SCOTLAND salvaged a huge amount of respect, at last, from their 2011 RBS Six Nations Championship with a stirring performance in their penultimate match, but as well as it subdued England it was still not enough to win and end a 28-year wait for victory at Twickenham.
The Scots defence was far better than in recent games, tighter, quicker and harder-hitting, and, having conceded a try in the opening ten minutes in seven of their last nine Tests, they did not yield to the championship's top attacking side until 13 minutes from the end, and then when controversially reduced to 14 men. They also produced a first Scottish try in the Calcutta Cup in four years, with a flash of brilliance from centre Max Evans that pulled the deficit back to three points with just six minutes of the game remaining.
Scotland have rarely been as roundly written off as they were before this 128th meeting of the old rivals. But they nearly pulled it off. There was a sign before kick-off that the Twickenham residents might not have everything their own way when a fox raced around the inside of the ground, up and down the pitch and through the stands, with no-one able to coax him off until the shattered animal spotted an exit route as the Scottish anthem struck up and made his escape.
By the finish both Scotland and England were similarly out on their feet, having covered every blade of grass.
The Scots were left to curse a scrum that failed to secure ball at crucial moments, though the set-piece continues to be a lottery of refereeing interpretation, and a lineout that was clearly well analysed by the English and was under pressure throughout.
The loss of Kelly Brown shortly after half-time with a head injury, after a big hit from Matt Banahan - the No 8 was up on his feet after the game nursing a bad bout of concussion - and the impressive openside flanker John Barclay for ten minutes in the second half, when he was ajudged to have illegally swatted English ball at a ruck in front of the Scottish posts, were the other game-defining moments.
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But they detract from the significant improvement made by the Scottish team after three deflating performances against France, Wales and Ireland.
Scotland reduced their error count hugely and ran at England as a team with a greater purpose and conviction than has been present in this championship, and that played a huge part in knocking the hosts off their game.
Brown provided the early lead taking the kick-off and running at the English defence, and alongside the tireless Barclay and Nathan Hines, enjoyed one of his best Test matches before being stretchered off.
Aided by Rory Lawson's slick passing, stand-off Ruaridh Jackson stepped up and turned in a mature display in only his second international start, varying attack well and kicking with confidence, while Chris Paterson stepped in at fly-half on occasions and both there and from full-back was a sure presence. Locks Al Kellock and Richie Gray were heroic at times in defence and attack, despite the lineout's problems, while the front row stuck to the task well in a ferocious scrummage battle, Ross Ford, the hooker, particularly responding to criticism of recent displays to make his presence felt in the loose.
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But Scotland then lifted their performance by keeping ball, cutting out the handling errors that have dogged their campaign, and produced some stirring half-breaks into the home 22 which had the crowd enthralled, Ford, Sean Lamont, Evans, Allan Jacobsen and Simon Danielli all running hard and fighting to make ground in contact. The hard work and ambition brought the reward of another penalty, for offside, which Paterson turned into another three points.
Flood responded in kind after Hines was penalised for not getting away from a ruck just outside the Scots' 22, and then England lifted the tempo. Scotland's defence was clever to deny an overlap created by the roaming Chris Aston, and with Gray leading the way the work-rate was immense, but a scrum penalty allowed Flood to nudge England ahead for the for the first time in the game, with 30 minutes played.
An Evans interception, just as England looked certain to score the game's first try, swung momentum back Scotland's way again, and a great period of attack, the Scots again showing confidence with ball in hand, ended with a Lamont grubber-kicking it into touch ten metres from the home line.
England were pulled back for Dylan Hartley's quick throw and were lucky to get away with a long throw over the top which bounced along the ground before they collected. Jackson then got a boot to a loose ball in England's attack and good chase by Danielli and clever management from the stand-off at the end of the first half set him up for a drop-goal which he struck it well from around 35 metres to send the teams into the interval level at 9-9.
England lost captain Mike Tindall at half-time to an ankle injury, but his replacement, Bath's 6ft 5in winger Matt Banahan soon made his presence felt when he charged into Brown and left him prostrate and seemingly out cold. As Brown was being treated Chris Ashton tore up through the middle of Scotland's defence and only fine tackles by Paterson and Jackson, and a great dogged effort in Scotland's right-hand corner, kept England out.
Brown's game was over, however, the flanker stretchered off. His replacement, Richie Vernon, played well but the Scots missed Brown's ability to win possession and his security on the ball was missed in the last quarter.
England then lifted the tempo and after both coaches began to empty their benches, Scotland suffered through two crucial unforced mistakes. The first was a loose pass by Vernon at the back of a Scots scrum that gifted England possession, which they turned into the pressure that ultimately cost Barclay his place on the pitch - guilty of knocking the ball from Danny Care's hand - and three points from Flood's boot.
The second was an error by Evans, who was sucked inside on an English attack, which left space for Tom Croft to break down the left touchline and steamroller Dan Parks for the game's only try, in the 67th minute.
Scotland had been really unfortunate when a promising series of attacks had stretched England inside their own half only for referee Romain Poite to blow up, in obvious agony, clutching a suspected torn calf muscle. When the game resumed with Jerome Garces now in charge, Parks, on for Jackson, struck a drop-goal effort flat and wide and Chris Paterson produced a textbook try-saving tackle on full-back Ben Foden five metres from the line.
But with 15 minutes remaining, England sent on the heavy artillery in the shape of Simon Shaw, Tom Croft, Steve Thompson and Jonny Wilkinson, while Scott Lawson took over from Ford.
Wilkinson converted Croft's score just as Barclay returned to the fray, with Alasdair Strokosch also coming on for Hines, with the Scots now facing a ten-point deficit. But they refused to give up and Evans sent the large and voluble Scottish support delirious inside a gripped Twickenham when he superbly chipped the English defence and caught the ball to dive over the line, Paterson converting to cut the deficit to three points with just six minutes to go.
It was an tense finale, but England claimed the territory and possession when it mattered and after missing a drop-goal attempt Wilkinson slotted a penalty when Scotland collapsed a maul to seal victory with a minute remaining and keep England's Grand Slam bid on track.
Scorers: England: Try: Croft; Pens: Flood 4, Wilkinson; Con: Wilkinson. Scotland: Try: Evans; Pens: Paterson 2; Drop-goal: Jackson; Con - Paterson.
England: B Foden; C Ashton, M Tindall (capt), S Hape, M Cueto; T Flood, B Youngs; A Cobisiero, D Hartley, D Cole, L Deacon, T Palmer, T Wood, J Haskell, N Easter.Subs: M Banahan for Tindall 40mins, D Care for Youngs 54, S Thompson for Hartley, T Croft for Wood, S Shaw for Deacon, J Wilkinson for Flood, all 65, P Doran-Jones for Cole 75.
Scotland: C Paterson; S Danielli, J Ansbro, S Lamont, M Evans; R Jackson, R Lawson; A Jacobsen, R Ford, M Low, A Kellock (capt), R Gray, N Hines, J Barclay, K Brown. Subs: R Vernon for Brown 43mins, G Cross for Low 53, M Blair for Lawson, D Parks for Jackson, both 55, S Lawson for Ford 65, A Strokosch for Hines 68, N De Luca for Ansbro 72.