rugby

England back in title contention after outclassing Scotland

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The Canadian Press
2/8/2014 4:16:47 PM
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EDINBURGH -- England comfortably avoided a banana-skin possibility in dispatching Scotland 20-0 in Six Nations rugby on Saturday.

England's only win in the four most recent trips north had been tight, and Scotland was expected after losing 28-6 to Ireland six days ago to show some venom against its archrival.

But Scotland was just as toothless as it was in Dublin, on a parasite-infested Murrayfield pitch not worthy of a test. The English, unchanged from the narrow opening loss to France, justified their coaches' trust by winning the Calcutta Cup for a fifth straight time and giving the ball surprising width for due reward.

Centre Luther Burrell and fullback Mike Brown scored the tries, and England could afford for Owen Farrell to make only half his goalkicks. Scotland scrumhalf Greig Laidlaw, retained ahead of Chris Cusiter for his goalkicking and made captain, missed his two chances, both in the first half when his desperately outclassed side needed a boost.

After two games on the road, England was set for the home match with undefeated Ireland in two weeks.

"Ireland have played really well, but we're confident also," England coach Stuart Lancaster said.

In keeping Scotland scoreless in this fixture for the first time since 1978, Brown said, "The forwards put an outstanding shift in. Faz (Farrell) at 10 and DC (Danny Care) at nine just pulling the strings, it was overall outstanding."

Scotland hasn't scored a try in four straight tests, three of them at home, and travels next to Italy, where it hasn't won in eight years.

The statistics made dire reading for Scotland: 16 penalties conceded, 14 turnovers, 5 lineouts lost and one telescope to see where England's 22 was.

"You're not going to win with a lineout that doesn't work," Cusiter said.

"We just couldn't get anything going. We seemed to be committing too many to rucks, not getting any fast ball, and we started missing tackles at the end. We just could never put them under pressure. It's hugely disappointing."

The Scots didn't start either half well. Duncan Weir booted the kickoff straight out on the full, and in the second half Scotland lost another of its throw-ins and was backed up to its 22.

In between, England cruised without feeling any pressure. Farrell missed a penalty out front when his planted left foot slipped, but Care kicked a 30-meter dropped goal with aplomb for the first points.

Scotland was penalized for interfering with Billy Twelvetrees, giving England an attacking lineout 10 metres out, and England rolled the maul with utter patience. Care squared off the ruck and Burrell timed his run into the gap expertly, and was tackled too late.

Farrell converted, then Laidlaw missed his second penalty attempt, hitting the post for a second straight match.

Farrell kicked another penalty in the 29th, and almost put the match away seconds before halftime, with a step off his left foot, dummy and clean break. Burrell came up his inside and was stopped by Scotland winger Sean Lamont in front of the left post.

England, up 13-0, changed into clean shirts at the break but they didn't stay white for long.

No. 8 Billy Vunipola rampaged up the middle, offloaded to Brown, and Jonny May received an overlap on the left wing. May was foiled, but Scotland centre Alex Dunbar was sin-binned. It took seven minutes for England to make the man advantage count, and even then the long buildup looked to have broken down on the left wing. But winger Jack Nowell picked up the dropped ball, shimmied past several tackles and fed Brown to scoot in with a fist pump.

There was still a quarter to go, but England wasn't fussed. Scotland had nothing.

Mike Brown (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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