Six Nations 2012: England edge to 13-6 win over Scotland
England get their Six Nations campaign off to the perfect start with victory over Scotland at Murrayfield in a scrappy encounter
Stuart Lancaster’s reign got off to a winning start as England ground out a victory in an error-strewn encounter against Scotland.
A pair of penalties by debutant Owen Farrell and a try by Charlie Hodgson sealed their triumph in the Calcutta Cup as the new-look side survived a second-half onslaught to pick up their first win at Murrayfield since February 2004.
Despite being on the front foot, the Scots proved to be their own worst enemy in attacking areas as they failed to make the most of their chances – but interim head coach Lancaster was delighted with the spirit shown by his side.
“It was just a fantastic effort, I’m really chuffed for the boys,” he said. “They were the ones who were putting the effort in. Teams are built on spirit and courage and they showed a tremendous amount of that to play for each other and for the shirt.
“There are lots of things we can improve on but fundamentally it comes down to attitude and working hard for each other. It’s all about getting the first win and we need to back it up now.”
The Red Roses fielded three debutants in the 130th meeting between the two sides, with Phil Dowson and Brad Barritt joining Farrell in making their international bow.
Another five uncapped players helped to make up the bench for the visitors, with the hosts having a more experienced look to their starting line-up, with 501 international caps between them.
It proved to be a tentative opening to the game with a number of sloppy mistakes being made by both teams.
The first chance came in the 13th minute after the visitors were awarded a penalty for David Denton’s indiscretion, but Farrell’s kick went wide.
Farrell, the son of current coach Andy, made no mistakes with his next opportunity 10 minutes later as the Saracens centre converted the penalty to give them the lead.
That score seemed to breathe some life into the game and soon after, Dan Parks levelled things up.
Despite their domination of territory in the first half, England failed to convert that into attacking openings and they fell behind in the 33rd minute, as experienced campaigner Parks doubled his penalty tally.
Lancaster’s team made the perfect start to the second period as they re-took the lead just 29 seconds in.
Hodgson’s chasing work led to him blocking an attempted up-field kick by opposite number Parks, and the Saracens man managed to touch the ball down for a try, with the extras easily added.
The home side had a lucky escape on 52 minutes when Hodgson’s cross-field kick found David Strettle, but David Denton denied him with a crucial tackle, before the Sarries wing was penalised for holding on.
Robinson’s side continued to press but a lack of composure in attacking play was costing them dear.
In the 61st minute, substitute Greig Laidlaw showed good chip-and-chase work but appeals for a score were turned down after a long perusal by the television match official.
They were presented with an even better opening moments later as Ross Rennie found some space in the defence, but his final pass was vitally intercepted by Ben Foden.
With just seven minutes left on the clock, Farrell showed nerves of steel to put another penalty through the posts, as England made the best possible start to their Six Nations campaign, with Scotland coach Andy Robinson left to rue missed opportunities.
“We’ll keep practising,” he said. “We created some great opportunities and it’s just that last pass. The game is about inches, small margins and you have to be able to execute under pressure.”