6N: England handle storm and Scotland to revive title hopes
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — England made less mistakes than Scotland in stormy weather at Murrayfield to finish a 13-6 winner and revive its Six Nations title hopes on Saturday.
The filthy conditions had a huge impact on the match, which was played in relentless rain driven by gusts of more than 80 kph (50 mph). Storm Ciara, said to be the strongest to land in Britain in seven years, made the goalposts sway, flags snap, and the teams commit a ton of errors.
England deservedly led 3-0 after the lowest scoring half since 1988. Scotland drew even and the score remained tied for nearly 20 minutes until the 70th, when another error by Scotland captain Stuart Hogg proved fateful.
Hogg was letting a long chip by George Ford roll to his posts, and appeared to have it well covered, until it suddenly bounced up off his chest and chin and he had to touch it down with his tummy. Instead of receiving a 22-meter dropout, Hogg conceded a five-meter scrum to England.
The previous weekend, Hogg dropped the ball over the try-line as Scotland lost to Ireland 19-12. That was careless. This time, he was unlucky.
England's first attack off the scrum was stopped by flyhalf Adam Hastings, but off the ruck replacement prop Ellis Genge charged over the line with helpful pushes from Maro Itoje and Tom Curry. Owen Farrell converted for 10-3, and England had the win as good as clinched in the conditions.
Scotland dominated possession and territory and, naturally, made the most errors. It started the match with 14 phases only to give away a soft penalty. It was deja vu from the Ireland game, but with a storm thrown in. After half an hour, the Scots had made eight handling errors, and they didn't stop until fulltime.
England forced many of the errors — Jamie George and Itoje led the tackle counts with 19 and 18 — but struggled to take advantage. Without barely threatening the Scottish try-line, England relied on Farrell to kick the points into the wind in the first half. He did well to slot one of three attempts. Ford tried a dropped goal that was just wide.
Unable to hold the ball for long, the teams resorted to kicks — 37 in the first half, 50 in the second, more than one per minute. Most were pointless attempts to force errors that turned into errors themselves by going out of touch on the full.
Scotland waived off potential penalty kicks to go for lineouts, only to lose eight throw-ins. England lost two.
Hastings nailed his first penalty kick in the 46th minute to level the score. He landed his second in the last minute to give Scotland a deserving bonus point. But Scotland's second loss from two matches ended slim hopes for the title.
England, however, could gather some confidence, if little else from a match in which the weather had a major bearing. That confidence will put them in good stead for the arrival at Twickenham of unbeaten Six Nations front-runner Ireland in two weeks.
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