Saturday 16 December 2017

Lancaster's rookies punish Scots to 'start journey'

Scotland 6 England 13

Mick Cleary

It was only a small plaster over a cut that required two stitches, but the passion that caused Stuart Lancaster to punch the wall of the coaching box in celebration of Charlie Hodgson's try, damaging his hand in the process, captured England's mood of the day: tight-knit, on edge and committed to each other.

Lancaster showed the wound sheepishly, but with evident pride. At last there was substance to go with the honeyed words, something to latch on to.

The victory was not pretty, and far from overwhelming -- lucky even -- but it was significant, their first win at Murrayfield since 2004.

The rugby world will not tremble at what they have seen, but the two points give England a springboard and it gives Lancaster credibility.

The process had its emotional buttons tweaked when forwards coach Graham Rowntree handed out the jerseys to the players at a private ceremony on Friday evening.

"He spoke with real emotion," said Lancaster. "These things do play a part. You saw that in our defence, in the character we showed, in how the boys dug in there."

England were breached several times yet scrambled back to hold the line. Their discipline under siege was impressive. In the past England had given away too many daft penalties.

Of course, Scotland were wholly culpable in England's line not being crossed, profligate as chance after chance went begging.

It was a wretched match, the equivalent of two bald men fighting over a comb. It doesn't matter too much from England's point of view. It may have been messy and frenetic, but it often is and Lancaster's troops were not found wanting.

"It gives you confidence that you're headed in the right direction," said Lancaster. "It's just one game, though, the start of a journey. I hope it gives people something to cheer about again. It's not been much fun, English rugby, has it? It was time to build a new England."

Lancaster said they would not be getting carried away with themselves. "There won't be any wild parties from us," he said.

There were mixed returns on the field. The scrum put in a terrific shift, and was the best aspect of England's play. The line-out was adequate, the back-row workmanlike.

No 8 Phil Dowson had a couple of handling wobbles in contrast to his opposite number, Dave Denton, who was a cut above any other player on the field. Owen Farrell held his nerve to kick his points, two penalties and the conversion of Hodgson's charge-down try 29 seconds into the second-half. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Scotland -- R Lamont; L Jones, N De Luca, S Lamont, M Evans; D Parks ( G Laidlaw 57), C Cusiter (M Blair 59); A Jacobsen (G Cross 75), R Ford (capt, S Lawson 75), E Murray; R Gray, J Hamilton (A Kellock 59); A Strokosch (J Barclay 59), R Rennie, D Denton.

England -- B Foden; C Ashton, B Barritt (M Brown 72), E Farrell, D Strettle; C Hodgson (J Turner-Hall 63), B Youngs (L Dickson 63); A Corbisiero (M Stevens 63), D Hartley, D Cole; M Botha, T Palmer (G Parling 59); T Croft,C Robshaw, P Dowson (B Morgan 68).

Ref -- G Clancy (Ire).

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport