It was like some elaborate but perfectly executed joke. The wind and rain made it seem just like Scotland on a lovely summer's day. Jonny Wilkinson had the wrong boots on and had one penalty kick from four in the first half. England traipsed off at the interval as if they had been eating deep fried Mars bars. It was all set up for Scotland. But it was all a set-up.
England came out in the second half and played some rugby. Jonny started scoring, then they took him off and brought on the Flood of relief. And so after letting those clogged Scottish bravehearts beat right to the very last, the time came to deliver the cruel punchline and induce the flatline. With his second touch of the ball in the whole match, Chris Ashton scored with three minutes left. He didn't launch himself one-handed at the line, though. A joke's a joke but you don't want to rub it in.
"It has been a monstrously ugly game of rugby," said ITV's Nick Mullins, and that was when Mike Tindall wasn't even on the pitch. "There is a wonderful art gallery in Auckland but I suspect this match won't be going in it." Well you're no oil painting yourself, Nick. Nor is the English summariser. "Phil Vickery is already puffing out his cheeks," said Mullins, but the Raging Bull always looks like that. "I'm just trying to draw breath," said Vickery. That's like attempting to paint thin air. But some galleries are happy to flog a blank canvas for 60 grand these days.
It was a tense encounter, even getting to Jonny. "The battle of the ball," intoned the Scottish half of the summarising team, Scott Hastings. "It's almost like a bar of gold out there." Not a bar of soap then? Or a bar of Mars? And Wilkinson was certainly no Goldenballs yesterday, even if he was kicking his favourite odd-shaped accompaniments. Dan Parks did a decent job after Rory Jackson limped off early, but we know that when it comes to kickinga ball, Scotland are always likely to come up short in the end.
So Martin Johnson's big ruse came off, and England march on to face France. But beware, those dastardly French could be playing a joker of their own. They look so awful that it must be a deliberate ploy. Get ready for a bleu joke next Saturday.
* Will Robbie Savage prove as popular on Strictly Come Dancing (BBC1, Friday) as he was on the football field? He was introduced as having "a reputation as the dirtiest player in the Premiership" and when he began his 'Bad boys' cha-cha-cha routine by sliding along the floor towards his partner Ola Jordan, you feared he was going to take her out completely. Still, Judge Bruno was impressed. "Nice cleavage," he said. With the long, blond locks it was hard to tell the difference between the two.
Meanwhile Audley Harrison could only fit in three days of practice in Los Angeles instead of the customary three weeks because of his training regime. Training for what, exactly? "He'll be hoping to perform as well on the dancefloor as he did in the ring," they said. Let's hope he does a little better than that.
Judge Craig described his hands as "spatulistic", and it was a good job that Chris Eubank never tried to coin that word. Audley may not float like a butterfly, but at least he got a big hand from the audience to go with the pair he already has.Reuse content