England down Scotland to keep slam dream alive

England stayed on course for their first Grand Slam since 2003 on Sunday, defeating Six Nations rivals Scotland 22-16 in a scrappy encounter at Twickenham.

A second-half try from replacement flanker Tom Croft and 17 points from the combined boots of Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson clinched victory for England as Scotland’s 28-year losing streak at Twickenham continued.

Scotland’s points came from a late try by wing Max Evans, while fullback Chris Paterson added two penalties and a conversion. Fly-half Ruaridh Jackson added a drop goal.

The win means that Martin Johnson’s England will travel to Dublin next Saturday knowing that victory over Ireland will give them their first Grand Slam in eight years.

However, England know they will have to improve significantly if they are to defeat the Irish at Lansdowne Road after a disjointed display.

Scotland meanwhile will now be aiming to avoid a wooden spoon against Italy at Murrayfield after their fourth defeat of the championship.

‘Not happy with the way we played’
England manager Johnson admitted his side would need to register a big improvement if they were to win in Dublin.

“We know we can play a lot better than that,” Johnson said. “Having said that, we battled through and we won. The guys are feeling a bit flat and that’s a pretty good place to be when you’ve won four games.

“We had them on the ropes but we couldn’t quite land the killer blow. They looked tired and we needed to push them over the edge but couldn’t quite do it,” Johnson added.

England captain Mike Tindall, who accepted the Calcutta Cup from his future mother-in-law Princess Anne, admitted the performance was disappointing.

“Obviously winning the game is the most important thing but we are not happy with the way we played,” said the 2003 World Cup winning centre.

Tindall meanwhile insisted England would not be distracted by talk of a Grand Slam. “It still won’t be allowed to be discussed,” he said.

Scotland coach Andy Robinson meanwhile bemoaned his team’s failure to gain the upper hand at the scrum and line-out.

“We had to get control at the set piece and we didn’t,” Robinson said. “Obviously that’s disappointing.”

A shapeless first half had ended level at 9-9 as England struggled to convert their territorial dominance and strength at the scrum into tries.

Paterson had given Scotland the lead early on with his first penalty before Flood levelled when Scotland prop Allan Jacobsen went to ground at a scrum.

The penalty was the first of several Scotland were to concede at the scrum, where both Jacobsen and tight head Moray Low came under fierce pressure.

Paterson and Flood swapped further penalties before yet another infringement at the scrum—Jacobsen pinged for slipping his binding—saw Flood kick England into a 9-6 lead.

But just on halftime Scotland got back on level terms when flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson split the uprights with a superb drop goal from 30m.

England came out for the second half with greater purpose, and a powerful break by Matt Banahan—on for Tindall—starting a sweeping attack which ended with Tom Wood being bundled out in the corner.

New blood
Despite England’s initial verve the game again descended into a ragged contest, both sides committing a litany of handling errors and turnovers.

England finally regained the lead midway through the half, Flood slotting his fourth penalty after Scotland were penalised near the posts, an infringement that saw John Barclay sin-binned.

The game was interrupted moments later when referee Romain Poite limped off with a calf injury to be replaced by touch judge Jerome Garces.

Scotland needed a last-ditch tackle from Paterson to deny Foden a try in the corner, and with 15 minutes remaining Johnson sent on England’s reinforcements, bringing on hooker Steve Thompson, lock Simon Shaw, Croft and Wilkinson.

The new blood had the required effect and on 68 minutes, Croft crashed over after being released by Cueto with what looked like a forward pass.

Wilkinson converted and England appeared poised for victory at 19-9 up.

However a clever individual try by Evans, chipping and gathering his own kick, ensured a nail-biting finale before Wilkinson gave England a five-point cushion with a nerveless late penalty.—Sapa-AFP

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