Lamont makes case for defence but Cohen fluffs his big chance

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The Independent Online

The last time the England rugby union team were up this way, the Scottish resistance went up in smoke. Only the pre-match fireworks and the massed ranks of the pipe bands succeeded in getting up the noses of Sir Clive Woodward and his men.

Hope that it might be different at Murrayfield last night was not entirely pinned on a beefed-up Caledonian welcome, courtesy of the "tribal" band Clann an Drumm and a welcoming committee of flame-bearing, pike-wielding "clansmen from the past" as the teams entered the arena. It was largely borne on the broad shoulders of Scotland's No 11.

After all, Sean Fergus Lamont, the bottle-blond bombshell from Blairgowrie, was responsible for the try-scoring pyrotechnics that did for the even more highly fancied French on the same patch of Edinburgh turf three weeks ago. For the watching Jean-Pierre Rives, rugby's natural blond bombshell, it was no doubt as painful as the Murrayfield defeat of 1980, after which the French captain stayed up all night drowning his sorrows at the North British Hotel bar with a Hibernian footballer who was too drunk to stand up for a Scottish Cup tie against Ayr United the next day. Scottish football never did see the intoxicating best of George Best.

Scottish rugby, though, would appear to have its own superstar in the making in the shape of the 6ft 2in, 16st Lamont. The trouble is, having plundered his brace against France and bagged a double brace for Northampton last weekend, the left wing is no longer a secret weapon. On his 20th appearance in the national jersey, he was a marked man. When the clansmen retreated, like extras from that film of Mel Gibson's whose name has become the standard cliché for these occasions, it was marking duty that Monty was obliged to perform. Only once before the half-time whistle did he abandon his left-wing station. That was to gather a Charlie Hodgson garryowen in midfield, and a capable job he did of it too.

Though he claims to be "still a bit rough and raw", Lamont has smoothed a lot of the jagged defensive edges that were evident in his game when he made his Murrayfield debut against the Wallabies last season. "All at sea" and "cringe-worthy" were two descriptions that were made. And that was by Monty himself.

With England monopolising first-half possession and Dan Parks kicking for the heavens whenever he got his hands on the ball, Lamont had to show his improved defensive mettle, as he did when halting Joe Worsley in mid-flight. The interval arrived with the nephew of Frank Hadden's sister-in-law still waiting for his first touch of the ball in attack.

England, of course, had a left wing with family connections of his own. Famously a World Cup winner, like his Uncle George, Ben Cohen lined up in direct opposition to Chris Paterson and, unlike his fellow Northampton Saint, the 15st 10lb Big Ben had his chance to strike before half-time.

At 27, just two years older than Lamont, Cohen is in his seventh season of international rugby. He has 51 caps and 30 tries, needing just one more touchdown to join Will Greenwood as England's second-top try-scorer of all time, behind Rory Underwood's 49. He started his working life sorting knickers in a Burton's factory, but it was Cohen who got his jockstrap in a twist a minute before the interval.

The home line beckoned as Hodgson shipped the ball to him on the blindside, but he took his eye off the ball and spilled possession. It was England's one big chance of the opening half. To be fair, though, it was the looming sight of Chris Paterson that caused the distraction.

Scotland's No 14 might not be the biggest of wingers but he has a habit of making his presence felt. Indeed, it was Paterson's right boot that put most of Scotland's points on the board. A nephew of Duncy Paterson, a try-scorer in Scotland's last-but-one win at Twickenham back in 1971, the Edinburgh wing is one of the rare breed of Scots who have tasted victory against the auld enemy. He was a member of the team who triumphed in the Murrayfield monsoon six years ago. The teetotaller had another famous victory to celebrate last night.