Scots seek new blood after butchering tries


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The Independent Online

Those "Calcutta Cup Winners" T-shirts that fleetingly found their way on to the Scottish Rugby Union website last week can go back into cold storage for another 12 months at least. In the meantime, what about a thistle-emblemed range of butchers' aprons?

The 15 players and six replacements who wore the home jersey on Saturday would not have looked out of place in them. Faced with a raw England side who were there for the taking, clinging on to the gift of a 41st-minute try, Andy Robinson's men butchered chance after chance. They did so in such hapless fashion it would have been no great surprise to have found Lance Corporal Jones of Dad's Army fame doing his day job amongst them.

It was bad enough when Richie Gray and Alasdair Strokosch couldn't connect after the former made one of his trademark barnstorming charges. It was positively gory when Ross Rennie was able to ship a scoring pass out to not just the one but the two support runners outside him.

Like the World Cup pool matches against Argentina and England, this was yet another contest not so much won by the opposition as thrown away by Scotland. Apart from the try presented to Charlie Hodgson by Dan Parks' slow-motion clearance kick, new England threatened just the once – when Hodgson's kick to the right corner found David Strettle and the rampaging, all-action David Denton (the best player on view) came to the rescue with a try-saving tackle.

Sadly for the majority in the 67,144 crowd, it was not a New Caledonia but the Same Old Scotland. The opposition whitewash is starting to become a mirage. Greig Laidlaw might have gone tantalisingly close but the fact is Scotland have not scored a try in four matches. It is an issue that is threatening to stir as much passion as the independence debate. Robinson will need no further reminding of that as he goes back to the drawing board with his attack coach, Gregor Townsend, ahead of Sunday's trip to Cardiff. The point was pressed home repeatedly on Saturday night.

"I understand the frustration," Robinson said. "We've been here before and obviously we're all bitterly disappointed about what's happened. Winning or losing Test matches is all about inches, those small margins, and again we've not been able to convert the chances that we created. You've got to be able to take those chances.

"We've got to look at what we're doing as a group. We're all accountable for this. It's a team effort. That's how we're looking to solve this and we'll keep working at it in training – putting the guys in those situations, practising under pressure. That's the key. We've got to stick together."

The ponderous Parks can expect to pass on the fly-half shirt to Laidlaw, who put Scotland's attack into fast-forward when he was released from bench duty with Mike Blair. Promotion for Blair would install the pivotal axis of the Edinburgh side who can't stop scoring tries in the Heineken Cup.

There might even be a call for help from the A team – Stuart Hogg, Duncan Weir and some of the other young guns who blazed four tries and 35 unanswered points past England Saxons in Galashiels on Friday night.