England ease past pointless Scotland
February 8, 2014
England celebrate Luther Burrell's try
© Getty Images
England successfully handled an appalling Murrayfield pitch to complete a comfortable RBS 6 Nations victory over Scotland that was founded on efficiency.
One week after losing to France in agonising circumstances, Stuart Lancaster's side re-established their title credentials with an easy rout of potentially awkward but ultimately feeble opposition. Luther Burrell celebrated his second cap with his second international try, once again looking at home in the Test arena, and he was followed over the whitewash by man of the match Mike Brown.
Owen Farrell converted both tries and added a penalty, while his half-back partner Danny Care kicked a drop goal. Apart from their inability to finish off more of their try-scoring chances, it was hard to fault an intelligent England display in which the pack excelled.
Billy Vunipola was a monster at number eight, Jonny May showed no discomfort from his broken nose as he tormented the Scots and the half-back combination of Farrell and Care impressed once again. Nothing positive could be said about Scotland or their pitch, however. Interim head coach Scott Johnson, criticised for axing captain Kelly Brown, will be unable to take any comfort from a performance that fell short in every single department.
And while the Scottish Rugby Union has announced it is to replace the parasite-infested and boggy playing surface at Murrayfield, it is clearly not fit for purpose in its current condition. The dire state of the pitch was evident as early as the fifth minute when Farrell slipped on his run-up to take a penalty and the kick drifted wide.
Care was more successful with a sweetly-struck drop-goal, enabling England to put the dismal starts in their last two matches against New Zealand and France in the rear view mirror. By the 15th minute their lead has been extended to 10 points as Burrell capitalised on weak defending to score a try converted by Farrell.
Care delayed his pass cleverly after England had driven forward from a line-out and Burrell's line was perfect, but the ease with which the Saints centre breached the whitewash was worrying for the Scots. The underdogs' hopes of producing an unexpected victory were not helped by Greig Laidlaw, who sent two penalties wide. Farrell was on target with his third attempt, however, and by the half-hour mark England, playing smart and effective rugby, had powered 13-0 ahead.
A scrum had to be moved to a less damaged area of the pitch, which was covered in large patches of mud, and the statistic of the 13 penalties being awarded by referee Jerome Garces told the story of a dour first half. Burrell almost crossed seconds before the interval after combining with Farrell, but was hauled down just short of the line when England should have scored.
Despite winning only his second cap, Burrell continued to demonstrate international class with a midfield break, but he could have done with straightening the line before feeding May. Tempers flared in the 46th minute and it was Courtney Lawes who received a warning from Garces, although it appeared to be Tom Wood who provided the initial provocation.
May made two eye-catching breaks, the second of which came after a terrific offload from Vunipola who had committed three defenders before slipping the ball out of the tackle. A brief Scottish surge was ended by a dropped pass and England remained in full control as Brown showed trademark tenacity and strength to burst into space, before crossing in the 59th minute.
It was Nowell who did the initial damage as he danced between tackles, sped forward and fed Brown. Stuart Hogg blocked his path but in a one-on-one battle there was only one winner and Farrell converted. Lancaster was criticised for his replacement strategy against France and he waited until the last 11 minutes before bringing on fresh legs in any numbers.
Centre Alex Dunbar had been sent to the sin bin for killing the ball as England attacked, but the visitors were unable to take advantage of the extra man by adding any further points as they rounded off a comfortable win.
Ryan Wilson and Courtney Lawes come to blows © Getty Images
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