Scotland and England draw a blank
March 13, 2010
Ugo Monye shrugs off the tackle of John Barclay
© Getty Images
England have retained the Calcutta Cup following a dour 15-15 draw with Scotland at Murrayfield, a record 18th in the long history of the fixture.
In a game played out between two sides low on confidence there was precious little running rugby to celebrate, with both relying heavily on the boot and being plagued by handling errors.
Scotland dominated possession in the first-half and showed far more endeavour than the visitors but could not find a telling blow, settling for a narrow lead at the break thanks to two penalties and a drop-goal from Dan Parks, who added a further brace of kicks in the second-half.
Jonny Wilkinson kicked three penalties for the visitors before leaving the field with a head knock, his replacement Toby Flood kicking two but missing out on a drop-goal with the final play of the game. England now travel to France with their Championship dream in tatters while Scotland boss Andy Robinson will need to move on from another disappointment as his men seek to avoid the wooden spoon against Triple Crown hopefuls Ireland in Dublin.
The game began with a little kicking tennis, which England won thanks to a well-directed chip from Mark Cueto, but the first volley from the backs soon arrived as Wilkinson was able to put Ugo Monye into a hole only for the Harlequins wing to knock-on.
Both teams retreated to the kicking option soon after and Scotland profited with the first points after Dan Cole failed to release under instruction from South African referee Marius Jonker. Having converted the penalty Parks kicked the ball away needlessly from the restart, wasting the efforts of Johnnie Beattie and Jim Hamilton, who had run hard from deep to set up position.
Nevertheless Scotland continued to make the early running, Beattie straightening the line well and showing good pace in another surge, Parks failing to reward his efforts by missing touch from a penalty awarded for offside. England sparked briefly into life through Mathew Tait and James Haskell, whose offload split the Scottish line. The momentum was wasted by a dire, looping pass from Wilkinson that was knocked on by hooker Dylan Hartley on the wing.
Wilkinson atoned by slotting England's first points from the kicking tee but the visitors were soon under huge pressure on their own line. Scotland attacked the gain-line with pace and precision, using Nick de Luca well in the wide channels, and stretched England's resolve before Parks opted for the cross-field kick.
Max Evans claimed and Riki Flutey was forced into conceding a penalty for not releasing, the same penalty conceded by Haskell seconds later following clean lineout ball for Scotland. The Stade Francais flanker was lucky to escape a yellow card but Parks chipped over his second penalty to the delight of the home fans.
Scotland continued to press and dominated possession and territory. England wasted a prime attacking opportunity when Hartley lobbed in a skewed lineout following an excellent touch-finder from Wilkinson but the Toulon fly-half levelled the scores with a penalty and collected the mantle of record points scorer in the Six Nations.
The crowd grew restless as the game was broken up by a seemingly endless series of scrums, with both packs taking an age to settle in. As half-time approached Scotland continued their aggressive running and set up field position for Parks to chip over a drop-goal and secure a narrow lead.
Hamilton conceded a mindless penalty from the second-half restart and Wilkinson levelled the scores with his third penalty. England continued to miss their first-up tackles though and only poor decision making from Al Kellock spared them following a pacy break from Evans.
Wilkinson was carried groggily from the field after a heavy fall, allowing Flood a long-awaited shot at the playmaking duties. A tough call for offside against John Barclay allowed the Leicester fly-half to snatch the lead for the visitors for the first time in the game but it was short-lived as more Scottish endeavour yielded a penalty for Parks.
Parks sent his next effort cannoning off the post and the fans were left wanting for a more clinical edge to accompany Scotland's ambition. A sliced clearance by Danny Care allowed Scotland to maintain their field position but a sickening clash of heads between Kelly Brown and Monye stopped play for a lengthy period. Brown left the field under his own steam but Monye was less fortunate and required a stretcher before being replaced by Leicester scrum-half Ben Youngs on the wing, for a Test debut.
Flood pushed a long-range penalty wide following excellent work at the breakdown by Hartley and England elected to go for the jugular with their next opportunity. Allan Jacobsen was forced to infringe following some well worked phases by England and the ball went into the corner. Scotland pinched the lineout but conceded a free-kick, from which England signalled a scrum.
Nick Easter controlled at the base but was forced back, England bereft of options out wide and grateful to the referee for another penalty. Flood this time took the three points but England again failed to release, surviving a yellow card only on the second thoughts of the referee, leaving Parks to smash another penalty off the upright.
Alan MacDonald, on as a replacement for Brown, followed up and beat the lazy England response to the ball, setting up a series of frantic drives metres from the English line. Parks chipped the ball away with men over but was called back for a penalty under the posts, which he duly dispatched.
With time rapidly running out both teams retreated into their shells in fear of conceding the losing score, with England able to establish enough possession to work their way towards the posts. Flood dropped back for the drop-goal but Scotland's rush defence smothered his effort to end the game on a fitting note, an error and a kick to boot.
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