England profited from a self-destructing Scotland side to open their Six Nations campaign with a 13-6 victory at Murrayfield.
England profited from a self-destructing Scotland side to open their Six Nations campaign with a 13-6 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster's new-look team claimed England's first win in the Scottish capital since 2004 but the result had less to do with a new-era of creativity that English fans had been hoping for than the hosts' inability to convert their chances into points.
Scotland led 6-3 at the end of a boring, error-strewn first half that saw both sides fail to seriously threaten the opposition tryline. On the basis of those 40 minutes and the day's earlier game in Paris, neither England nor Scotland will travel to Rome confident of victory this year.
With both sides flooding the breakdown, attacking opportunities from quick ball were few and far between. And rare chances to spread the ball were generally ruined by poor handling or aimless kicking.
An opportunistic try from England fly-half Charlie Hodgson just seconds after the restart sparked the game into life however.
A far more-exciting second period saw Scotland throw the kitchen sink at a well-disciplined English defence but the home fans were left frustrated as their team conspired to make a hash of a number of scoring opportunities.
A scrappy opening quarter ended the with scores locked at 0-0 as Dan Parks kicked most of Scotland's possession away and a series of handling errors and ruck infringements prevented England from finding any sort of rhythm on attack.
It took just over 22 minutes for the first points to be scored courtesy of the boot of debutant England centre Owen Farrell. The hosts took less than three minutes to reply however as the visitors failed to stay on their feet and Parks slotted an easy penalty to restore the status quo.
The Scots began to ply the pressure and Parks split the uprights once again just after the half-hour mark to give his side a deserved lead which they held until the half-time whistle.
The game desperately needed a try and it came within seconds of kick-off when Hodgson charged down a lethargic Parks on the Scottish tryline before pouncing on the loose ball.
Farrell's extra's gave England a 10-6 lead, prompting Scotland up the tempo and the men in blue did most the playing in the second half, dominating territory and possession.
The introduction of Glasgow half-backs Greg Laidlaw and Mike Blair added extra impetus to their attack but the hosts continued to be the architects of their own downfall.
Laidlaw came within inches – literally – from grabbing the lead for Scotland after a kick and chase, but the TMO ruled he failed to touch the ball down ahead of Ben Youngs, while Ross Rennie butchered a fantastic chance to put Blair through.
A late penalty from Farrell settled England's nerves and secured a winning start to a new era.
Man of the match: It's rare that a player from the losing side gets this award but number eight David Denton was a tireless grafter and a standout performer in Scotland's back row.
Moment of the match: Scotland's match cam be summed up it one moment. Ross Rennie's wasted opportunity when he failed to find the two runners on his outside and instead decided to hang on was classic example of the hosts' inability land the killer blow.
Villain of the match: No rough stuff to report.
Scotland: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Sean Lamont, 11 Max Evans, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter, 8 David Denton, 7 Ross Rennie, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford (capt), 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Alastair Kellock, 19 John Barclay, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Greig Laidlaw, 22 Graeme Morrison.
England: 15 Ben Foden, 14 Chris Ashton, 13 Brad Barritt, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 David Strettle, 10 Charlie Hodgson, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Phil Dowson, 7 Chris Robshaw (capt) 6 Tom Croft, 5 Tom Palmer, 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Rob Webber, 17 Matt Stevens, 18 Geoff Parling, 19 Ben Morgan, 20 Lee Dickson, 21 Jordan Turner-Hall, 22 Mike Brown.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Television match official: Tony Redmond (Ireland)