England v Scotland: Initial Reaction

Far closer than anyone expected, England grinded their way home in this performance against Scotland, whose defence was excellent.

England were perhaps overly ambitious with the ball in hand, but their work in the mauls and off the lineout offered them a great platform, and they enjoyed an element of dominance in the scrum. But Scotland kept themselves very much in the game due to Max Evans’ great piece of opportunism, along with Chris Paterson’s ever reliable boot.

For England, it was great to see Tom Croft back, and he marked his return well with a good try in what was England’s best move of the match. The centres seemed to struggle to open up the defence, as did Toby Flood, and there were far too many turnovers at key moments.

Jonny Wilkinson’s introduction for me was the turning point, and I would like to see him start next week in Dublin. England were sparked into life following his arrival on the pitch.

Still, a win is a win, and that is now four in a row for England as they sit one away from the all important title. The players in the press room afterwards were far from ecstatic with how the game had gone, but, Dublin now awaits.

What were your thoughts on today’s game at Twickenham? Let us know your thoughts and chew the fat as if we were all in the pub.

As always, we’ll have the usual player ratings, opinions and analysis during the week.

22 thoughts on “England v Scotland: Initial Reaction

  1. Scotland got their analysis spot on and played very much like France did last week. Committed numbers at every break down, showed good line speed and strong defence – they effectively prevented Flood and Youngs from controlling the game like they did against Wales & Italy.

    Cueto, Ashton & Foden always pose a threat, Foden really needs to sort out how to carry the ball. Unless he was 100% sure he’d get the try and so didn’t bother with it, he needed to have his hands open to passing inside to Cueto. Would have been much more comfortable for England if that came off.

    Banahan played well I thought.

  2. Yep. Initial reaction is far too many silly mistakes and handling errors. 50/50 passes not coming off and so on. But i think that’s the sort of thing MJ will sort out reasonably swiftly.

    I think it’s a bit tricky to work out if we played badly or if Scotland just played quite well, probably a bit of both.

    Haskell had a very strong game i thought in terms of ball carrying and tackling. Never been a huge fan but fair play, it’s going to be hard for Moody to find his way back in. I do feel we lack a specialist at the breakdown, however.

    Youngs looked lively but struggled behind a pack that was, at times, moving backwards.

    Midfield – as expected. Sound, but not great. Defensively good. Saw Hape make about 6 tackles in the space of 2 minutes.

    Banahan did well when he came on, yes. He should be given the nod against Ireland i think.

  3. Congrats to Scotland they found the extra gears they always do against us. But going back to what Matt said as well as Scotland played we played very poorly. I know sone people will say a wins a win blah blah blah! But at the end of the day a team that has complete dominance in both set pieces should make things a lot easier on themselves than England did. Lots of things to talk about this week, especially the back row and centres. Although Eng must have the championship sown up they are in for a mighty fight if they play like that against Ireland.

  4. Gutted that Scotland couldn’t pull it off – more because now it just goes down as a “brave Scottish performance” as opposed to a famous victory. Good for England though in that it exposes some weaknesses that they need to sort out – I maintain that they aren’t a great team, but they are a solid team, and definitely have the best Northern Hemisphere chance in the WC. Still think Ireland’ll pull it out of the bag next weekend though.

  5. I hate to say it but I think this weekend has provided some clear evidence that, in terms of world rugby, the Six Nations is second rate at the moment.

    The adage of “if it aint broke dont fix it” may work against teams now, but against the top SH teams then a midfield of Hape and Tindall will not be effective. It will only work now because it has not been fully tested.

  6. Yep, I was thinking exactly the same Tom. No team has particularly impressed, with England so far the best of a mediocre bunch.

    Today was a reality check. I didn’t think Scotland came with the ferocity or intensity that many predicted. England were just very average. They appeared so lethargic in possession up front. For the last four games Haskell has shown pace and power with ball in hand, but he’s all we got and today he seemed to spend a lot of time in the 12 channel (still our best forward by a mile). And I know I will be shot down for saying this, but Easter is not good enough. He is just too slow. I’ve always thought of him as a steadying influence and something of a leader, but now I’m not so sure. Time to give Haskell the 8 shirt, with Croft and Moody alongside.

    Nothing surprising about the back play today. Another solid performance from Foden and I thought Flood did OK. Youngs’ passing awful today. Hape may have a high tackle count, but that’s all he offers.

    So now what happens? We will play it very conservative for the big game next week (Croft starting will be the only change, assuming Tindall recovers) and I don’t know who I’d put my money on to win in Dublin. Moreover, barring a couple of warm up games (which don’t tend to tell you anything) we show up in NZ with a team and system that even the Aussies will relish.

  7. Yes, i agree!!! A Croft, Moody, Haskell combination looks like the goods. I think 8 might even suit Haskell’s game better, with charges off the back of the scrum and so on.

    MJ really needs to start Banahan at 13 against Ireland i think… just to see how he goes against a world-class 13 (assuming O’driscol will play).

  8. Very poor game by England, Ireland start as favourites in Dublin.

    Sometimes with slow ball, you have to kick for territory and work on their lineout. the lack of experience was really evident.

    IF we flounder about in Dublin, the more experienced irish will beat us.

    OBrien v Haskell will be mouthwatering!

  9. Jimmy as poor as we were, Ireland don’t desreve to start as favourites! They haven’t had a good game all tournament! Limped past Scot and Italy, unlucky but poor against France and woefull against Wales. I know, like Scotland, they will throw everything at us next weekend and could well win but they’re not favourites in my opinon, its Eng’s to loose!

