Scotland 18 England 12: Murrayfield has England under its spell again

Hadden's revivalists conjure up yet another warm welcome for their bitterest foes and dig deep to make very most of visitors' error-strewn display
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The Independent Online

Home is where the heart is. Scotland shattered England's lofty ambition of a Triple Crown, let alone a Grand Slam, with one of their periodic and utterly inspired displays against the auld enemy. The odds on favourites for the Six Nations' Championship monopolised position and possession, which was not unexpected. What they could not cater for was the home side's passion.

Playing with a spirit that has not been witnessed at Murrayfield since they deprived England of a Grand Slam here in 1990 and again in 2000, when the Flower of Scotland last elbowed aside the Red Rose for best in show, Scotland exposed the shortcomings of their opponents.

Whenever Andy Robinson, the England coach, thinks he has taken a couple of steps forward he finds himself on the down escalator. "The Scottish defence was magnificent," he said, through teeth that were so clenched he may well have been fed last night through a straw. "We controlled a lot of things but it was they who managed the game and you have to give them credit for that. It reminds you what a tough competition this is. We're still the only team to have won away from home."

The Scottish defence did indeed perform heroics on a scale that somehow resonates with historic and ancient battles between these two countries. Their tackling - 112 of them to 36 - was not only spot on but heavy and punishing. This was going to hurt and as the game wore on it was England's attack that first faltered and then evaporated against the blue granite wall.

"I really am lost for words," Frank Hadden, the Scotland coach, said with a degree of exaggeration. "It was an unbelievable defensive effort. It shows there's more than one way of winning a match. Our speed in the tackle meant we were continually in their face and eventually there was nowhere for England to go." Except home, to think again.

Scotland not only reclaimed the Calcutta Cup for the first time in six years, they have opened a can of contenders for the tournament. Already three countries, Scotland, England and France, share top billing in the table with four points. Nobody can emulate Wales's achievement last year in winning the Slam and only Ireland, who play the Welsh in Dublin today, have a chance of taking the Triple Crown.

Hadden's impact on Scotland, since relieving the hapless Matt Williams last season, has been profound. They began this campaign with an impressive victory over France here and this one was something else. The side contained only two players, the captain and flanker Jason White and the wing Chris Paterson, who had experienced the sweet sensation of beating England and both were immense last night, but they were by no means alone.

Hadden not only has them playing as a team, one for all and all for one and all that, but as a country. In their last three matches against the English the Scots had been used as a door mat, conceding 118 points. In this, the 123rd match between the two, they managed the almost unheard of feat of denying England a try.

Whilst recognising the indomitable spirit and commitment of Scotland, the result raises serious questions about the imagination of the England threequarter line and the overall strategy of Robinson. First and foremost he places his trust in a power pack that he thinks can lay the foundations. For the most part they did but despite a vast superiority at the ruck, line-out and in open play - they completed 168 passes to 56 - they rarely showed the subtlety and flair that used to characterise their play.

Time was when people like Ben Cohen were scoring tries here for fun. Such was England's lack of a cutting edge last night that Harry Ellis's pass on the blind side to Cohen just before half-time was their best chance of crossing the line. Cohen knocked on and this after they had laid siege with a series of close-range scrums. It meant that for all their efficiency and muscle up front, England trooped off to the dressing room looking at 3-3 and perhaps wondering what it was they had to do to scale the castle.

The Scots made sure they never got beyond the moat and although Charlie Hodgson kicked his second penalty to nudge his side ahead at 6-3, Paterson almost immediately trumped him with a pair. This then was the pattern for Oh Calcutta Cup! Paterson kicked five penalties out of five attempts and Hodgson four out of five. Scotland's other scorer was the stand-off Dan Parks, who dropped a goal after 58 minutes. Hadden has stuck by Parks through thick and thin, mostly thin, but yesterday his faith was vindicated.

When Hodgson landed his fourth penalty in the 77th minute, England had a great attacking opportunity: should they go for touch and a try that could salvage their hopes of European domination or take the three points. Hodgson wasn't sure but Matt Dawson, who had come on for Ellis, was. Hodgson kicked the penalty, the deficit was back to three and in the 80th minute Paterson hammered in the final nail.

Robinson and England have problems and they are not only related to a midfield desert. Dawson was calling the shots because the captain Martin Corry had been replaced, once again, by Lawrence Dallaglio. Robinson said his other back- rowers were playing all right so it was Corry who had to come off. The problem is, Corry is his skipper for the whole Championship. The coach said so, repeatedly.

As Hadden said, there's more than one way of skinning the English. "The first thing the people on the terraces want to see is pride and passion," Hadden added. "They saw that today." And for the first time in a long time, Murrayfield was full to bursting. The Scottish Rugby Union is back in business with a vengeance.