Rugby: New-look England beat Scotland 13-6

England began their new era under caretaker coach Stuart Lancaster by beating Scotland 13-6, their first success in four attempts at Murrayfield, to get the defence of their Six Nations title off to victorious start.

England, with three uncapped starters and another five on the bench, delivered an impressive defensive display in a typically scrappy Calcutta Cup match and scored the only try of the match in the first minute of the second half when flyhalf Charlie Hodgson charged down a Dan Parks kick.

Twenty-year-old centre Owen Farrell converted it and also landed two penalties in an assured debut while Parks scored two penalties for Scotland, who led 6-3 at the break but wasted a series of promising positions with knock-ons, dropped balls and wayward passes.

It was an encouraging start for Lancaster, given charge of the team for the Six Nations, as England found a way to win a difficult game after losing two and drawing one of their previous three games at Murrayfield.

There were few signs of the cohesive attacking play he said he wanted to bring to the team but for a side showing so many changes from the World Cup campaign the team looked impressively well-organised.

England fans around Edinburgh were fully supportive of Lancaster's approach but it was hard to find any who thought they would win the game - unlike the bookmakers who rated the visitors as narrow favourites.

Those odds might have been influenced by the way England found a way to beat the Scots 16-12 in their winner-takes-all World Cup pool game last October despite being outplayed for most of the match and Saturday's game was similar in pattern.

Farrell put England ahead with a penalty only for Parks to stroke two over to give the Scots a halftime lead that they just about deserved after 40 undistinguished minutes of action.

Fans understandably in no rush to return from their halftime drink missed out on the first explosive action of the match as 29 seconds after the restart Parks took an age to line up a clearing kick five metres in front of his own tryline and Hodgson, the most experienced man in the England team, charged it down and fell on the ball to score.

It was the first try for either side in a Murrayfield Calcutta Cup clash since 2004 and after Farrell slotted the awkward conversion it was 10-6 and the visitors immediately began playing with more belief.

Only a wonderful tackle by impressive number eight Dave Denton prevented David Strettle scoring a second try after a pinpoint crossfield kick by Hodgson, who was growing in confidence by the minute in his first Six Nations start for six years.

Scotland fought back and did break through on a few occasions but failed to hold on to the ball and when replacement Greig Laidlaw chased his own chipped kick minutes after coming on and thought he had got a hand on it ahead of Ben Youngs, the video referee ruled otherwise.

England threw three more debutants on with scrumhalf Lee Dickson, centre Jordan Turner-Hall and number eight Ben Morgan all getting a taste of the action but they had little chance to show their attacking prowess as Lancaster's side backed their well-drilled defence to keep the hosts at bay.

Farrell left a penalty short from halfway after 70 minutes but three minutes later he made no mistake from 35 metres to stretch the lead to seven.

The visitors then closed out the match impressively and will now look forward to their next match, away to Italy on Feb. 11 with confidence while Scotland will, once again, rue their failure to take their chances.

 

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