England storm to Calcutta Cup
March 3, 2001
Iain Balshaw celebrates after scoring a try for England
© Getty Images
England captain Martin Johnson walked up the Twickenham steps and took the Calcutta Cup from Princess Anne and the roar which rang around this vast stadium was one of right royal approval.
Last year the English had stayed in their dressing room, ungracious losers after the Scots had snatched history and a Grand Slam from their grasp in monsoon conditions at Murrayfield.
The Princess had waited in vain that day for an uppity and arrogant England side to pick up their championship trophy. This time after England had humbled the Scots 43-3 she was introduced to a side which truly has greatness in their grasp.
The southern hemisphere were put in their place in the autumn, Wales and Italy have been brushed aside already in the last month. And now Scotland have felt the full unbridled power of an England side which has now won seven Tests in a row. You can't underestimate the enormity and the domination of the deeds Clive Woodward's side are now producing on a weekly basis.
Six more tries brought their tally to a record 22 in this championship _ testament to the thrilling style to which Woodward is committed.
Yes, this England side are special. They play with a spirit verging on the swashbuckling and with a style which promises a quite glorious future. And none more so than the blond sheet of lightning at fullback in the shape of Iain Balshaw. The lad from Blackburn, at 21 the youngest player in the England squad, has brought a penetration and a menace to the England back line of truly mesmeric proportions. There is nothing more prized in a running sport than sheer pace and Balshaw, winning his 10th cap, has speed to burn. He could have been a cricketer, spending time as a teenager on Lancashire's books. He could have been a tennis star, again having shown county potential. But he chose rugby and his blond locks shone above the rest, like the snow peaks of Kilimonjaro, on a day when every single England player stood tall and true.
Whenever Balshaw received the ball the Scottish defence trembled with apprehension, but then they deserved everything they got on a day when Scottish coach Ian McGeechan's spoiling tactics were eclipsed by the majesty of England's attack.
Balshaw was not alone in his brilliance. Mike Catt in the centre was imperious with ball in hand or at feet, forwards Danny Grewcock and Phil Vickery in particular were outstanding in the loose and the England back row of two-try Lawrence Dallaglio, Richard Hill and Neil Back were as good as you'll get in world rugby.
Rugby indeed doesn't come much better than the first try with which England set the scoreboard ticking after just six minutes. A wonderful long Catt spin pass was picked up by the phenomenal Balshaw whose speed took him clear of the Scottish defence before Grewcock, Back and Healey all handled to send in Dallaglio at the corner.
It was the appetiser for the feast to follow, the final score proving to be the biggest winning margin between the two teams and the most tries ever scored in the Calcutta Cup. Hill, Dallaglio again, Balshaw twice and then Will Greenwood completed the England scoring romp.
And just imagine the thoughts of the Scots when they saw Jason Robinson come on as a second-half replacement for Catt to lift the crowd once more with perhaps the swiftest feet in world rugby. His first break alone was worth the admission money, some of the running which followed has rarely been bettered on rugby's most hallowed turf. So thrilling, so uplifting. And to think it was a match whose preparations had been overshadowed by the pestilence sweeping the country, the political in-fighting between the RFU and the clubs and the deliberations over how the Six Nations championship could be completed.
Scottish fans had been urged not to travel on account of the Foot and Mouth crisis but there was no significant lack of blue-kneed kilted characters _ and the authorities confirmed they had just 20 tickets returned from North of the border.
No wonder. There is something special about this oldest of all rugby encounters. And at first there was an edge in the air as sharp as the east wind which curled its icy fingers around Twickenham. It was dissipated with that first cutting thrust of the Woodward machine and, in truth, the match eventually took on a one-sided air of exhibition.
It was English men against Scottish boys on a day when the rugby was hot enough to warm the most frozen hearts.
Not that the freezing conditions worried England. After all, as they say, revenge is a dish best served cold.
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