Scotland the brave, England the slightly better

England have confirmed a place in the Rugby World Cup quarter finals after beating Scotland last night in their final pool match. It was not a pretty game, as expected it was a dour arm wrestle.

Scotland put up a brave performnce. They won the first half with a brave committed performance, missing less shots at goal than England. They held on grimly through most of the second half but just couldn’t finish off, lacking penetration and not getting enough shots at goal.

England had another poor start, making basic errors at the breakdown and missing a number of shots at goal – Wilkinson is not as reliable as he used to be. But whatever they were told or whatever was in what they drank at half time worked, just. They gradually gained a small amount of dominance in the second half, managed to kick a few points and claw back on the scoreboard, and scored the game’s only try near the end which was the clincher.

A couple of morals:

  • brave is hard to sustain for eighty minutes without enough penetration
  • even in dour, close fought matches tries can still be the difference between winning and going home early

So Scotland leave the tournament, and England move on to the quarters to try and grind their way forward.

England is noticeably different depending on which first five (fly half) they use. Wilkinson means a kicking game, even though his radar has been wobbly all tournament – he can’t blame last night on the indoor Otago Stadium. He is also a staunch defender, being prominent in cover. Flood is goal kicking better but the England backline also looks far more likely to excite – and score – when he’s in the pivot position.

Englands knockout tactics will be obvious by their first five selection.

Bad luck Scotland, you had many Kiwi hearts and hopes on your side.

Good on you England, you did just enough.