Rugby Union: Carling the England enforcer

Five Nations' Championship: Hapless Scots are swept aside as Grayson points way to a record victory; England 41 Scotland 13 Tries: Penalty try 15, Try: Eriksson 25 Gomarsall 67, Carling 70 Pens: Shepherd 32, 45 De Glanville 72 Con: Shepherd 25 Pens: Grayson 3, 30, 34, 48, 60 Con Grayson 15, 67, 72
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The Independent Online
It would be very easy to have come away from Twickenham yesterday with the wrong impression. Fifty-four points were scored, including four tries for the hosts against the old Scottish enemy, contributing to a record England score in the Five Nations' Championship. Jack Rowell, the England coach, has long been promising the kind of total rugby and 15-man game that his players displayed for the last quarter of this match.

Impressions, however, can be deceptive. Rugby, we are told, is a game for the players. Not so. In this age of professionalism, it is as much a game for the spectators who, as the new paymasters, are the very lifeblood of the game. For so much of the match the entertainment was of lamentably poor quality, with even the most basic tasks appearing beyond the majority of players. Not even a five-minute spell in which England scored 19 points to break the Scots could conceal the earlier inadequacies.

Their efforts were not helped, admittedly, by a dreadful display of refereeing from the New Zealander Paddy O'Brien, whose inconsistency affected the Scots more adversely than England. First, he failed to spot what appeared to be a perfectly good try scored early in the first half by the Scottish captain, Rob Wainwright, whose outstretched arm appeared from the midst of a ruck to bang the ball down on the England line. A try it was, but the referee - who was poorly placed - refused it.

To make matters worse, O'Brien then awarded a ludicrous penalty try to England, having first penalised the Scots for delaying the put-in at a scrummage and then catching them offside. There was neither persistent infringement, nor was it at all certain that Phil de Glanville, the tackled player, would have scored. Considering that England had not succeeded in scoring a try against the Scots since 1993, this was carrying the law of probability too far.

Until the final quarter, the match was almost entirely devoid of shape and direction. It was a series of uncoordinated and unrelated set-pieces, with England's forwards predictably engaged in the softening-up process before releasing the ball to a back division with few avenues left to attack.

The Scots were forced to defend for long periods and did so with enormous commitment, at least displaying flashes of creativity and losing no opportunity to attack, sometimes from suicidally deep positions. Presumably they felt they had no alternative, given the bulk and height of the English forwards and the fragility of their own line-out, which was not helped by the difficulties experienced by Graham Ellis with his throwing-in.

If the Scottish defence was admirably sound, the same could not always be said for England and it was poor tackling which allowed Kenny Logan to open the way for a try by Ronnie Eriksson, who left the England fullback, Tim Stimpson, rooted to the spot as he crossed the line. Stimpson did not enjoy the happiest of days. His line-kicking was faulty and he did not always choose the best angles in his running from full-back. Throughout the first half and for a good part of the second it was only Paul Grayson's accuracy which kept England in front.

The Scots remained in the game largely through the relentless battling of their back row, in which Wainwright led energetically from the front and Ian Smith lent devoted and unquestioning support. Every attempt was made to give their champion runner, Gregor Townsend, his head, whether from varied kick-offs or from Bryan Redpath's service. But with one or two exceptions there were always too many Englishmen detailed to look after him.

If there was a turning point, it came just before England's scoring burst when Derek Stark broke down the right-hand touchline and passed to his stand-off. Townsend couldn't hold the ball and Grayson, who produced some crucial touches during the match, not least in defence, countered. The ball reached Jon Sleightholme, who scuttled over in the corner, but the whistle had gone for a penalty to England, a balance of sorts perhaps for the referee's earlier gaffes. Grayson kicked his fifth penalty and the energy and the will drained from the Scots.

Andy Gomarsall's try 15 minutes from the end, after Martin Johnson's run from a well- controlled English maul, confirmed their superior strength, if not yet overall superiority. England's attacking position for the try had been set up by Will Carling, who was enjoying one of his finest games for England and was without doubt the most penetrative back on the field. Against a rapidly tiring Scottish defence it was appropriate therefore that Carling should score England's third try, after Gomarsall, who is still prone to take too much on himself, had taken a quick penalty and Tim Rodber had acted as their link. Shortly afterwards de Glanville scored with almost embarrassing ease to establish a record margin of victory for England in the history of Calcutta Cup matches.

Scoring three tries in five minutes, England had done to the hapless Scots what the Welsh had done at Murrayfield two weeks previously. But it would be as foolish to give any more weight to this England performance as it manifestly was to write up Wales as world champions on the evidence of one victory against opposition who are, for the time being, at any rate well below international standard.

England: T Stimpson (Newcastle); J Sleightholme (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins), P de Glanville (Bath, capt), T Underwood (Newcastle); P Grayson (Northampton), A Gomarsall (Wasps); G Rowntree (Leicester), M Regan (Bristol), J Leonard (Harlequins), M Johnson (Leicester), S Shaw (Bristol), L Dallaglio (Wasps), T Rodber (Northampton), R Hill (Saracens).

Scotland: R Shepherd (Melrose); D Stark (Melrose), A Stanger (Hawick), R Eriksson (London Scottish), K Logan (Stirling Co); G Townsend (Northampton), B Redpath (Melrose); T Smith (Watsonians), G Ellis (Currie), M Stewart (Northampton), G Weir (Newcastle), A Reed (Wasps), P Walton (Newcastle), R Wainwright (Watsonians, capt), I Smith (Gloucester). Replacement: S Hastings (Watsonians) for R Eriksson (70).

Referee: P O'Brien (NZ).

Betrayal of Brittle, page 18

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