History, especially recent history, repeats itself. England replayed their performance against Argentina, with a near no show in the first half, but then having Toby Flood go for the lineout and the win instead of a penalty kick, leading to a Chris Ashton (sixth try of the World Cup) try and a dramatic 16-12 win, nearly annihilating Scotland’s chances of advancing into the Quarter Finals.
Andy Robinson’s side will probably go home with the compliments, but like against Argentina, couldn’t finish off the game, despite ample opportunities. Dan Parks and Chris Paterson’s legs worked wonderfully, both putting six points on the board. Like a normal England – Scotland match, tries aren’t exactly something we see in abundance.
Simon Danielli and Richie Gray weren’t far from scoring one during Scotland’s better moments in the second half, but brilliant defense from Tom Croft on both occasions kept England in the match. Martin Johnson’s side were safe as long as they didn’t lose by more than 7 points. Scotland did hold a 9 points lead for just about a minute in the second half, but Jonny Wilkinson’s boot finally made a right, and later on, Toby Flood leading to a lineout gave the chance to Chris Ashton, who showed his incredible burst of speed to give England four wins in four matches.
The Scottish forward pack dominated in the first half, with Euan Murray destroying the English Scrums time after time. Second half? Different story. Ben Youngs couldn’t get things rolling for England, but the confidence booster of better scrumming and forward play kept England in the match. Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking was, lets say, problematic once again, but he did put nine points on the board and his defense and tackling were superb. He limped off just before the English try, which will probably give Johnson some decisions to make regarding him and Flood.
These kick fests can get dull and boring, but this was neither. The sheer intensity of the rivalry between the sides and players meant we’ll be biting our nails till the end. Scotland did the right things, but their lack of quality and ability to finish off run & pass plays despite the chances they got (through great work from Joe Ansbro) hurt them once more, like against Argentina. For England, all that was needed was one chance.
Still, the English do have plenty to worry about heading into the quarter final, probably facing a French side that lost to Tonga. Their inability to dominate in the first half could come back to bite them eventually. There are only so much comebacks a side can mount in a tournament, unless this is 2003 all over again. Their very strong in the final 22, so why settle for tough penalties? They’ve got the skill set to score tries, why not use it? Wilkinson just isn’t in the zone this time around. Over reliance on his legs just might be a costly mistake.