Johnson pleased with England comeback
October 1, 2011
Sean Lamont fends off Chris Ashton during Scotland's defeat to England © Getty Images
England manager Martin Johnson hailed the character of his team after they rallied from 12-3 down to beat Scotland 16-12 and book a Rugby World Cup quarter-final clash with France.
If England had lost by eight points or more they would have been staring down the barrel of World Cup elimination before the knockout stages for the first time ever. But Jonny Wilkinson, who otherwise endured a torrid night with the boot, dropped a goal and landed a penalty to bring England back within touching distance.
Chris Ashton then scored the match-winning try three minutes from time - his sixth touchdown of the tournament - to seal England's passage. And that left Scotland praying for a miracle. Andy Robinson's men will be on the plane home if Argentina pick up even a losing bonus point against Georgia on Sunday.
"We let them get the initiative. Things weren't quite going our way. Scotland had a bit more urgency but we got ourselves back into it," Johnson said. "To come back from 12-3 down and win was good.
"They had the initiative in the first half but we felt if we held onto the ball we would create opportunities. The way the guys handled half-time was really good. To come back and win the rest of the game 13-0 was good. There is a lot to get better at now we go to the quarter-finals.
"We are making it very hard for ourselves at times but we showed character to get ourselves out of a pretty tough hole. Whoever scored the first try today was going to get over the line and we held our nerve.
"Chris put the try away well at the end and we showed a lot of character to win the game. The guys who came on did pretty well and the subs all had a good impact and we got on top of them. The game is not always going to be beautiful. There was some chaos out there, feet flying around and all that stuff that you need to deal with. It has been a very gritty group."
Wilkinson will today be sent for a scan on the forearm injury, which forced him off with five minutes remaining. The Toulon fly-half appeared to be in instant pain when he suffered the blow in a tackle. England will also be sweating over a potential citing for wing Delon Armitage, who caught Chris Paterson with a high tackle.
England captain Lewis Moody told ITV1: "Full credit to Scotland. It was an incredibly tough day. They played a tremendous game. We knew they would and we didn't make it easy for ourselves by any stretch of the imagination with the penalty count.
"But we can only win the games in front of us and we've done that today. We've come out on the right side of the result but it was a tough game.
"We knew Scotland would come out with all their fire and they did and in the second half we counteracted that. The front-row boys did a fantastic job at the scrums. We started getting on top of them in the second half, we got more of a platform and Ashy got over in the corner as he always does. It's another win - that's all we're here for and that's all that matters."
But, while England scraped through, Scotland were left contemplating elimination in the group stage of the World Cup for the first time ever.
Scotland need Georgia to beat Argentina in Palmerston North tomorrow - and deny the Pumas any bonus points - if they are to snatch a place in the last eight, but coach Andy Robinson was proud of his troops. He told ITV1: "I've got to give every credit to the side. They've given everything.
"We're hugely disappointed to lose the game, as we were last week [13-12 defeat to Argentina]. There's a great spirit among the boys. The way they have carried themselves throughout the World Cup, the friends they've made - I think they've been an outstanding group of people and I've been delighted to be their head coach.
"We're going to be supporting Georgia tomorrow. We hope they can do a job for us. I think the big thing is that sport is won and lost by inches. In both cases where it's come to winning games, we've lost out.
"But you can't fault England. They've held it together under pressure and seen themselves through."
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