England 25 Scotland 13: Red Rose require ruthless ambition to lift title

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England will concentrate only on beating France next Saturday and not the points difference that will decide who lifts the 2015 Six Nations title.

Well they might, for the inescapable truth is even if they beat the mercurial Les Blues on what is poised to be a thrilling conclusion to the championship, they may be left kicking themselves at their inability to put Scotland to the sword.

England's captain Chris Robshaw lifts the Calcutta Cup

England's captain Chris Robshaw lifts the Calcutta Cup

“There were a few points left out there and we don’t want that to come back to bite us,” said Ben Youngs in a sentiment echoed by England’s players, staff and the large portion of the 82,000 inside Twickenham, who greeted this Calcutta Cup triumph with muted applause.

England won, extending their dominant streak over Scotland, but it could and should have been so much more.

If they fail to build on a slender points difference over Ireland on Saturday, a victory over France will be greeted just as a win in Italy was last year when the destiny of the title was out of their hands despite the mammoth score they racked up.

Close, but no cigar.

England's George Ford dives in to score a try during the RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham, London. (Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire).

England's George Ford dives in to score a try during the RBS 6 Nations match at Twickenham, London. (Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire).

Twelve months on it is Stuart Lancaster’s side in the box seat...just. They have a points difference of plus 37, four better than Ireland and a critical 25 ahead of Wales, the other nations on three wins.

England are the only team at home, while Ireland visit Scotland – a team playing better offensive rugby than their four defeats would suggest – and Wales visit Italy.

Wales look rejuvenated after their opening loss to England, a game which represents the Red Rose’s only performance of real substance in this year’s championship.

On Saturday, they should have been four scores to the good inside the opening quarter against Scotland, but somehow contrived to find themselves trailing at the break.

Even when they responded instantly at the start of the second half, the weak Scottish rearguard manning the floodgates were still not breached again until the final throes.

Lancaster had sent his men out without telling them that the title was back up for grabs due to Wales’ victory over Ireland which ended Joe Schmidt’s team’s grand slam dream.

Despite the permutations this week, with England playing last on the final day and therefore knowing exactly what they need to do, Lancaster will not let his men be distracted by a points total to chase.

“If we concentrate on the points difference we’ll lose the game and that’s dangerous for us,” warned Lancaster, whose point was reinforced by Ben Youngs and his team-mates.

“The last thing you want to do in a Test match is go out there trying to chase a score, because that’s when you become loose,” said the scrum-half.

Loose is a term that sums up Saturday’s Calcutta Cup neatly.

Both teams played fast offensive rugby while neglecting the finer arts of defence.

The tone was set in the opening 30 seconds when Huddersfield-born centre Luther Burrell charged through from midfield, but his decision to go it alone instead of pass to Anthony Watson on the wing was greeted with a fierce challenge from Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg.

Jonathan Joseph ensured the home crowd were not waiting long to crow when he darted over, but that ruthlessness was not matched by his team-mates as Jack Nowell, twice, and Mike Brown – wearing only one boot after losing it in contact – were denied at the last.

“Maybe the lost boot hindered me a little, I couldn’t get as much traction as I wanted,” conceded Brown, whose uneven dash to the line was thwarted by the irrepressible Hogg.

Emboldened by a succession of reprieves, Scotland responded with a try of their own, on their first foray, when Mark Bennett cut over.

Greig Laidlaw’s two penalties to one from George Ford gave Scotland a scarcely believable 
13-10 lead at the break; their reward for greater ruthlessness.

Ford dummied over two minutes into the second half and England finally regained control, but they only made sure of the result five minutes from the end when Nowell finally crossed.

England’s aversion to the tryline had continued in between times, with a second ‘try’ ruled out for a forward pass and numerous chances wasted because of poor decision-making.

Such opportunities it is hard to envisage New Zealand squandering come the World Cup in six months and it is that frustration at their lack of finishing that dominated England’s post-match reaction.

“You don’t get try-scoring opportunities without good attack,” insisted Lancaster, who sought the positives in the frequency of the chances they created against a Scotland side never beaten by more than one score despite being bottom.

“We created 12 line breaks but to only convert three is frustrating. It was about the boys raising the intensity in the second half and they did that and the George Ford try was the response we needed. We do lots of attack on defence situations; it’s about composure, it’s about execution, it’s about patience. The players know that.

“We know we need to be better if we are going to A, win against France, and B, win the title.”

England: Brown (Cipriani 77), Watson, Joseph, Burrell, Nowell, Ford, B Youngs; Marler (M Vunipola 60), Hartley (T Youngs 51), Cole (Brookes 68), Attwood (Parling 51), Lawes, Haskell (Wood 68), Robshaw, B Vunipola. Unused replacements: Wigglesworth, Twelvetrees.

Scotland: Hogg, Fife, Bennett, Scott, Seymour, Russell (Hidalgo-Clyne 73), Laidlaw; Dickinson (Grant 60), Ford (Brown 60), Murray Cross 55), Hamilton (Swinson 48), Gray, Harley (Beattie 68), Cowan, Denton (Ashe 55). Unused replacements: Tonks.

Referee: R Poite (France).