  10. Certainly not a great game, but not a bad result given I had a sinking feeling that we were going to lose this one.

    Lots of half breaks by England and never quite the accuracy to finish them off. Still it was only some rather good Scottish defense that stopped the scoreline being somewhat more in England’s favour

    Banahan and Haskell both quite good, to my suprise. Banahan offers all the bosh of tindall but with more pace and skill. Is his defense up to it though?

    Easter may be slow but he also provides England with calm and cleverness that would be lacking if you put Haskell at 8. See no reason to bring Moody back as he doesn’t offer anything extra. If anything, yesterday’s game would have been tailor-made for Fourie – and that might be true of Ireland as well

    The worst of yesterday was England’s approach to the breakdown.

    The counter-rucking that did so much to upset the French in the second half in the last match was absent.

    They also seem to have reverted to the bad old days of only omitting a couple of men to an attacking ruck whilst the rest of the forwards loiter around in mid-field waiting for a pass (Haskell the prime offender here). This directly led to a number of Scottish turnovers – and even if the ball did come out, it went to a forward standing still in mid-field, not even taking it at pace.

    The furious rucking that took the Aussies unaware and was critical in creating the speed of ball and open spaces for the backs to exploit was totally lacking against the Scots. It felt as if they were so convinced they would win that all the forwards decided to go for glory rather than doing the hard work

    I hope this is an aberration rather than coaching

  11. With Tindall likely to miss out against Ireland (the Guardian mentioned a potential citing for Banahan too for the Brown incident – surely not?) then i presume Banahan will come into OC but it will be interesting to see who makes the bench.

    Has Armitage’s suspension finished?

  12. Although I admire Haskell’s pace and tackle rate (and in both areas he was superb yesterday) he never passes the ball and a no.7 should be competing at every breakdown, not stood with the backs.

    I’m not sure if that was the gameplan but bearing in mind how exposed we were by the Scots, French and the Saffa’s in that area, it will lose us another game sooner or later.

  13. ben – ireland criminally lost to wales “throw in”
    otherwise were the better team.

    Ive said all along, Ireland @ home will be the hardest match of this campaign.

  14. To be honest i am not really that bothered if Tindall doesnt play and Banahan is cited. It will give us a chance to play a GOOD outside centre at outside centre. not a Winger that has only been converted because hes big. To answer a previous question his defence is not good enough. If you can watch the game again and see how far scotland get when they run at Banahan, Normally atleast about 5 metres. He just goes far too high.

    Hoping for Johnson to make a big call and bring Tuilagi into the squad.

  15. Will – Banahan is better than Tuilagi defensively. Tuilagi’s a bit naive at the moment and I’d sooner have Banahan losing 5 yards than Tuilagi rushing up and leaving a gap in the midfield that will yield more than 5 yards for the oppo. A midfield of Hape and Tuilagi would have me very worried.

    Banahan has impressed me more at OC though, I was never a fan of his, even on the wing, but I do feel that he has added to his game.

    Worst case scenario and they do miss out then as the last Saxons outside centre I guess Tuilagi would be the next in line. Though anyone watching that last match against the Irish A team would have seen an outside centre not ready for international rugby.

  16. Didnt see the Irish A match but in the AP recently he has looked far more disciplined defensively and alot more mature about his game plan. And he runs straight which we need if we are going to keep oppositions honest and release the back 3

  17. The Scots did a good job, played better than they have the rest of this 6N, certainly exposed some work for England – very timely. Not sure for England v Ireland match, should be interesting to see if both teams play better than this weekend.

    I just can’t agree with jimmymc1 – Wales/Ireland was pitiful, even if I wanted Ireland to win I thought they were poor – both teams deserved to lose. TBH, I wonder that Matthew Rees can have a lot of self-respect as Captain if he’s happy to win by blatant cheating, because he must know very well that he can’t take a quick throw if he’s just been handed the ball by a ball-boy.

  18. Mutton – im not saying wales v ireland was a good game, just that ireland lost on a technicality.

    After that performance, I have put a tenna on England losing in Dublin, i can just see them slipping up.

  19. Ps did anyone see mat Stevens against Leicester the other day?

    HE came on as a sub and nailed Castro in the scrum and did well around the pitch.

    Id be putting him on the plane to the RWC.

    anyone else?

  20. Definitely. A front row of Sheridan, Hartley and Stevens is as good as any in the world. Really rate Stevens. And Cole’s a dam good replacement too.

  21. Agree with the comments re: poor NH rugby. I was thoroughly bored by all three games which is no mean feat considering the Italians shock result and the closeness of the other two games. In the Wal – Ire match i was shouting at the screen for someone to attack even though i’m a neutral. Once again, Shane Williams and O’Brien were the only players on the pitch even looking for attacking opportunities. Lo and behold each one of them made breaks or half breaks and got their team moving (Masi also did the basics of attack right and created similar opportunities).

    I never thought i’d be one of “those” people moaning that the SH game is vastly more entertaining but you see better quality matches at Super 15 level than at 6 nations level. I couldn’t give a stuff about the missed tackle count in Super 15 – you try tackling your man every time when he’s got 3 passing options, has a step off either foot and pace to burn. It’s far easier to make a tackle when you have a forward standing still and no-one either side of him looking for an offload – a la 6 nations.

    on Mutton’s point – the linesman had a shocker but it’s not Matthew Rees’ responsibility. He’s not thinking of the laws when he sees his teammate make a dash up the line and instinctively throws the ball in. It was an absolutely horrendous call though – why on earth the linesman lied when he could have asked the TMO to check that it was the same ball? I guess he panicked.

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