Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

England edge out Scotland

Tom Croft

England moved to within touching distance of their first RBS 6 Nations title for eight years and kept their Grand Slam dream alive with a nailbiting 22-16 Calcutta Cup win over Scotland.

England again failed to make the most of their superior possession and territory, but did enough to make it four wins from four ahead of next weekend's trip to Ireland thanks to a controversial Tom Croft try and the boot of Toby Flood and Jonny Wilkinson.

Scotland produced by far their best performance of 2011, Max Evans scoring a superb individual try, Ruaridh Jackson dropping a goal and Chris Paterson kicking their other points. But their fourth defeat in a row means they again go into their final game of the tournament, against Italy, needing to win to avoid the wooden spoon.

Paterson kicked Scotland into an early lead but after Flood missed a simple shot at goal, he slotted his second attempt when Scotland prop Moray Low was penalised for illegal binding but in the loose England's play was ragged and undermined by careless errors.

Scotland counter-attacked from a knock-on and went through 14 phases, with Kelly Brown and Evans to the fore, before referee Romain Poite penalised England for offside and Paterson landed the kick.

Flood levelled the tie once more and the fly-half edged England ahead after another immense shove from his scrum but Scotland finished the half on top after snatching another turnover and drew level at 9-9 with a 39-metre drop-goal from Jackson.

Matt Banahan, who replaced captain Mike Tindall at the interval, thundered through the middle as England moved to within five metres of the line when Scotland flanker John Barclay was penalised for hands in the ruck and sin-binned.

Flood nudged England back into the lead before Scotland built up a head of steam, only for referee Romain Poite to call a halt to the attack after injuring himself, which left Scotland coach Andy Robinson furious.

England sent on a quartet of huge experience in Steve Thompson, Simon Shaw, Wilkinson and Croft and eventually worked the breakthrough in the final seconds of the Barclay sin-binning. Wilkinson and Ben Foden combined down the right before England moved play left and Mark Cueto offloaded for Croft, who crashed over Dan Parks' tackle to score.

Scotland responded valiantly. England repelled phase after phase, with Wilkinson leading the tackling effort, before Evans reclaimed his own chip to score and tee up a thrilling finish. But Wilkinson sealed the victory with a penalty.