Misery shared at Murrayfield

14th Mar 2010, 00:44

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Break: Ugo Monye sparks a rare English attack

Break: Ugo Monye sparks a rare English attack

The Calcutta Cup will remain south of the border after England and Scotland ground out a turgid 15-15 draw at Murrayfield on Saturday.

The Calcutta Cup will remain south of the border after England and Scotland ground out a turgid 15-15 draw at Murrayfield on Saturday.

This was the 18th time in the fixture's history that honours have been shared, but the 127th edition of international sport's most ancient derby will not go down in the annals as anything more than a footnote.

No tries, zero tempo, little ambition and errors galore, what the game lacked in finesse it made up for in the faint drama of the lead changing hands at regular intervals as the kickers traded shots at goal.

With a series of injuries allowing the introduction of some new blood during the later stages of the game, it seemed for a fleeting moment that the laborious foreplay would lead to an explosive climax. Alas, it was not to be.

Both sides will say they should have won the game. Scotland's claim probably carrying more weight.

Nothing summons up Scottish spirits like a visit from the Sassenachs and the locals deserved more from a gutsy performance. Same old story, in other words.

Dan Parks, celebrating his 50th cap, punctuated a cagey start from both sides by opening the score via his boot after Dan Cole failed to roll away from a tackle.

England's response coughed and sputtered for a good ten minutes before Jim Hamilton came to their aid by flopping over the ball, and Jonny Wilkinson drew his side level with the resulting penalty.

Scotland's riposte was immediate and brutal, with Graeme Morrison knocking a hole in midfield. Parks then found Max Evans out on the left with a fine crossfield kick. The ensuing siege forced two penalties out of England, the second of which Parks slotted between the uprights.

Scottish tails were now well and truly up and they began to stitch width to their increasingly regular attacks.

But it was England who got the next points, with Wilkinson slotting a penalty after the locals strayed offside in defence - three points that saw the England legend becoming the leading points-scorer in the Championship's history, knocking Ronan O'Gara from his lofty perch.

The setback didn't cause Scottish heads to drop and they carried on attacking with endeavour if not success. With England looking comfortable in defence, Parks opted for a change of tack and drew the curtain down on a forgettable half of rugby by dropping a goal.

Two unchanged sides came out for the second half, and England won a penalty directly from the restart after Hamilton took a wild swing at the ball lying at Danny Care's feet at the base of a ruck. Again, Wilkinson drew his side level off the tee.

It was to be Wilkinson's last contribution to proceedings. Toby Flood joined the fray after England's number ten was forced to leave the field after taking a heavy knock in an attempted tackle on Evans.

And thus Martin Johnson's critics had the chance to test out their theory about the Leicester pivot.

So, did he manage to oil the wheels of England's wonky chariot?

Well, on this evidence, the jury remains out - but his arrival did herald a few passages of inventive attack.

The pressure took its toll on the Scots and they soon conceded a penalty in defence, and the new arrival duly pocketed the points to put England ahead for the first time of the match.

But England's revival was short-lived. Parks levelled the scores after James Haskell failed to release man and ball in the tackle.

Another error from England gave the half-tonner a chance to win back the lead, but his shot at goal rebounded off the post.

The Scots managed to regain possession and had England defending their line when a sickening clash of heads killed the raid and removed both Kelly Brown and Ugo Monye from proceedings.

The game restarted after a lengthy break with England debutant Ben Youngs one of the new faces on the field.

It was either the change of personnel or the fear of the large man waiting in the changing room or a combination of both, but England began to up the gears as the game moved into the last quarter.

Flood missed a shot at goal before sending a second effort into the corner for an attacking line-out. The daring option might not seem like much, but in a match devoid of highlights, it felt as if Indiana Jones has swung in off the roof.

England were unable to add the cherry of a try to the top of their adventurous gambit, but Flood did managed to win back the lead after Scotland killed the raid illegal.

Again, England's reign didn't last too long.

Another shot at goal from Parks came off the post. This time his mates decided to give chase and they almost got across the line after collecting the loose ball. England managed to regroup, but not without conceding another penalty that Parks turned into the points that sealed the final score.

To their credit, both sides upped the tempo in the remaining minutes, but more in the manner of headless chickens than professional sportsmen.

Flood was handed a chance to win it at the death after Scotland replacement Scott Lawson was deemed to have held an Englishman back, but the fly-half's central, 48-yard shot at the sticks didn't have the legs. A fitting epitaph for a game that limped along for the entire duration of its short and painful life.

Man of the match: The athletic enthusiasm of Scotland's three buzzing Bs - Beattie, Barclay, Brown - rubbed off on those around them, with the collective spirit probably eclipsing any individual contributions. Having said that, Hugo Southwell had one of his best games in a Scotland jersey and Max Evans and Chris Cusiter were constant thorns in England's side. But it was straight-running, hard-tackling Graeme Morrison that caused the visitors the most problems.

Moment of the match: It was a dismal spectacle, with the highlight probably being the sight of referee Marius Jonker conducting a scrummaging clinic after a full five minutes of collapsing set-pieces. Nothing here will live long in the memory, so we'll nominate the moment when the Nimrod flew low over the stadium just before kick off. It really was that bad.

Villain of the match: The red mist descended all over Dylan Hartley after he got into shirt-pulling contest with Ross Ford. Both can count themselves lucky that his haymaker didn't connect.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Drop: Parks

For England:
Pens: Wilkinson 3, Flood 2

The teams:

Scotland: 15 Hugo Southwell, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Max Evans, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Chris Cusiter (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Kelly Brown, 5 Al Kellock, 4 Jim Hamilton, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Geoff Cross, 18 Nathan Hines, 19 Alan MacDonald, 20 Rory Lawson, 21 Phil Godman, 22 Simon Danielli.

England: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Mark Cueto, 13 Mathew Tait, 12 Riki