English break Scottish hearts
AUCKLAND, 1 Oct. - Scotland wanted to send England home to think again. Instead it was the Scots who were left to ruminate on how they threw away victory in the dying minutes for the second match in a row. Despite Jonny Wilkinson’s misfiring boot, a last-ditch try by wing Chris Ashton secured England a 16-12 win and a place in the quarter-finals to play France at Eden Park.
Scotland suffered the same agonising fate in their previous match against Argentina. "To lose like we did last week and to lose like we did this week, is just so devastating,” Scotland second row Richie Gray said. “You just have to look in the dressing room." "Once again we slipped at the crucial times,” captain Alastair Kellock added. “We are going home now, maybe we will feel better in a couple of weeks, but now I am gutted."
Both England and Scotland would have felt right at home as the rain came down just before kick-off, but it was the Scots who fared better in slippery conditions compared with an English side who have played most of their Rugby World Cup campaign so far under cover in Dunedin.
Scotland took it to their oldest rivals right from the start, with full back Chris Paterson the first to put points on the board with a penalty goal on eight minutes. It was Paterson’s 15th Rugby World Cup match appearance, a Scottish record.
As Scotland continued to send the ball between the posts whenever they could, the usually unflappable Wilkinson struggled with the breeze that blew in his favour, missing three penalty kicks in a row.
Scotland continued to play with enterprise and intensity, making the most of any opportunity that came their way. The English looked ragged and disjointed as they struggled with their set pieces.
"Whenever we had the ball we looked dangerous,” replacement fly half Dan Parks said. “But in the end England had a bit more ball and controlled it a bit better. That's just the way rugby is sometimes."
Wilkinson finally kicked true with a penalty in the 33rd minute to make England’s first mark on the scoreboard.
The English looked dangerous at the start of the second half with Scotland lucky to thwart an almost certain try as Delon Armitage tore down the left wing.
Wilkinson continued to struggle with his wobbly boot, missing a drop goal attempt right in front of the posts before Scotland regained their composure.
The men in blue’s defence stood firm as Chris Paterson slotted another penalty, sending a roar from Scottish fans around the stadium.
With the scores at 12-9 the Scots came within a couple of metres of achieving a try and the points margin they needed to keep them in the competition.
But the English scrambled the ball clear before a deft pass from England’s Toby Flood sent Chris Ashton over two minutes from full time to seal Scotland’s fate. "I never felt at any time that the game was slipping away from us,” Scotland captain Kellock said. “I always felt we had enough ability to win it. That's why it is so frustrating to lose it at the end like that.
"I'm fed up competing and not winning.”
Despite trailing Scotland until the dying minutes, England centre Mike Tindall said his side never gave up hope. "I think we always felt that if we got any sort of string of phases together then we could cause problems,” he said. "The problem was we were struggling to get that, we were dropping ball, we were giving away stupid penalties and we made it hard for ourselves. Then Toby came on and threw that pass.”
While England were happy to take the win, Tindall said the victory was somewhat bittersweet. "We didn't play particularly well but credit to Scotland,” he said. “As always they played very well against us and made it hard for us. "We come off that game gutted really. We want to come out and play rugby. We're letting ourselves down a little bit in that respect but you have to take the positives. "It's disappointing as well because it's Scotland. They played their hearts out and it's quite sad that they have to go home."
Once again Scotland came so close to knocking the wheels off England’s sweet chariot, but their auld enemy managed to stay on the road.