The Scottish Mail on Sunday



MY overriding emotion at the end of that disappoint­ing encounter is that it was a real damp squib with neither side coming to terms with the dreadful conditions. England just about deserved their victory but, in truth, it was a really poor game.

I feel really frustrated as it was hard to gauge whether Scotland had improved since the Ireland game as the weather made yesterday’s match such a lottery.

There are two weeks now before the Italy game and that will be played in better conditions and we can work out then how Scotland are developing in this Guinness Six Nations under Gregor Townsend.

We were never going to outmuscle England and their physicalit­y was probably the one overall factor that clinched the game for them.

That, as well as the individual error from Stuart Hogg that had such a bearing on the outcome. He was at fault against Ireland for not touching the ball down when he had carried it over the try-line. The Scotland captain had a decent game apart from that mistake in Dublin and it was the same story again against England at BT Murrayfiel­d.

The kick ahead from George Ford was difficult to defend but you would fancy him gathering the bouncing ball behind his own line. Instead, he fumbled it and, although Owen Farrell’s touchdown didn’t count, the TMO gave the scrum to England. They won the set-piece and Ellis Genge went over.

It was a crucial moment that gave England the momentum. Stuart will be devastated by his mistake.

Scotland did give me a bit of hope within those first five minutes with their flying start. I was hoping Sam Johnson had set the tone straight from kick-off with his tackle on the run on Jonny May.

He knocked him backwards and that big hit rattled England and gave the home fans something to shout about. Scotland then started to go through the phases and I was impressed.

Then the weather started to get worse and so did the rugby. Farrell put in two stunning kicks to touch that had Scotland turning on their heels but his forwards couldn’t take advantage from the line-out.

Scotland were being penalised more than England at the breakdown but Farrell managed to put over one out of three penalty attempts — which was a relief.

Hogg, meanwhile, did lose the ball a couple of times in the air but didn’t let that bother him in a decent first half from him.

I did doubt his initial decision to kick to the corner rather than take a penalty opportunit­y but, the way the wind was blowing, it was probably the correct decision.

Both sides struggled badly with the conditions in the first half and the first 40 minutes will go down as one of the worst I have ever seen. As I said, you can’t really blame the players for that because the conditions were dreadful but I felt sorry for the fans.

The second half started well for Scotland — as had the first period. First there was a great run up the middle from Rory Sutherland and then Huw Jones made some hard yards.

What was heartening was that Scotland took advantage of their good start with Adam Hastings putting over a penalty. That rattled England and their kicking got a bit erratic with even the reliable Willi Heinz kicking out on the full twice in a row as did Elliot Daly. Both Scotland and England hookers Fraser Brown and Jamie George couldn’t find a decent throw-in for love nor money. It was that sort of game.

For me, a run by Hogg 12 minutes into the second half showed us what Scotland with him in the side are always capable off. I made it that he beat Jonathan Joseph three times before getting away a kick that found touch in the England half.

Overall, England’s kicking was dreadful with Farrell missing his third penalty with 15 minutes left.

But Simon Berghan gave away a penalty that Farrell put over with five minutes to go that took the game away from us a bit more.

The incident that changed the game happened with 12 minutes remaining. Scotland were really let off the hook when Hogg just managed to get a bit of downward pressure on the ball with his tummy after fumbling it before Farrell touched it down.

It went to the TMO and, thankfully for Scotland, the try was ruled out.

England were given the scrum and, from it, Genge went over before Farrell put over the conversion which gave them the upper hand.

It was a crucial moment and — with Farrell’s late penalty — the game was up for Scotland.

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 ??  ?? ON THE BURST: Sutherland had a great run up the middle
ON THE BURST: Sutherland had a great run up the middle
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