Scotland rain on England's parade
April 3, 2000
Scotland's unexpected but thrilling victory over England certainly made up for their disappointing Six Nations season, but the Championship winners will be wondering how their Grand Slam ambitions drowned in the Murrayfield bath. No one could have possibly imagined how a team coming off the back of four Y2K defeats could raise their game to a level not only to match but ultimately destroy the England machine. Scotland's command of the conditions contrasted sharply with England's ambitious yet suicidal play and with the home crowd raising the decibel levels to new heights, one felt that this was going to be Scotland's day.
Ian McGeechan once again can take enormous credit for laying down the game plan, while critics of Clive Woodward will condemn him for pursuing his policy of attacking from all areas of the field. Scotland's defence was totally heroic and the intensity of the hits from both sides was quite unbelievable. The lineouts were a disaster for England while Scotland profited hugely from Scott Murray and Richard Metcalfe from the touchline.
Scotland's captain Andy Nicol was a tremendous influence from half back and his kicks over the top constantly turned the English. One couldn't help wondering why Matt Dawson didn't pursue the same policy for time and again their laboured passing in the dreadful conditions just played into Scotland's hands.
The result though shows how fickle international sport can be and that is what makes it so compelling. Undoubtedly the enlarged Six Nations has been an outstanding success and the Scots and English supporters will have enjoyed their away trip to Rome, even with the contrasting results. Italy's one victory over Scotland was undoubtedly their high point but they can take much comfort for giving England a game for the best part of an hour.
Ireland's heroic victory against France in Paris was undoubtedly their highlight and reminded me of Scotland's win in the same city in 1995. Their centre Brian O'Driscoll was I think player of the Tournament and how good it was to see Irish rugby having a bit of success. Wales' victory over them must have been hugely disappointing but shows again that any team is capable of beating any other on its day. Wales at times throughout the season have played some excellent rugby but like their Celtic cousins they need to find the consistency that will take them further up the table.
France as is their wont were a disappointment, and having promised so much they ultimately delivered very little even though their match against England was extremely close. It seemed that for them once the Grand Slam was no longer a possibility they lost much interest in their remaining games.
England though were the team of the Championship and their season was full of many heights despite having the biggest low. It's important for the whole of British and Irish rugby that a positive free flowing style is encouraged. The only time you need to dispense from that is when its freezing and pouring like last Sunday at Murrayfield.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league
So much for the great Australian revival, writes Greg Growden. It now has the potential of going off the rails after the capitulation at Eden Park
The latest Week in Pictures takes in photographs from the Rugby Championship, the Top 14 and the southern hemisphere domestic scene