England pick up Calcutta Cup

Date published: March 14 2015

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England kept their hopes of lifting the Six Nations trophy very much alive, despite labouring past Scotland 25-13 in a sloppy showing on Saturday.

Victory leaves the English top of the standings on points difference – four ahead of Ireland and 25 up on third-placed Wales – ahead of hosting France next weekend in a fascinating final round of Championship fixtures.

But they will rue a plethora of missed opportunities in this game as Scotland battled well and stayed in touch until Jack Nowell's late try sealed the result.

Scotland were clinging on by their fingernails as early as the fifth minute as England came out all guns blazing, crossing early after Jonathan Joseph slipped a tackle from close-range. That came moments after Luther Burrell could have set up Anthony Watson following a simple break.

England were so dominant in the opening 20 minutes that they made a whopping 260 metres as Scotland were falling off tackles, 11 in total.

However, the hosts had nothing further to show for their efforts before Scotland somehow managed to claw their way into the match. A brief passage in the English half led to an intelligent line-out before the ball was moved out to centre Mark Bennett who crossed in the right-hand corner.

Greig Laidlaw slotted a wonderful touchline conversion and suddenly, despite having been under the cosh for so long, the Scots were level.

George Ford and Laidlaw then traded penalties in the 25th and 29th minute, but Scotland would be forgiven for feeling hard done to when referee Romain Poite did not show tighthead prop Dan Cole a yellow for cynically taking out Laidlaw at the base just one metre from England's line.

At 10-10 England continued to look threatening with ball in hand against a poor Scottish defence. But fortunately for the visitors, Ford's pass 40 metres out that sent Burrell through before Watson finished over the line was called forward by Poite. Somehow we were still tied.

And incredibly it was Scotland who would head into the break at Twickenham leading when an offside from England saw Laidlaw make it 10-13.

It didn't last as England, like they did in the first, started the second-half with real intent as they went over on 44 minutes, with Ford finding a gaping hole in the Scottish defence to cruise over from ten metres out. His successful conversion put the English 17-13 in front.

That cushion was pushed out to seven points in the 51st minute when Rob Harley made contact with Courtney Lawes in the air at line-out time, Ford making no mistake as England looked set to turn the screw. Indeed, Stuart Lancaster went to Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling as fresh legs.

Still the Scots would not be floored though as yet more English ball and opportunities to kill the game with tries were foiled by a mixture of knock-ons, forward passes or strong breakdown work from the visitors, the highlight being James Haskell's skew pass to full-back Brown.

But England would put the game to bed in the 75th minute when Nowell finished well in the left corner for a score that took them top of the standings, with Scotland meanwhile taking heart from a much-improved performance.

Man of the match: Playing some excellent rugby for a youngster, Anthony Watson was impressive yet again on Saturday, running well and offering the ball well in or before contact. Mike Brown also played well at full-back while openside flanker Blair Cowan and left wing Tommy Seymour were good for Scotland, but it has to go to metre-making England wing Jack Nowell, who deserved his late try in the corner.

Moment of the match: While they created try-scoring opportunities, England's video session will look at what went wrong to leave them claiming only a narrow win. In truth they should have put this to bed in the opening 20 minutes.

Villain of the match: Nothing nasty to report.

The scorers:

For England:
Tries: Joseph, Ford, Nowell
Con: Ford 2
Pen: Ford 2

For Scotland:
Try: Bennett
Con: Laidlaw
Pen: Laidlaw 2

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Luther Burrell, 11 Jack Nowell, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 James Haskell, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Dave Attwood, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Kieran Brookes, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Tom Wood, 21 Richard Wigglesworth, 22 Danny Cipriani, 23 Billy Twelvetrees.

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tommy Seymour, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Greig Laidlaw, 8 David Denton, 7 Blair Cowan, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Adam Ashe, 22 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 23 Greig Tonks.

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Marius Mitrea (Italy)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

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