Paterson kicks invaders off top of Hadden's wall

Teetotaller gives auld enemy an almighty headache
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The Independent Online

With every copy of The Scotsman yesterday they gave away a free "Book of Bannockburn," detailing how Robert Bruce and his heavily outnumbered men overcame the odds and sent Edward II and his army back south of Berwick to think again. As a former history teacher, Brian Ashton may well have flicked through the pages over breakfast. By the final whistle at Murrayfield yesterday afternoon, his red rose brigade had gone the same way as Eddie's boys of 1314, wilting woefully in the heat of Calcutta Cup battle.

In truth, England were a collective casualty waiting to happen in the west end of Edinburgh yesterday, devoid of any discernable strategy from start to finish. Every penalty they conceded as they stumbled from bad to worse was punished with a vengeance.

Four times Chris Paterson aimed his right boot at the posts. Four times he hit the target. His third effort, just before-half time, was somewhat miscued. "Inebriated," the venerable Bill McLaren would have called it. Not that Paterson would know anything about inebriation. The Caledonian executioner who did for England after all the fuss about Danny Cipriani's early morning visit to a Mayfair watering hole happens to be a lifelong teetotaller himself.

Still, Paterson's right boot has a potent kick to it. The self-effacing Borderer gave a wry smile as his 40th minute penalty crept over. At the same time, a rainbow appeared over Murrayfield's East Stand. The gods have long been grinning down on Scotland's smiling assassin.

The fourth Paterson penalty that followed in the opening minute of the second half took his Six Nations goal-kicking tally to 12 out of 12. At the World Cup last autumn he registered 17 successes from 17 attempts.

Even at the peak of his place-kicking powers, Jonny Wilkinson – who yesterday nudged ahead of Neil Jenkins as the all-time record points scorer in international rugby, with the first of his three successful penalties – could not boast quite the same Midas touch as the Scotsman with the golden boot. As Mike Blair, Scotland's scrum-half and captain, reflected in the aftermath: "It's not a bad thing to have in your team – a 100% goalkicker."

Paterson does have his limit, of course, and that is kicking from distance. It was Dan Parks who was called on to hammer what proved to be the final nail in England's coffin, landing a penalty from 45 yards in the 48th minute. Scotland yesterday were no one-kick pony.

Their tackling packed the kind of punch that it did when England last visited two years ago. The hit with which Jason White drove Paul Sackey halfway back towards Hadrian's Wall had "thou shalt not pass" writ large across it. "A great moment," Frank Hadden, Scotland's head coach, reflected. "It was one of Jason's trademark hits."

With it, and with the subsequent addition of Murrayfield 2008 to the litany of famous Scottish battles won against the auldest enemy, the pressure has lifted from Hadden.

"Without reservation one of the worst international teams I have ever seen," Neil Francis wrote of Hadden's side after their 34-13 defeat at Croke Park a fortnight ago. Francis, the former Ireland lock, also called Scotland "clueless," "toothless," "ugly" and "crap" – all adjectives that could be applied to England yesterday.

"I took the step of removing the papers from the team hotel," Hadden revealed. "It's not easy to maintain your confidence when you're faced with such negativity. That's what made the performance all the more remarkable. I thought it was a Herculean effort today by a lighter pack."

It was a Herculean effort too by the featherweight Paterson. Scotland's back-of-all-trades has played in three Calcutta Cup wins now, all in different positions. The whole of Caledonia was lifting a glass to him last night.