Scotland. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .12
YOU COULD say that merely by picking Stuart Barnes the England management acknowledged past fault. But it would be expecting too much for them to come right out with it even after the man's galvanic contribution to the defeat of Scotland in the 100th Calcutta Cup match.
However flat the game may have been in between, it touched the heights for each of England's three tries and the newish outside- half was at the heart - and even the soul - of all of them. As it was the first time he had begun a championship match, this was either remarkable coincidence or divine inspiration.
The praise may have been faint but at least Barnes can no longer be damned. 'He did the job he was there for, but it's a team thing,' Geoff Cooke, the manager, said. Will Carling, his captain, added: 'It's not down to single players; it's down to team effort.' All very true, but surely a soupcon of individual brilliance adds spice to the plainest fare.
And let's face it, England's rugby this season had been plain - meaning both ordinary and obvious. It would be ungracious and most unfair not to commend Rob Andrew on the sterling job he has done as the long-term incumbent. But in the end, with laws having been changed and the triple Grand Slam a might-have-been, something different, less predictable and more intellectually demanding was needed. Barnes provided it.
Not that anyone in the England camp was carried away. How on earth, with or without Barnes, they lost in Cardiff has now become one of the mysteries of this rugby age but there was no more conviction about the forward performance in this game. What might Barnes - and the newly liberated Underwoods, Guscott and Carling - have achieved with a steadier supply of the ball?
The victory was as flawed as it was conclusive. So no one was moved to cavort with delight in the manner of Annie Underwood, whose rapture was memorably captured by television cameras. But then she did have the marvellous excuse that both her boys had scored unforgettable tries.
In fact there is much to be done, and quickly. Specifically, England have to resolve the problem in their line-out before they face the resurgent Irish in a fortnight. Partly this is caused by having two locks who prefer middle-jumping, but Brian Moore admitted he sometimes could not hit a barn door and in any case his jumpers were so susceptible to interference that the best possession England gained came when Kenny Milne was throwing in for Scotland.
Indeed, the Scottish pack's defiant containment of their English counterparts was a theme that ran through the match as consistently as Barnes's attacking dynamism, not least when England had built a big lead and would have anticipated cutting loose in the final quarter.
Instead, the last half-hour was tryless, the Scots having recovered their senses after the knock-out blow of Craig Chalmers's departure. The Scotland stand-off's misery was a mirror-image of that of Barnes, though in distressingly different ways both showed the value of individuals in the great team game of which Cooke and Carling were to make mention.
When Chalmers crumpled under Dewi Morris's tackle with a double break of the right forearm the Scots lost not only their tactical decision- maker but also, for a critical half- hour or so around half-time, their defensive organisation. 'Without question that was the turning-point of the game,' Gavin Hastings, the Scottish captain, said. 'Totally', Ian McGeechan, the coach, added. 'They lost their rhythm and pattern; it was an enormous psychological blow,' Dick Best, the England coach, confirmed.
The practical consequence was that Scotland, 6-3 ahead when Chalmers was carried off, fell 11-6 down a few minutes later and never again looked capable of seizing that elusive Triple Crown. Two more tries early in the second half took England into the distance and when Scott Hastings then also made his exit, Scots ambition had been reduced to respectability. Strange how France, too, lost two important backs when playing at Twickenham.
Respectability the Scots comfortably managed but it was a disappointing manner in which to send McGeechan, who is as much icon as coach to his players, into retirement. He has tended to turn his attention more to the forwards this season and the result of his and Richie Dixon's work has been a more stable platform than they could have contemplated at the time of the trial two months ago.
But on Saturday, certainly post- Chalmers, there was a want of creativity, an inability to find let alone exploit any gaps, and where England threatened several more tries than they scored, Scotland's only serious try chance came from Graham Shiel's interception. He did not have the legs over 70 yards and was easily cut down.
You could not imagine any of the England threequarters failing in such circumstances. It is their most precious gift that their backs have pace in such abundance that none of the other four nations comes near. The frustration, not only in this season, is that they have so seldom exploited it.
Until Saturday, anyway. A combination of forwards and backs, with the 6ft 10in Martin Bayfield acting as a highly unlikely link-man ('The entire North Stand took my dummy,' he quipped) and Barnes darting, put Guscott in for their first try with Chalmers's injury still fresh in the memory.
The definitive moments followed half-time when Morris's wild defensive pass forced Barnes to reach and swivel with the unintentional effect that the Scots were wrong- footed. Barnes saw the gap and from his own 22 barrelled through it, reaching his 10-metre line before Guscott and Rory Underwood in turn touched the accelerator.
This was magnificent stuff and minutes later when first forwards and then backs acted in concert to send Tony Underwood looping round his brother for the third try, a promise had been made which was not subsequently fulfilled. It was the eighth time the Scots had gone to Twickenham in pursuit of the Triple Crown and the seventh time (1938 being the exception) they had failed.
Above all, they had Barnes to blame. 'I did what I said I'd do and that was my vindication,' he said. 'No one can argue with that.' Not any longer: the argument, like the Calcutta Cup, has been decisively won.
England: Tries Guscott, R Underwood, T Underwood; Conversion Webb; Penalties Webb 3. Scotland: Penalties G Hastings 3; Drop goal Chalmers.
ENGLAND: J Webb (Bath); T Underwood (Leicester), J Guscott (Bath), W Carling (Harlequins, capt), R Underwood (Leicester); S Barnes (Bath), D Morris (Orrell); J Leonard, B Moore (Harlequins), J Probyn (Wasps), M Bayfield (Northampton), W Dooley (Preston Grasshoppers), M Teague (Moseley), B Clarke (Bath), P Winterbottom (Harlequins).
SCOTLAND: G Hastings (Watsonians, capt); A Stanger (Hawick), S Hastings (Watsonians), G Shiel (Melrose), D Stark (Boroughmuir); C Chalmers (Melrose), G Armstrong (Jed-Forest); P Wright (Boroughmuir), K Milne (Heriot's FP), P Burnell, D Cronin (London Scottish), A Reed (Bath), D Turnbull (Hawick), G Weir (Melrose), I Morrison (London Scottish). Replacements: G Townsend (Gala) for Chalmers, 24; K Logan (Stirling County) for S Hastings, 62.
Referee: B Stirling (Ireland).
----------------------------------------------------------------- FIVE NATIONS' TABLE ----------------------------------------------------------------- P W D L F A Pts France. . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2 0 1 47 25 4 England . . . . . . . . . . . 3 2 0 1 51 37 4 Scotland. . . . . . . . . . . 4 2 0 2 50 40 4 Ireland . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1 0 2 28 50 2 Wales . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 1 0 2 24 48 2 Remaining fixtures: 20 March: France v Wales (Paris); Ireland v England (Dublin). -----------------------------------------------------------------
If two or more teams finish level at the top of the table the championship will be decided on points difference. -----------------------------------------------------------------
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