SCOTLAND’S miserable season just got a whole lot worse. England recorded a comfortable victory at Murrayfield to keep their championship hopes alive and bury Scotland’s hopes six feet under the potato field that Murrayfield resembled.
SCORERS: Tries - Burrell, Brown; Cons - Farrell 2; Pen - Farrell; Drop goal - Care
Currently the SRU are losing a battle against a bunch of worms, what chance do their rugby team have of competing with the best of Europe?
The visitors grabbed two tries, Danny Care dropped a goal to start the scoring and Owen Farrell’s boot added the remaining points despite the stand-off having an uncharacteristically nervy match. He dropped one pass and missed three of his six kicks at goal, one of which was simplicity itself.
At least it gave the Murrayfield crowd something to cheer on a day when there was precious little else to put a smile on their face. Laidlaw missed two difficult penalties,
Scotland’s only scoring chances.
The fact Scotland lost was no great surprise, but the manner of the defeat was deeply dispiriting. Rather than greeting the auld enemy with the traditional reception of fire and fury, the Scots seemed to sleepwalk towards defeat. There was almost no leadership or snarling aggression and a hopeless paucity of invention. If it wasn’t for one rammy early in the second half, you wouldn’t know it was a Calcutta Cup match at all.
In just one small scenario in the middle of the first half, flanker Ryan Wilson was knocked backwards in the tackle. He passed to David Denton, who wasn’t expecting it and dropped the ball. England gathered and kicked into the Scottish 22. Ross Ford threw the ball straight over the ensuing lineout, England regathered and a couple of plays later Farrell was knocking over another three points for the men in white, who must have thought life was sweet. Just what the Scottish fans thought is probably unprintable.
On the odd occasion that the home team strung a few phases together they looked vaguely threatening but whenever Scotland got on the front foot, one of the half backs would slow the game down. Either Greig Laidlaw was slow to the breakdown or Duncan Weir would sit 20 metres back in the pocket and hoof the ball, giving England’s back three plenty of time to collect it.
Once again the lineout was a mess from the very start when Jim Hamilton took a quick throw to Sean Lamont which did not travel the requisite five metres. Ford again struggled to find the bull with his arrows, on one occasion he failed to find the board. The hooker was replaced on 42 minutes, ironic really since Scotland had just won a lineout. Perhaps it was the sarcastic cheer from the crowd that persuaded Scott Johnson to prevent any further damage to Ford’s shaky confidence. He was replaced by Scott Lawson who, needless to say, fluffed his first throw.
The set scrum was marginally improved. While the Scots lost the scrum battle in Dublin, yesterday’s arm wrestle was closer, at least until Ford left the field. You pays your money… and the absence of Ford’s scrummaging prowess meant that England won two scrum penalties after his departure.
England’s first try, only their second at this ground since 2004, arrived after 14 minutes and was simplicity itself. England drove an attacking lineout but the Scots were equal to that challenge. Scrum-half Danny Care, a thorn in Scotland’s side all afternoon, made a darting sideways run and the centre Luther Burrell’s straight angle was missed by everyone. Laidlaw made the tackle but it was never enough to stop the big man from scoring.
After two international appearances, Burrell is currently running at a try a Test but he should be averaging two. With the last move of the first half, Farrell made a half break and offloaded to his 13, who made it all the way to the Scottish posts but could not quite reach the line. In the final quarter only Stuart Hogg’s hand prevented Mike Brown’s pass from sending Burrell to the line again.
England picked up in the second half where they had left off in the first. Jonny May made a break and was caught. The same man enjoyed another run, Alex Dunbar scragged him before the line but was sent to the sin bin on 51 minutes and England eventually made the numbers count when winger Jack Nowell created space on the left flank for fullback Brown to score.
The final quarter of the match was spent with Scotland in desperate defence deep inside their own half of the field while England went through the motions in third gear. The teenage lock Jonny Gray received a warm welcome upon making his Six Nations bow but the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for a kilted spectator who ran on to the field. Sadly that summed up Scotland’s afternoon.
Five areas where the match was won and lost
1. Set Piece
The set piece is the foundation stone of any rugby team: scrums, lineouts and restarts. You can win without them but not on a regular basis. For the second weekend in succession the Scots lost five lineout throws and a couple of scrums. They can’t go on like this and expect any other result.
2. The breakdown
For every set piece there are umpteen breakdowns and the Scots lost the manic physical battle here. The forwards were knocked off the ball and usually by fewer Englishmen. The inclusion of Chris Fusaro did little to help. The Scots used to boss this area but not any more.
3. The half-backs
The Scottish forwards don’t always make life easy for him but Greig Laidlaw, above left, needs to speed things up on the odd occasion his big men generated some forward momentum. His half-back partner Duncan Weir stood deep and, for the most part, kicked poorly. One or both should be changed.
Despite all the technology and skills required, rugby is still a game where teams that can tap into the emotional side of themselves will excel and the Scots appear to have lost this facet of the game. They need to play with emotional as well as intellectual commitment.
5. Style of play
What do Scotland stand for? What type of game do Scotland want to play? What does this team want to do with the ball? What are they trying to do without the ball? What are their strengths? What is their overall shape? Two matches into this Championship and we are none the wiser.
Scotland: Hogg, Seymour, Dunbar, Scott, Lamont, Weir, Laidlaw (capt), Grant, Ford, Low, Swinson, Hamilton, Wilson, Fusaro, Denton.
England: Brown, Nowell, Burrell, Twelvetrees, May, Farrell, Care, Marler, Hartley, Cole, Launchbury, Lawes, Wood, Robshaw, Billy Vunipola.
Referee: Jerome Garces (France). Attendance: 67,000.