacks went to the left, another to the right and then the 6 foot 3 inches of Billy Twelvetrees attacking the line at pace was impossible to stop from five yards out.
England were exerting quite enough pressure on the Scottish defence – add unforced errors into the mix and the punishment was inflicted on the score with painful regularity.
With the Scots coughing up penalties at both ends of the field – one promising attack was thwarted under the English posts – Owen Farrell kicked his first penalty in the second minute of the match and he added another three at regular intervals throughout the first half, each one another nail in the Scottish coffin, to sit alongside his three conversions. He finished with seven from eight and a man of the match award.
On the positive side, Scotland at least posed more of a threat with the ball in hand than they have done for the past goodness knows how long. Johnnie Beattie ran over a couple of Englishmen and Matt Scott did some sterling work in the midfield. Stuart Hogg combined with Maitland twice to create Scotland’s two tries. The fullback sliced through the English defence in the first half to set up a score for the Kiwi on his international debut, never mind that he could have made it easier by making the pass earlier. Hogg held on too long and the Scottish attack had to run through a couple of phases before Maitland dived over in the corner.
The two were at it again in the second half. Brown won a turnover, David Denton ran the ball out of defence and Maitland kicked long before Hogg won the foot race.
That was pretty much that for the Scots, who, after falling well behind on the scoreboard, fell increasingly under the cosh on the field as England grew in stature and confidence the longer this match went on.
England had another second-half try, by Joe Launchbury, wiped off by the touch judge for a high tackle by England hooker Tom Youngs but family honour was quickly restored when brother Ben made a quicksilver break that caught the visitors napping. He was eventually collared by Maitland but, two phases later, a huge miss pass found Geoff Parling on the left wing for a brilliant score that brought the crowd to their feet. Hogg added some respectability to the scoreboard with Scotland’s second try with ten minutes left to play but there was still time for Danny Care to add a degree of honesty to the final reckoning with a try at the death.
England: Goode; Ashton, Barritt, Twelvetrees, Brown; Farrell, B Youngs (Care 57); Marler (Vunipola 57), T Youngs, Cole (Wilson 73), Launchbury (Lawes 64), Parling, Wood, Robshaw, Morgan (Haskell 46).
Scotland: Hogg; Maitland, Lamont, Scott, Visser; Jackson, Laidlaw (Pyrgos 71); Grant, Hall (Ford 47), Murray, Gray, Hamilton (Kellock 55), Strokosch (Denton 14), Brown, Beattie.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU). Attendance: 81,347.