Saturday, March 08, 2008

England A Shambles At Murrayfield

Six Nations Game 11 - Scotland vs England (15-9)

An early penalty for Scotland was an early reward, with Chris Paterson accurately kicking his 27th consecutive goal kick! The heavy mud and deluging rain can't have been easy. At the end of the first quarter, England Fullback Iain Balshaw and Rory Lamont slid to collect a ball. Instead, Balshaw's knee connected with Lamont's head, and there was a lengthy delay as the Scot was stretchered off, out cold. Later reports say he's OK but has gone to hospitals for checkups. He'll have a sore head, for sure.

The play was quite scrappy generally as the conditions continued to play their part. But Jonny Wilkinson [right] became Rugby Union's highest points scorer when he punted over another penalty, bringing the scores level at 3-3.

Andrew Sheridan gave away a silly penatly on the half hour - Paterson made it 28 kicks in a row and the Scots went ahead again 6-3.

The rain let up briefly, but then started again in earnest just before half time. So they played kicking ping pong for a while. With three minutes to go to the break, Jonny kicked his next penalty just short. In the last minute, Simon Shaw gave away another penalty, the Paterson kicking machine was on song and Scotland went in at half time 9-3 up.

The Scots got the perfect start to the second half with another penalty and England seemed to fall apart - they lost a couple of lineouts, they knocked on and kept infringing at rucks. The wheels came off the chariot. Whatever happened to the spark they showed in Paris? They were full of stodge.

Then Dan Parks [above] had a go for a long-range penalty which he punted over with confidence. At 15-3 down, England were definitely in trouble. Eventually they had a chance at goal in the 49th minute. Jonny's aim was good, and it was 15-6. Still trailing heavily, there didn't seem to be any creativity or ambition from the England squad, and the Scots took their chances where they could. Three minutes later, another 3 points for Jonny, gradually eroding the deficit to 15-9.

Going into the final quarter, England had a lineout in Scottish territory and made a bit of headway up the pitch. But then they threw a forward pass. A series of scrums went first one way, then the other. It was a dour old game, probably more interesting to watch paint dry.

In the 65th minute, England finally strung a few phases together in the Scottish half. But it was far from pretty. Scotland pinched the ball. Then won a penalty. And England's chances slipped away again.

Brian Ashton decided it was time to bring on the cavalry and it was all change from the bench. Scotland put together a decent bit of play, and Dan Parks looked like he was going for a drop goal, but it was charged down and England gained possession. Then Jonny was subbed by Charlie Hodgson [right] - it's a while since we've seen him in an England shirt!

With ten minutes to go, and a converted try required for England to snatch victory, England finally had a lineout in the Scottish half. But yet again, they couldn't string together a decent run of play.

So the game ended at 15-9, Scottish fans celebrated their Calcutta Cup victory and English fans are left wondering what sort of game they will witness next week in the final round against Ireland. Let's just hope it doesn't get any worse!