IT IS four losses out for four for Scotland in this year’s RBS Six Nations but they didn’t leave Twickenham with their tails between their legs after losing 22-16 to England. Tom Croft’s 68th minute try put daylight between the sides for the first time after the goal-kickers had traded blows throughout a scrappy game. The back-rower’s touchdown meant England led 19-9 with 12 minutes to go but even then Scotland fought back with a try from Max Evans, converted by Chris Paterson to make it 19-16. Finally, Jonny Wilkinson sealed the win for England with a 79th minute penalty.
Disappointed though he was to lose, Scotland coach Andy Robinson could see a silver lining beneath the cloud. “There were some really positive individual performances,” said the former England coach. “Nathan Hines was phenomenal in his defensive work, Max Evans got himself into the game in positions we have been talking about, Ruaridh Jackson played well and Simon Danielli ran well in the first half when he had a bit of ball. Al (Kellock) and Richie’s (Gray’s) work away from the set pieces was phenomenal.”
Scotland had Kelly Brown stretchered off early in the second half after a collision with Matt Banahan, but despite fears that the No 8 might have suffered a spinal injury, he was up on his feet after the game.
Robinson was clear about what had led to this defeat for Scotland. “What we had to do was control the set pieces and we didn’t and that’s what we’re looking at from this game. We are really, really disappointed. There was a huge effort put in by ourselves and I take my hat off to the players for the way they have trained through the Championship and the way they put their bodies on the line today. There is a lot of effort going in but what we are learning is that sport at this level is won and lost by small margins.”
Skipper Kellock was also disappointed with Scotland’s set piece work, although he felt they might have got more sympathy from the referee at scrum time. “Our lineout has been functioning well but, credit to England, we were under pressure on every throw,” Kellock said. “At times we felt we had won the hit in the scrum and it was more even than possibly the penalty count would show.”
Full-back Chris Paterson was encouraged by Scotland’s good start, which saw them take a 3-0 lead in the opening minutes. “Having made poor starts in our first three games, to have a good start in the fourth was a big thing for us. The results in the last year or so have shown that on their day everybody can beat anybody. It was probably as close as I have been here. To come here and take a team on like we did that are playing at the top of their form was fantastic.”
Now Scotland must beat Italy at Murrayfield next Saturday to avoid a tournament whitewash and Robinson said: “We owe the Murrayfield crowd a performance. We are looking to give the supporters something to cheer about.”
England scorers: Try Tom Croft; Conversion Jonny Wilkinson; Penalties (five) Toby Flood (four), Wilkinson (one).
Scotland scorers: Try Max Evans; Conversion Chris Paterson; Penalties (two) Paterson; Drop-goal Ruaridh Jackson.