Scotland 15 England 9: Ashton's plans are ripped to shreds in a Scottish storm

Paterson puts boot into out-of-form Wilkinson as England's troubles leave their coach looking vulnerable
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The Independent Online

Oh Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. If not from glen to glen then from shire to shire. England put in one of the most dire performances as they submitted to a team who prior to this match had been hapless. Scotland recaptured the Calcutta Cup; their opponents were left in a state of utter disarray.

In a war of attrition in which there were no tries – neither side came close to crossing the whitewash – Scotland, who had played and lost three, once again raised their game to dismantle the Red Rose brigade petal by petal. Before the end, England were in such a state that they took off their talisman, Jonny Wilkinson, who was replaced by Charlie Hodgson with 11 minutes to go. It was far too late.

A sub-plot, of course, was to what degree England would be affected by the Danny Cipriani affair. Hodgson came on to the bench after Cipriani was dropped and Iain Balshaw restored to full-back. Brian Ashton's astonishingly heavy-handed decision to dump Cipriani after he was photo-graphed emerging from a London nightclub at the ungodly hour of 12.30am did not pay dividends here. England's best laid plans, whatever they were, came to nought.

Nobody will ever know whether Cipriani would have made the slightest difference but one thing is for sure, England could not have been any worse. In Ashton's defence, he had predicted that this would be "the toughest match of the lot because a defeat for Scotland would leave them looking at a wooden spoon". That is about all that can be said in the defence of the head coach, whose position is now under serious scrutiny.

Ashton said: "We are very, very disappointed with the performance. That's not just me, that's my coaches and the 22 players in the dressing room too. I think we were outplayed. The best side won, there is no doubt about that. Full credit to Scotland for the effort on the day."

England have not finished in the top two of the Six Nations Championship since 2003 when, under Clive Woodward, they won the Grand Slam. They havelittle to play for next Saturday against Ireland at Twickenham, other than pride. It is a sorry state of affairs and one which the Rugby Football Union will have to address sooner or later.

It was not just that England lost but that they were so utterly devoid of wit, wisdom or inspiration. If there was a suspicion before that Wilkinson was past his sell-by date, there was confirmation yesterday as the once great No 10 spent 99 per cent of his time kicking the ball, 98.5 per cent inaccurately, hopelessly.

Scotland thoroughly deserved to win by five penalties to three. Both sides kept the elaborate stuff to a minimum, preferring to hoist balls into the Edinburgh air in the hope of inducing mistakes in the tricky conditions. In the space of 80 minutes there seemed to be four seasons, varying from freezing wind, heavy rain, blue skies and even the odd rainbow, at the end of which lay the gold of the cup and it was in Scotland's hands. They never lost the lead which was given to them by Chris Paterson with the first of his four penalties in the eighth minute. This from a player who cannot even get into the side at Gloucester.

The Scots, who had scored one try and conceded 11 in this Six Nations, were brought back to 3-3 after 26 minutes when Wilkinson landed a penalty. But Paterson, whose strike rate is even more impressive than Wilkinson's, kicked his side into a 9-3 lead at half-time.

Although the Scots were disrupted when Rory Lamont was carried off after being caught on the head by Balshaw's knee – it meant that Dan Parks came on at stand-off, with Paterson moving to the wing – they grew in confidence and the response from their forwards was magnificent.

Paterson kicked them into a 12-3 lead within a minute of the restart and that became 15-3 in the 48th minute when Parks, given the responsibility of kicking from long range, drilled a low penalty into the wind in the manner of a golfer firing a three-iron into a Carnoustie gale.

A minute later Wilkinson kicked his second penalty and three minutes after that a third to make it 15-9 after Parks, not for the first time, had put up a misjudged high kick.

So England could win with a converted try? Not on this form. Mistake followed mistake and, incredibly, Wilkinson went from bad to worse. Scotland were far more adventurous and timely in their choice of replacements and when England reacted it was far too late to affect the destiny of the Calcutta Cup.

As England became increasingly desperate Scotland's tackling got better and harder and when a former captain, Jason White, came on he epitomised his side's display by sacking Paul Sackey.

There was nothing England could do. The auld enemy was even older after the public humiliation of Cipriani and Ashton may not survive the fiasco.

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