England's strange new world

Scotland 13 England 35: Woodward's champions struggle for lustre and rhythm as Danielli raises Scottish hopes in an unlikely show of resistance
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The Independent Online

Murrayfield, any field, the Red Rose army march on. Last night it was the flower of Scotland which finally wilted under the power of England as Sir Clive Woodward's heroes continued to build on their winning World Cup run.

Yet no one should suggest only one team turned for this 121st renewal of the Calcutta Cup. Scotland even had the audacity to take a 3-0 lead through the boot of Chris Paterson, but after 30 minutes they found themselves 20-6 down, and left with a feeling they had been mugged in full view of a capacity 67,500 crowd.

For the Scots had carried the early fight to the world champions in this RBS Six Nations match, and at one stage put nine phases together in auld enemy territory. But one of the many England strengths is that when they set up camp in the opposition half they put points on the board. And good teams make their own luck. So even if there was an element of fortune to Ben Cohen's opening try, and a sense of injustice about Iain Balshaw's, the force was firmly with the visitors.

The result itself was no surprise. Bookmakers had given Scotland a 28-point start and they had only beaten England once in their previous 15 meetings, in 2000. Last night's victory followed the 50-9 dismantling of Italy, but there remains plenty for Woodward to work on.

England, with a 14-point advantage at the interval, also had the benefit of a breeze at their backs for the final 40 minutes. Josh Lewsey charged down a kick to stretch the lead and Scottish heads could have dropped. To their credit, they didn't. After this match the glory remains with England, but there is hope for Scotland. A chip ahead and generous bounce saw Simon Danielli scamper over the whitewash, and Paterson added the conversion to make it 25-13 with a quarter of the match remaining. But a difficult task then became an impossible one when No 8 Simon Taylor was sin-binned.

A final, fourth, try by Danny Grewcock gave the scoreboard a flattering look, but as Woodward said during the World Cup, it's not about artistic impression, only winning. And at Test level you will take a 35-13 victory any day or night.

France also have yet to hit top form. While they were untroubled in disposing of Italy 25-0 in Paris, their display was summed up by a Christophe Dominici clanger. Trotting across the line in the 52nd minute, the wing attempted casually to place the ball, one-handed, inches short of the dead-ball line, only to drop it.

In the stands, coach Bernard Laporte shook his head and smiled. Under Woodward's regime it would cost an English player his place on the team bus for the following match. That's the difference in their respective mindsets.

"It was a dogged game. It was not pretty, but we got the result we came to get," said Lewsey, voted man of the match. Point, and points, taken.

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