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Scotland 0 England 20: Mud but no glory

A badly ploughed field and a Scotland performance that would insult a few farmers if you called it agricultural.

Luther Burrell dives over for the first of England's tries, despite the desperate efforts of Greig Laidlaw Photograph: Stewart Attwood
Luther Burrell dives over for the first of England's tries, despite the desperate efforts of Greig Laidlaw Photograph: Stewart Attwood

This was the second time in four games that Scott Johnson's side have failed to register a single point, and the national coach should be asking searching questions - mostly of himself - as to why that should be. After all, the team managed to get through the previous six years without one blank sheet.

Johnson talks the talk of a side in development, but what we saw in yesterday's Calcutta Cup match at Murrayfield was a side in disarray. Where's the development strategy in spending two-thirds of a game in your own half? In missing 27 tackles? In conceding more than twice as many penalties than your opponents? Of losing five line-outs on your own throw?

Or, for that matter, in ditching a player such as Kelly Brown. This was a game that might have been made for the player Brown was before Johnson took over - rather than the player Johnson tried to make him. England thrived in the poor conditions and dominated every phase as totally as the statistics suggested. They glowed with assurance as Scotland spent the evening with their fingers hovering over the panic buttons.

Their forwards wiped the floor with the Scots, blowing them away in set-piece and loose. In Mike Brown, Jonny May and Luther Burrell they had attacking runners who floated over the same soggy ground that seemed to have trapped the Scots at the ankles. At the finish, the only question was how England had managed to win by such a modest margin.

Indeed, but for a superb try-saving tackle by Sean Lamont on Burrell just before half time and the fact Owen Farrell missed three relatively straightforward penalty efforts, it would have been significantly larger.

About the best that could be said of Scotland in the first half was that they weren't quite as messy as the pitch. Not that that was much of a compliment, for the surface carved up terribly, and at the interval it was being treated by a small army of groundstaff, desperately trying to clear up the quagmire. At least there was some evidence of coherent actions in their efforts, a quality painfully absent in what we had been watching previously.

Scotland failed dismally to get any momentum or continuity into their game, a want that owed something to England's defensive efforts, but a heck of a lot more to their own failings.

None was more apparent than the calamitous line-out perform-ance, something that has become a Scottish trait just lately. Ross Ford looked a haunted figure at times, and it was almost an act of mercy when he was taken off early in the second half.

As impressive as he is physically, it would probably be another kindness to rest him for the match against Italy in two weeks, as his replacement, Scott Lawson, put in an impressive shift.

England reached the turn with a 13-0 lead. Burrell had gone over for a 15th-minute try by Burrell, a score that had its origins in one of those lost Scotland line-outs. The move took a few phases to get from touchline to try line, but with every one the pressure cranked up that little bit more.

When England then won a line-out of their own in the right corner, they set their maul superbly and a swift pass from the hugely impressive scrum-half Danny Care sent Burrell hurtling through on a killer angle.

To make matters worse for the Scots, Greig Laidlaw, who looked less than sharp throughout, missed a couple of kicks, denying them the comfort of even a little scoreboard action. But if what we had seen in the first period looked bad, it was about to get a whole lot worse. More mystifying, too, as Johnson removed Dave Denton, who had probably been Scotland's best player until then.

England might want to hold an inquest into how they scored just seven points in that second half. They hammered Scotland in every phase, rubbing their hosts' noses in the plentiful Murrayfield mud. You could say they beat Scotland all over the park, but as most of the action took place deep in Scottish territory that wouldn't be strictly true.

England scored their second try through full-back Brown when Alex Dunbar, one of Scotland's better performers, was in the sin- bin. Heaven only knows why they could not add to that. Scotland, meanwhile, looked less and less likely to score any points of their own. They got nothing, and they deserved it.

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