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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

English End Scotland's Grand Slam Dream


LONDON -- After ending Scottish dreams of a Five Nations Grand Slam, the English can now chase the title. But they still need to score tries.

It was the accurate kicking of fly half Paul Grayson allied to the overpowering force of the forwards that engineered England's 18-9 victory at Murrayfield and broke Scottish hearts.

In Saturday's try-less game filled with tension and passion but little enterprising play, England deserved its victory over a Scottish team that could not repeat its standout performances against the Irish, French and Welsh.

But the English will need to beat Ireland at Twickenham by a big margin and hope that last place Wales can restrict the French in Cardiff when the final games are played in two weeks. And that almost certainly means scoring tries.

With Dean Richards returning the back row to control the pack, England played a tight game to stifle the Scots and those were the right tactics even though they did not lead to an attractive game.

"We produced a ruthless, efficient display that pressurized Scotland and got the win that we were determined to achieve,'' Richards said.

"We only need a little bit of fine tuning to be a very good side. It was grim, but nobody queried the [New Zealand] All Blacks when they played grinding rugby, so why do people query our game plan?

"We played to our strengths and personally I had the sort of game that comes along once in a blue moon when things ran for me.''

Now the English take on an Irish team that outscored Wales 30-17 in Dublin but whose defensive frailties were exposed by the French who scored 45 points against them two weeks ago.

The Welsh pulled back to 18-17 at one stage, but the Irish, who punished poor positional kicking by fly half Arwel Thomas, scored two late tries to gained a flattering victory.

Now the English have the chance to produce what manager Jack Rowell has promised all season -- a steady flow of passes to the three-quarter line and regular charges by the backs toward the opponents' line.

Against the Scots, center Jeremy Guscott and wingers Jon Sleightholme and Rory Underwood rarely had the ball in their hands. To beat the Irish by 20 points, which almost certainly will be needed to clinch the title, those three will be required to have much more possession.

Grayson kicked six penalties to three by Scotland's Michael Dods for the only scoring at Murrayfield. The Scots cut England's lead to three points just after half time but never had a chance to go ahead or even get level. "I thought we were back in the game at 12-9, but then England did not let us get out of our own 25,'' said Scottish fly half Gregor Townsend. "It was up to us to find an answer.''

Paul Ackford, the former England lock who has shared many a Five Nations battle with Richards, wrote in his newspaper column that the Leicester giant virtually won the game single-handedly.

England manager Jack Rowell, unable to mold England into an all-round team with an open game, recalled Richards, having discarded him before the championship started.

So England played the mauling and kicking rugby the southern hemisphere associates with the Europeans -- barring the French.

John Jeffrey, a flanker in Scotland's 1990 grand slam side, reflected Scottish disappointment in the defeat and England's attitude, saying "It was a disgrace."

Although they still lead the standings with six points from four games, the chances are England and France will win their final matches March 16 and leave Scotland in third place on an inferior points difference.

But the Scots, who may now be left empty-handed, died faithful to their open game which had thrilled their fans and others in three exhilarating victories.

It was sad day for center Scott Hastings who equalled the Scotland caps record of 61 held by his brother Gavin, now retired from the international game. ()