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Scots got what they deserved

It is the oldest truth in rugby that you won't win matches if you don't take your chances.

Chris Robshaw is wrapped up by the Scottish defence   Photograph: Getty
Chris Robshaw is wrapped up by the Scottish defence Photograph: Getty

Once again, that was Scotland's main failing against England at Murrayfield yesterday. They got men into the danger zones, but for one reason or another they couldn't get them over the line.

The funny thing is that you don't always expect to get tries from these positions, but you do expect to get points. Look at how the All Blacks exploit these opportunities: if they don't get a touchdown then they will generally force the opposition to give them a penalty. Scotland couldn't even do that, which is one of the most disappointing aspects of all.

Maybe the referee showed them a few favours, but England's scramble defence was still outstanding. They seemed to have a whole pack of get out of jail cards in their pockets. Some people might look at the way Scotland dominated the possession and territory, and at statistics that suggest they played a far more creative brand of rugby, and say they were unlucky, but I would disagree. England thoroughly deserved to win.

Their determination in defence bought them this victory, but Scotland still didn't make it hard enough for them. There's a lack of composure about Scotland when chances start to take shape, and we saw that old failing far too often yesterday. It's all the more frustrating because Edinburgh have been scoring tries by the barrow load in the Heineken Cup and Scotland A scored four against the England Saxons on Friday evening. We are turning out players who can do it – they're just not doing it at Test level.

Time for a change of tack? Obviously some adjustments have to be made, but I don't think we should be ripping up the entire play book just yet. I like the style of rugby Scotland are trying to play and they're 90% of the way to getting it right. However, the bit that is missing is the most critical part of all.

Scotland have to go to Cardiff next weekend in a positive and confident frame of mind. Their game plan is sound, it is only their execution in the last few yards that is letting them down. They have to take the game to Wales as they took it to England. Perhaps the fear of another failure will give them a few extra ounces of strength. But let's give credit to England as well. As I say, they defended brilliantly at times, and you could see that their resolve came from a real team spirit. After all the woes of the World Cup, Stuart Lancaster has clearly got something good going with the squad of players he has brought together over the past few weeks.

I think you could see that they really wanted this result. I was astonished by the England Saxons' performance on Friday because their heart just didn't seem to be in it. It's an awful lot harder to play against a fired-up side than one that can't be bothered.

Yesterday was obviously a good day for young Owen Farrell. He didn't do anything particularly spectacular, but what he did was done very well. Chris Robshaw also did a great job in leading the side, despite his inexperience at this level. England travel to Rome next week and they will be overwhelming favourites to make it two wins from two in that match. At which point, the championship title becomes a realistic target, and even the Grand Slam they just missed out on last year.

Scotland? Let's hope it's not another year when we go into the last game desperate to avoid the wooden spoon. They've come horribly close to that for the last few years, but I genuinely feel they are a far better team than their record suggests. But it's all very well talking about how good you can be; there comes a point when you have to go out and prove it.

At least there were some things to feel happy about in Scotland's display. And the best of the lot was unquestionably the performance of Dave Denton at No 8. Denton's energy was staggering. If he wasn't charging into the England half he was making try-saving tackles at the other end of the pitch. In his first start for Scotland he was easily the best player on the field.

Beyond the necessary change caused by Euan Murray's refusal to play on a Sunday, I wouldn't go looking for new players to bring in for the Wales match. But if things don't work out there, the case for looking outside the squad will become overwhelming. The A team result on Friday showed that a number of players are ready for the step up, and the excellent performances of fly-half Duncan Weir and full-back Stuart Hogg will surely have been noticed by Andy Robinson.

It's not the last-chance saloon just yet, but opening time looms for some players if things don't start to improve.

Craig Chalmers

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