England edge past unlucky Scotland
February 20, 1999
Lawrence Dallaglio poses with the Calcutta Cup
© Getty Images
Scotland defied the pundits at Twickenham this afternoon in an outstanding performance that deserved a win. Pre-match predictions had unanimously backed England to win comfortably but, once again Clive Woodward's men were found lacking when their plan A didn't work out.
After the euphoria of the South Africa victory England have gone back a couple of steps and with the World Cup now less than nine months away they have the proverbial mountain to climb if they want to lift the Webb Ellis trophy.
Scotland on the other hand can take great comfort from a match in which they dominated England for long periods. It had all started so differently, however, with English second-row Tim Rodber driving over from a couple of metres after just six minutes. Nineteen-year-old centre Jonny Wilkinson, one of the few England players to have a good game, converted and when he did so again 14 minutes later after left-wing Dan Luger had gone in behind the posts it looked as though Scotland could be facing a long afternoon.
But it was the wily heads of Scotland veterans Gregor Townsend and Alan Tait who steadied the ship after 26 minutes of the first-half with Townsend making the initial break across the gain-line where he found his back-row in support. Tait was on hand to finish the move off and at 14-7 the Scots were back in the game.
As the first-half drew to a close the signs were becoming increasingly ominous for England. The initial English surges up the centre of the pitch - led by Darren Garforth and Richard Hill - had subsided and it was the Scotland midfield of Tait and John Leslie who looked most likely to get the scoreboard ticking over again. Kenny Logan missed two kickable penalties for the visitors just before half-time, while Wilkinson continued to shine slotting over a penalty for England to take them in 17-7 ahead at the interval.
The first few minutes after the restart were frenetic with Scotland driving deep into the heart of the English half. John Leslie, Eric Peters and Townsend were all prominent and it was Leslie's decoy off Gary Armstrong's break from a line-out that opened up the English defence and handed Tait his second try seven minutes into the second half. Tait still had a lot to do when he took the ball from Armstrong 25 metres from the English line but he'd picked a perfect angle and even found time to trample over Luger on way to the line.
English frustration mounted as they struggled to assert their authority and second row Scott Murray, man of the match after the Welsh match, once again enjoyed an outstanding game. He dominated the line-outs and English indiscipline began to fray with Martin Johnson lucky to receive only a yellow card after a stamp on John Leslie at a ruck.
Full-back Nick Beal was another English player having a bad day at the office and his failure to release the ball after a Townsend up-and-under in the 60th minute led to a penalty that Logan should have nailed. But England were reprieved and Beal atoned for his earlier error six minutes later capitalizing on a half-break by his Northampton colleague Matt Dawson to score England's third try.
This would have been the signal for recent Scotland teams to open the floodgates for the English but coach Jim Telfer has instilled in his men a new-found resilience and this was borne out in the 72nd minute with an opportunistic try by Townsend. Logan managed to find his range with the conversion to bring the his side to within three points of England, but despite intense pressure from the Scots in the final five minutes Dallaglio's men held on to scrape an undeserved win.
Scorers: Rodber - try (6min) 5-0, Wilkinson - Conversion (7 min) 7-0; Luger - try (19min) 12-0, Wilkinson - conversion (20min) 14-0; Tait - try (26min) 14-5, Logan - conversion (27min) 14-7; Wilkinson - pen (37min) 17-7. Tait - try (47min) 17-12, Logan - conversion (48min) 17-14; Beal - try (66min) 22-14, Wilkinson - conversion (67min) 24-14; Townsend - try (72min) 24-19, Logan - conversion (73 min) 24-21
Referee: David McHugh
England: Danny Grewcock for Martin Johnson (66 min) Kyran Bracken for Matt Dawson (69 min) Scotland: Budge Pountney for Peter Walton (53min) Dave Hilton for Paul Burnell (69 min)
Huw Richards assesses where Wales are after a mixed Six Nations, with front row seats still very much available for the World Cup
John Mitchell lapped up the action on 'Sensational Saturday' - but warns not to expect a repeat come Rugby World Cup time later this year
Craig Dowd warns England, Ireland and Wales they should play to their strengths rather than those of the All Blacks and the Wallabies
Tom Hamilton runs the rule over just where the six countries stand ahead of the global gathering in September