by STUART RUTHERFORD
Scotland’s 34 year wait to lift their Twickenham hoodoo ended in heartbreak when Vern Cotter’s side were blown away by an emphatic display of English attacking rugby.
A match which many believed could be Scotland’s chance to finally usurp their Anglo cousins, turned into an HQ horror show as England breezed to a 20 point lead after only 25 minutes – effectively killing off the tie – before eventually accumulating a total of 61 points: the most in the competition since England’s victory over Italy in 2001.
England’s conclusive victory confirms their second Six Nation’s title in as many years, and also matches New Zealand’s all-time record of 18 consecutive victories – an achievement Eddie Jones’ side can best when they go to Dublin in search of a Grand Slam next weekend.
For Vern Cotter’s crestfallen side, the match was over before most supporters had even finished their first pint. Sin-bins; needless penalties; injuries to key players; a shambolic defence – you name the error, and Scotland more than likely committed it. Was the stage perhaps too grand for a Scottish side who have never truly found themselves in Six Nations contention? Only time will tell, but nevertheless, here are the moments that mattered in today’s Calcutta Cup defeat.
Fraser Brown’s early sin-binning
If Scotland were to ever have success at Twickenham, they were going to have to keep 15 men on that park at all times. Fraser Brown clearly didn’t get the memo. Call it a rush of blood or simply being caught up in the moment, the hooker’s choice of tackle was crazy that early on in the match. Not even the most die-hard of Scottish supporters could argue that Brown’s dismissal wasn’t deserved and perhaps the Glasgow Warrior was lucky that the colour of the card wasn’t red. Had Elliot Daly not landed on his back, seconds before his head snapped against the turf, Scotland would of most likely played out all of the remaining 78 minutes with fourteen men.
Jonathan Joseph’s quick-fire try
With Scotland a man short following Brown’s sin-binning, England were quick to capitalise on their numerical advantage as Joseph scored the first of his hat-trick of tries after only three minutes. The Scottish camp had stressed how important a quick start was going to be if they were to have a chance come 80 minutes, but from the moment Joseph powered over from twenty metres out the visitors were hanging on for dear life. The try was a result of some hapless defending from Alex Dunbar, who had been one of Scotland’s outstanding players in this championship up until that point. The inside-centre had an afternoon to forget and looked uneasy whenever Joseph decided to run at his channel. He found himself chasing shadows for the majority of the afternoon – due in large part to the excellent pace and precision of England’s dynamic running – and was culpable in a number of back-line breaches. Ian McGeechan summed it up perfectly at half-time when he described Scotland’s back line as ‘defending as four individuals’.
Hogg’s head knock
Every national side relies heavily on their best players, but none more so than Scotland do with Stuart Hogg. The full-back is so often the spark that ignites the back-line and when the Lions hopeful left the field – following an innocuous tackle on the sideline – to never return, Scotland’s chances were dealt a huge blow. Hogg is also one of Scotland’s more vocal leaders on the pitch and the team – already deprived of captain Greig Laidlaw – seemed to miss the security blanket that the full-back offers through his indefatigable self-belief. To make matters worse, Hogg’s replacement – Mark Bennett – was carted off with, what appeared to be, a serious knee injury after just 21 minutes.
Joseph’s hat-trick provides the nail in the coffin
Although Scotland found themselves down 30-7 at the break, they did still have a slight chance of a comeback – especially after Gordon Reid’s try had showcased there was still some fight left in the side. However, when Joseph hit another gorgeous, defence-splitting line to seal his hat-trick, any prospect of a Barcelona-esque recovery floated out the window. The score came from further sloppy play from Scotland’s more experienced players. When Henry Pyrgos failed to clear his lines, the scrum-half handed England another chance to attack Scotland’s now depleted back-line. A few phases later, Joseph touched down to stretch his side’s lead to an insurmountable 30 points.
Huw Jones – a future British Lion?
Few Scottish players could hold their heads high as they vacated the Twickenham turf – Huw Jones was perhaps the exception. Although the outside-centre undoubtedly played his part in numerous midfield defensive breakdowns, the incoming Glasgow Warrior was a force in attack and ended the game with a brace of tries. Since scoring on his home debut against Australia in November, the abrasive centre has shown that he isn’t fazed by the magnitude of Test rugby, and he is surely worth a gamble come this summer’s tour to New Zealand.
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