Effortless England leave Scotland in the mire
February 8, 2014
Luther Burrell experienced little resistance en route to his second try in as many Tests © Getty Images
A Calcutta Cup clash for the ages this was not, but it was an important win for England. In a match where the atrocious pitch put paid to expansive rugby, accurate goal kicking and an entertaining spectacle, England had that extra ounce of power and precision. They also had a game plan, something Scotland seemed to lack.
While England played with urgency and accuracy in the set piece, Scotland failed to make any dent in the away side's defence and never got a grounding in the match as their lineout floundered and the state of the pitch meant for the props, attempting to get some grip in the scrum was akin to packing down on an ice rink wearing slippers.
For England, the result was never in doubt. While Farrell will be disappointed with his return of 50% from the tee, he can be forgiven as the turf resembled an allotment rather than the pitch we can expect for top-level Test matches. England still managed to run the ball and did their best in the conditions.
Mike Brown was the deserved Man of the Match with a lung-bursting effort that saw him score his second try in as many matches and make 114 metres with ball in hand. Jack Nowell and Jonny May are growing by the game and the latter should have scored but his two clean breaks came to nought.
England are clicking. There were signs last week that Billy Twelvetrees and Luther Burrell have an understanding and on Saturday, in just his second Test appearance, Burrell looked every inch the international outside centre. With Manu Tuilagi looking to get back to full fitness, and Sam Burgess apart, England have real options in that department.
Their set piece was solid with Dylan Hartley nailing 20 from 20 in the lineouts while Billy Vunipola caused havoc in the Scotland defence and also pulled off an outrageous offload for the ages. Chris Robshaw also put in a quietly efficient shift making 13 tackles and not missing one.
But at the centre of it all for England are the half-backs Owen Farrell and Danny Care who are looking comfortable alongside each other. Farrell has taken the ball to the gainline more in the last two Tests than he has in the past while Care is the perfect nuisance around the scrum and constantly keeps the opposition on their toes.
While England will sleep happily and soundly tonight, Scotland look rudderless. It's testament to just how one-sided this match was that England will feel aggrieved at not having scored more points as there were at least three occasions when they put themselves into try-scoring opportunities that were squandered.
Scotland's best performers were David Denton and Alex Dunbar while Chris Fusaro did well on debut in an out-muscled pack. Scott Johnson's decision to drop the physicality and nous of Kelly Brown now looks even more bizarre than it did pre-match. This was a match made for the experienced blindside, but he watched on in St Albans while his colleagues floundered in the bog.
Scotland had no territory to play with - they spent just 1% of the second half in England's 22 - and their most talented player Stuart Hogg saw no ball at the back. The lineout remains a real concern for Scotland - it struggled last week and looked shoddy this. Pat MacArthur needs to get his chance against Italy in round three.
In the long-term, incoming coach Vern Cotter's arrival cannot come soon enough for Scotland.
That is for the future, interim boss Scott Johnson now faces the unenviable task of raising his wounded troops for Italy. England were not perfect but they never looked in trouble of losing the match. But now comes the real test for Lancaster's men with Ireland lying in wait.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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