England storm to Calcutta Cup glory
February 2, 2002
England wing Ben Cohen rounds the Scottish defence
© Getty Images
Jason Robinson blasted out of the Six Nations starting blocks with a blistering try double as champions England retained the Calcutta Cup andavenged their Murrayfield Grand Slam mauling two years ago.
England's electric full-back struck twice during a devastating four-minute spell that left bewildered Scottish defenders grasping at thin air.
But the Six Nations title holders tailed off after establishing a 12-0 lead inside 15 minutes, managing just two further tries from impressive centre Mike Tindall midway through the third quarter and wing Ben Cohen in second-half stoppage time.
Fly-half Jonny Wilkinson booted a penalty and two conversions - Newcastle's gifted number 10 also went off injured just seconds from full time - and his replacement Charlie Hodgson slotted a conversion.
Scotland though, were left rueing four failed Duncan Hodge penalties that could have created a far closer contest instead of a record England winning margin at Murrayfield.
Hodge's nightmare was in stark contrast to April 2000 when he ruined England's bid for a championship clean sweep by scoring all 19 points in a legendary Scottish display amid atrocious conditions.
England though, have also got plenty to work on. They never remotely threatened to hit top gear after Robinson's devastating early heroics, and boss Clive Woodward knows that a far more sustained effort will be required against Twickenham visitors Ireland in two weeks' time.
The England forwards created a winning platform, giving Robinson and Tindall chance to express themselves in attack, yet the northern hemisphere's number one team were some way below their best.
England made their intentions clear straight from the kick-off, attacking Scotland's 22 and establishing early lineout dominance, which created early attacking avenues for Tindall and Cohen.
There was a brisk tempo about England's approach, an impressive urgency that put Scotland on the back foot and culminated in them conceding a 10th-minute try.
It was simple, direct rugby by England - crisp passing through the hands of Kyran Bracken, Wilkinson, Will Greenwood, Cohen and Austin Healey that enabled Robinson to scoot over for his first Six Nations touchdown.
Wilkinson narrowly missed the touchline conversion, but he only had four minutes to wait for another opportunity as England's powerful midfield running shredded the Scottish defence.
Tindall twisted away into oceans of space - it was as if he had been afforded the freedom of Murrayfield - and once again it was that man Robinson who finished off in clinical fashion.
He skipped outside Scotland full-back Glenn Metcalfe to double England's advantage, and Wilkinson's acutely-angled conversion confirmed overwhelming early supremacy.
Scotland had not had a sniff, apart from flanker Jason White's menacing surge into the England 22, and Hodge mirrored his team's state of shock by rifling a straightforward 20th-minute penalty chance wide.
England responded to a brief spell under pressure by almost conjuring up a third try, but Wilkinson's wonderfully-executed crosskick bounced agonisingly away from Tindall with the Scotland line beckoning.
Hodge opened Scotland's account on 30 minutes through a short-range penalty, which sparked some overdue momentum and prompted England into making a clutch of handling errors as their hosts targeted a psychological breakthrough just before half-time.
But Hodge lost his nerve, missing another easy penalty opportunity that would have clawed Scotland back to within striking distance, and the Murrayfield mood was almost one of resigned acceptance that it would beEngland's day.
The low-key atmosphere owed everything to England's dominance, and a rampaging run by lock Ben Kay set alarm bells ringing once again until Healey spilled possession and allowed Scotland to clear.
Scotland fought back well from Robinson's double strike, yet nine missed tackles during the opening period - compared with England's two - undermined their collective effort.
Hodge fell short of the posts with a long-range penalty effort deep into first-half injury time, yet it proved a tale of England forward dominance as the visitors established a 12-3 interval lead.
Bracken didn't return for the second period, meaning that Harlequins' rookie scrum-half Nick Duncombe made his Test debut following just 264 minutes of senior club rugby.
Scotland, after seeing Hodge miss three penalties that would have given them parity at the break, unleashed New Zealand-born wing Brendan Laney on adangerous run, but his attempted kick behind England's last line of defence drifted inches into touch.
It succeeded in pumping up the decibel level though, and England knew they had to re-establish the control enjoyed during an imperious first quarter.
Ten minutes into the half, they came up trumps with try number three that was created - and finished - by Tindall.
The Bath player's optimistic punt into Scotland's 22 bounced treacherously for a retreating Metcalfe, and when he fumbled under pressure from Healey, Tindall gathered the rebound to collect his fourth Test touchdown.
The score could not have come at a better time in terms of settling England down, and Wilkinson's conversion hoisted them 16 points clear.
Wilkinson wiped out any chance of a belated Scottish recovery by slotting a 67th-minute penalty, but there was still time for Hodge to miss another goal-kick, his failure being greeted by a chorus of boos.
The game then quietly, and predictably, fizzled out, not even lifted byCohen's late solo run.
As Calcutta Cup occasions go, it was low-key fare, but England will point to a priceless away win already in the bank ahead of the far stiffer challenges that Ireland and France - in Paris on March 2 - will present.
Scotland: G. Metcalfe, Laney, McLaren, Townsend, Paterson, Hodge, Redpath, T. Smith, G. Bulloch, Stewart, S. Murray, Grimes, White, Taylor, Pountney.
Replacements: Graham for T. Smith (64).
Not Used: Russell, J. Leslie, Petrie, Nicol, Henderson, Steel.
England: Robinson, Healey, Greenwood, Tindall, Cohen, Wilkinson, Bracken, Rowntree, Thompson, White, Johnson, Kay, Hill, Worsley, Back.
Replacements: Balshaw for Tindall (73), Hodgson for Wilkinson (80), Duncombe for Bracken (41), Leonard for White (76), Grewcock for Kay (70).
Tries: Robinson 2, Tindall, Cohen.
Cons: Wilkinson 2, Hodgson.
Not Used: Regan, Corry.
Ref: Steve Walsh (New Zealand).
The Scotland coach enters his first Six Nations with at least one familiar face to look to for inspiration - Joe Schmidt. He chats to Tom Hamilton
Italy coach Jacques Brunel spoke to ESPN ahead of his final season as Italy coach and tells of his desire to experiment and evolve
"There's no bull with me, I just tell it straight." Tom Hamilton talks to Warren Gatland in an exclusive interview
With the retirement of Adam Jones, Welsh rugby says goodbye to a great player and one of its biggest personalities too, writes Tom Hamilton