England signalled their intent in the opening weekend of the Six Nations with a resounding 38-18 victory over Scotland, claiming the Calcutta Cup in the process. In what many had predicted would be a close encounter, England blew their opponents away bringing a greater level of intensity in both attack and defence. Below are a couple of the key areas where the game was won and lost.
Lethargic would probably be the best way to describe the manner in which the Scots went about defending their line. The Ashton try was a perfect example of this. As Marler offloaded to Launchbury, a defender was sucked in and the giant lock managed to squeeze through a hole and over the gain-line. The ball wasn't particularly quick, and Scotland should have had time to realign.
They didn't and instead a dogleg appeared, with a couple of defenders actually standing behind their own line. This was more invitation than Ashton needed, as he received the ball and proceeded to crash over the line. The try was symptomatic of Scotland's lack of aggression and urgency in defence - the Twelvetrees try was very similar, someone merely hitting a good line from five metres out. He should never have been allowed to score so easily.
It was all a bit bizarre really, given that Dean Ryan has joined the Scottish coaching set up. Ryan was a hard-nosed forward himself, and will not have been impressed by the soft manner in which his charges defended. It would not be surprising if some harsh words were shared after the final whistle in that dressing room.
The half backs
In terms of individual performances, this is where the biggest discrepancies could be found. The Scottish partnership had a torrid afternoon, while both England players had probably their best games for their country.
Greig Laidlaw was selected at scrum-half for Scotland, which was surprising in itself as he is normally a fly-half for his club, Edinburgh. His lack of game-time in the position showed; he was ponderous in possession, never quite sure what to do when. His decision-making was poor, and his box kicking aimless - think of the damage that could have been done if he were kicking to his own back three.
Ruaridh Jackson, selected at fly-half, wasn't much better. He struggled to get his outside backs into the game, which was a travesty because on the rare occasion they did get the ball they showed exactly how dangerous they are.
The English pair, by contrast, were superb. Ben Youngs is at times criticised for running sideways, but he is actually just hunting a gap. When he finds one, as he did on Saturday on more than one occasion, the arcing runs that result are a joy to watch. He managed two assists, firing accurate passes out from the base of rucks and scrums alike all afternoon.
Owen Farrell put in a coming-of-age performance. He has been accused of being one-dimensional in the past, but one wonders if this was more to do with how he had been told to play by Saracens than him actually lacking the ability to attack. On Saturday, he attacked the gain-line and his distribution was exemplary. That pass over the top to Parling for his try was sublime. Charlie Hodgson, his teammate at Saracens and widely regarded as the best distributing fly-half in the land, would have been proud.
When all is said and done, however, the Scots only have themselves to blame for their loss. They lacked aggression, fitness, and precision, and England never really had to get out of second gear to beat them. That said, there were plenty of signs that Lancaster's men are heading in the right direction. Billy Twelvetrees, playing on debut, was a revelation, and his partnership with Tuilagi is a mouth-watering prospect.
Ireland await the Englishman in Dublin next weekend, while the Scots welcome Italy to Murrayfield. Neither game will be easy and both teams will have to raise their game if they are to win.
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