By Bea Asprey, Rugby World Writer
In a nutshell
ENGLAND’S RBS 6 Nations title defence is still on track as Saturday saw them beat Scotland 6-13 at Murrayfield. Fly-half Charlie Hodgson scored the visitors’ only try 29 seconds into the second half, after he chased down Dan Parks’s kick, while his Saracens team-mate and Test debutant Owen Farrell kicked the conversion and two further penalties. Scotland’s Dan Parks successfully kicked two penalties, but their try drought continues.
While Scotland had England on the ropes in the first half, Hodgson’s try early in the second saw the momentum swing in the visitors’ favour, and Scotland were unable to claw their way back. Despite significant pressure throughout the match, England’s defence held firm and Scotland failed to exploit any of their chances, notably that of Richie Gray, when Ben Foden put in a fine cover tackle and Greig Laidlaw, who crossed the line but failed to ground the ball, both in the second half.
No 8 David Denton impressed (left, with head coach Andy Robinson), making a number of significant carries for Scotland. Winning just his second cap and in the starting line-up for the first time, the Edinburgh man was named Man of the Match, and showed the impact he can have at Test level. In just 80 minutes he has already marked himself out as a key man for the Scots for the rest of the tournament.
Room for improvement
Scotland’s failure to score tries is costing them games, and though England’s defence held firm it was not watertight, and they would arguably have been in trouble against a slicker attacking side. On the subject, Robinson said: “We’ve got to look at what we’re doing as a group and I’m accountable for that. We were not able to convert our chances and it’s a frustration we all feel. We need to keep working in training and put the guys in those situations.”
England head coach Stuart Lancaster: “After just nine or ten days together this was a great result for us. We’re delighted with the players’ attitude, especially in defence. They played for each other and worked hard for the shirt.”
Owen Farrell (right): “It was good to finally get out there as there’s been lots of talk. We’ve gelled quickly as a team and we fought for each other. The atmosphere was unreal, these games take it out of you mentally as well as physically.”
Scotland head coach Andy Robinson: “We’ve got a sense of deja-vu, we’ve been here before and we’re bitterly disappointed. Congratulations to Stuart Lancaster, Andy Farrell and Graham Rowntree for the victory. They’ve worked hard for that.”
David Denton: “We’ve very disappointed to lose, especially as it was such a close game. I’m happy with how I played, but it’s a game of inches and we made a few errors today, and they’re unforgivable at this level. It’s amazing what a difference a win makes to the atmosphere in a dressing room and we’re very down, but we’re looking forward to showing what we’re capable of against Wales next week.”
Scotland won the ball 118 times compared to England’s 46, and completed 238 passes compared with 72 for the visitors. They also spent more time in possession of the ball throughout the game (16.39 to 9.19 first half and 18.54 to 14.16 second), and had more minutes in their opponents’ half (23.13 to 19.00 first half and 25.03 to 18.40 second), so where was the try?
SCOTLAND: Rory Lamont; Lee Jones, Nick De Luca, Sean Lamont, Max Evans; Dan Parks (Greig Laidlaw 58), Chris Cusiter (Mike Blair 58); Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford (capt, Scott Lawson 75), Euan Murray (Geoff Cross 75), Richie Gray, Jim Hamilton (Al Kellock 58), Alasdair Strokosch (John Barclay 59), Ross Rennie, David Denton.
Not used: Graeme Morrison.
ENGLAND: Ben Foden; Chris Ashton, Brad Barritt (Mike Brown 72), Owen Farrell, David Strettle; Charlie Hodgson (Jordan Turner-Hall 63), Ben Youngs (Lee Dickson 63); Alex Corbisiero (Matt Stevens 63), Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole, Mouritz Botha, Tom Palmer (Geoff Parling 58), Tom Croft, Chris Robshaw (capt), Phil Dowson (Ben Morgan 68).
Not used: Rob Webber.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)