Planet Rugby

England thump hapless Scots

08th February 2014 18:39


Luther Burrell Murrayfield 2014

Two in two: Luther Burrell

Luther Burrell and Mike Brown both scored as England produced a simple 20-0 win over a dreadful Scottish outfit at Murrayfield.

The pace was not perhaps as frenetic as we have come to expect from Calcutta Cup rugby, but tries from Burrell and the Man of the Match, Brown, were more than enough to secure victory for England in Test rugby's oldest fixture.

England arrived at Murrayfield with a point to prove after their late loss in Paris last week, but the hosts too were seeking a reaction having been blown away in forty minutes by an embattled Ireland side.

Stuart Lancaster's men hadn't lost three successive Tests since 2008; the same year Scotland last claimed the Calcutta Cup, but this failed to prove an omen as the visitors blitzed their rivals with a combination of speed, precision and aggression.

It was the same maddening problems of old that hindered Scott Johnson's team.

The simple but painful truth is that Scotland cannot hope to play ball with the big boys in the Test rugby playground for as long as they fail to muster any sort of potent attack, consistently win quick ball at the breakdown, eradicate unforced errors, missed tackles and silly penalties, or shore up a set-piece that exerts a crippling influence upon their ability to build phases and threaten their opponents line.

To put things in perspective, they lost almost half of their lineouts versus England's near perfect record, and conceded a total of 16 penalties.

Not for the first time this season, each successful throw-in was greeted with an ironic cheer from the home crowd; more unsavoury was the audible approval from sixty-thousand Scots as hooker Ross Ford was replaced just after half-time.

The Murrayfield pitch was in arguably its poorest state for decades, with the patches of churned up turf a glaring backdrop to an otherwise fantastic occasion; on this evidence, the new hybrid surface can't come soon enough.

It was the English pack who made the most of these testing conditions. They were a step ahead of the Scots at the breakdown as Ireland had been in Dublin, and their line speed was outstanding in the first forty minutes. The Scots' attack is often static and passive, and its deficiencies were brutally exposed as players found themselves with no time on the ball, and no option but to brace themselves for the oncoming white charge.

The hosts suffered from a lack of accuracy early on as Duncan Weir floated his first kick from hand out on the full under no pressure, and the Scots gathered the ball from an offside position to hand Owen Farrell a simple opportunity for the game's opening points. The fly-half did take his kick from one of the more pudding-like splotches of mud, but his miss from 25 yards out and straight in front of the posts was glaring nonetheless.

Danny Care got up to his old tricks again minutes later to spare his half-back partner's blushes. With a penalty advantage being played, and England's maul on the home 22 going nowhere, Care struck his second drop-goal in as many weeks; having achieved the same feat in Paris a week ago.

Greig Laidlaw was wide with his first of two fruitless attempts on ten minutes; the scrum-half always likely to struggle into the breeze from over 40 metres.

The penalty count was rising against Scotland at the breakdown, and it was from a Jim Hamilton infringement that yielded the first try of the match. Farrell booted play up to within ten metres of the Scots' line, and after the pack were held up short, centre Burrell picked a smart line off his fly-half to crash over for his second try in as many games. This time, Farrell made no mistake from the tee.

Laidlaw had a chance to put Scotland on the board straight from the restart with another penalty effort, but he glanced the left-hand upright from right of centre.

Farrell should have punished Scotland again on 20 minutes after yet another infringement, but dragged effort wide from the 10m line.

That misfiring lineout is a constant bane for Johnson, and when Ford threw over the top of Hamilton, England won the ball and shortly after a penalty. Farrell converted for a commanding 13-0 lead on the half-hour mark.

It was Farrell who cut through the home defence as England threatened again in the dying moments of the first half, finding Burrell with a smart inside ball. The centre was held up inches from the line, and the Scots were off the hook with the clock red.

The second-half began in similar fashion; England breaking the home line with simple rugby executed at pace. Farrell missed with another penalty effort, but England were soon to win a numerical advantage from their dominance.

Jonny May raced clear down the left-hand-side, and was again halted within a metre of a first international try. Centre Alex Dunbar clung onto him too long after the tackle, and promptly found himself watching the next ten minutes from a plastic chair on the sidelines. Still, though, England could not press home their advantage, despite hammering the Scottish line with a series of mauls.

That all changed as the hour mark approached. A smart runaround move off a lineout on halfway saw the visitors outflank the Scottish midfield defence. It appeared the chance had gone when Stuart Hogg brought Jack Nowell down on the 22, but the ball found its way back to the winger, who showed good feet and timing of his pass to send full-back Brown round under the posts.

With that, the game was over as a contest, the knockout blow had been struck, and Scotland's aim switched from sending the Auld Enemy homewards tae think again to simply avoiding a second loss to nil on home soil this season.

Johnnie Beattie matched number eight Dave Denton's powerful ball-carrying, but he was one of precious few who consistently made yards against the English defence.

Instead, it was the visitors who continued to press; Lancaster will in truth be irked that his charges did not rack up more points from their territory and possession in the closing stages.

It was telling that the biggest cheer of the evening was reserved for a kilted pitch-invader who evaded a swarm of stewards as the white jerseys continued to bludgeon their way into the home 22; halted chiefly by their own errors.

And so it was to finish; a game England never looked like losing, Lancaster's only gripe the win was not a more handsome one. Much to ponder for Scott Johnson, but these problems are none he has not been faced with before.

Man of the Match: The chief contenders for this one were unsurprisingly all in white, with Danny Care and Billy Vunipola in particular picking up where they left off in Paris. The award was rightly handed to Brown, however, whose kicking was secure, running sharp with a whopping 114m gained, and bagged the try that killed the game.

Moment of the Match: Brown's try was the killer blow; silencing the last few spirited, optimistic souls in the home crowd, and ensuring there would be no Scottish revival.

Villain of the Match: Big Jim Hamilton, the enforcer of the Scottish pack, is proving himself something of a liability with the penalties he concedes. Warned by referee Craig Joubert in Dublin last week, his indiscipline yielded three penalties for an England team that needed no extra invitation.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Yellow Card: Dunbar

For England:
Tries: Burrell, Brown
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 2

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Sean Lamont, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Greig Laidlaw (c) 8 David Denton, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Ryan Wilson, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Scott Lawson, 17 Alasdair Dickinson, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Johnnie Beattie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Duncan Taylor, 23 Max Evans.

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Luther Burrell, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Danny Care, 8 Billy Vunipola, 7 Chris Robshaw (c), 6 Tom Wood, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley, 1 Joe Marler
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Henry Thomas, 19 Dave Attwood, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Lee Dickson, 22 Brad Barritt, 23 Alex Goode

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

By Jamie Lyall at Murrayfield

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