Jack Nowell\’s late try ensured England clawed their way to the top of the Six Nations table on a small points difference as they condemned Scotland to a fourth successive loss in this year\’s Championship with a 25-13 victory at Twickenham on Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster\’s men captured the Calcutta Cup by running in three fine tries as they set up an exciting three-way assault on the title next Saturday with England, Wales and Ireland all in with a chance of being crowned Northern Hemisphere champions.
England must now beat France at Twickenham to give themselves an opportunity of winning it, but they certainly made hard work of Scotland as they wasted numerous try-scoring chances.
This contest, always emotionally and physically explosive, gained even more importance thanks to the exploits in Cardiff ninety minutes or so earlier when the title was blown wide open.
Ireland lost their chance of Grand Slam glory with a 23-16 defeat by a Wales team rejuvenated following their opening fixture loss to Lancaster\’s men at the Millennium Stadium.
It was a rare moment in time when the English roared on the Red Dragons, and their prayers that the Welsh would fly to the rescue and leave the Six Nations sitting on a knife edge were answered.
But that result meant the men in white simply had to keep their side of the bargain and ensure a fourth successive defeat of the campaign for a struggling Scotland side.
England wasted a glorious chance to grab a very early try when they charged up the field from the kick off. George Ford opened the Scottish defence up with a pass to Luther Burrell who only had last man Stuart Hogg to beat. But the Englishman decided to try and go it alone rather than pass out wide right to Anthony Watson and was tackled to the ground by the Scotland full-back, and the chance went begging.
But Bath centre Jonathan Joseph did not waste his golden opportunity moments later when Ford again was the provider with a deft pass which let his club team-mate surge over the line for the opening try. Ford converted for England\’s perfect start.
Lancaster\’s men almost had a second but left wing Nowell burst down the left flank only for his Scotland rival Dougie Fife to pull off a try saving diving tackle to deny him.
Hogg came to the visitors\’ rescue as, under constant seige on their own line, he raced back to stop Mike Brown in his tracks with the England full-back just a few yards short of the line.
But the English pressure failed to bring about the expected points tally and they were punished by a real sucker punch. Scotland\’s first real attacking move ended with England\’s defence opening up and centre Mark Bennett going over from six metres. Scrum-half Greig Laidlaw converted to level the game.
Ford and Laidlaw exchanged penalty blows before England had a try disallowed. Anthony Watson burst over the line but it Ford had given a forward pass to Luther Burrell.
Laidlaw kicked Scotland into a 13-10 lead at half-time when England were caught offside. The hosts came out as they started the first on the front foot. But this time with more venom as a flowing move led to Ford slicing his way through and over the line for a try he converted himself.
Ford followed up with a penalty and England had a second try cancelled out when Brown raced over the line but James Haskell had given a forward pass.
But England finished as strongly as they began the game and wing Nowell dived over in the left-hand corner for a try which put Lancaster\’s team top of the table to set up a thrilling final day of the Championship.