Rugby Union: Rowell glows with the flow

Stan Hey hears the England coach draw comfort from the endgame
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The Independent Online
Last Friday the Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth, urged his nation to try and rid itself of what he termed its "victim culture", and though the message was probably not intended for the Scotland rugby team they made every effort to honour his words at Twickenham yesterday.

Yes, for the second game in a row the Scots conceded a disastrous burst of three tries in the time it takes to deep-fry a Mars bar, but for large parts of this erratically open match the blue shirts looked to have coloured the whites in a determined fashion.

"It took us two-thirds of the game to break the Scots down," a relieved England coach Jack Rowell said afterwards, though he was able to express justifiable pleasure in the way his team eventually put down the Scottish uprising. "I was delighted with the flow of the game and with our players' spontaneous reactions to the opportunities that came up. We broke out of some of the psychological bondage, if I may put it that way."

Rowell's unusual phrasing may have sprung from an exciting but error- strewn first half when both teams displayed masochistic tendencies, with a result that the interval yielded no clue as to who the winners would be or their margin of victory.

Scotland's early aggression plainly unnerved England with Gregor Townsend orchestrating counter-attacks in his unorthodox style. Indeed the Scots should have had a reward for their enterprise when their captain Rob Wainwright seemed to have planted the ball right on the England line, but the referee ruled the "score" short.

That, and the unsatisfactory penalty-try with which England broke a four- year drought in this fixture fuelled a Scots sense of grievance which is very nearly a national trait. And when Ronnie Eriksson, the Irish- born son of a Swedish ice hockey player, rampaged past Tim Stimpson to score, the comeback looked very much on.

But amongst all the excitement there had been some sloppy and dangerously loose play by both sides, as if a new era of amateurishness had been ushered in, and as the second half unfolded it was the Scots who were to suffer most for the over-eagerness in their play - for the first time in their history they were too brave for their own good. The penalty, early in the second half, which brought Scotland to within three points proved to be a cruel, false dawn as England ran in their tries.

For England there was much hope, not only in the gradual flowering of Paul Grayson's passing game but also in the confirmation that both their old captain, Carling, and their new one, Phil de Glanville, can find the cutting edge when they need to - and boy did they need to yesterday.

l Will Carling has ruled himself out of this summer's Lions tour of South Africa declaring: "I need a rest." Carling reportedly informed Fran Cotton, the Lion manager, of his decision after the match at Twickenham yesterday.

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