Eddie Jones’ timid guests floored by Scotland’s brutal first-half flurry

first_imgScotland rugby union team Since you’re here… Read more For England, it was a humbling game, an exploration of their limitations. They were not just beaten, they were exposed. And while Jones insisted that this will not change their preparation for the next game, he did not sound convincing. He will use this match, you guess, as a watershed. Late last year he gave a talk on the art of coaching at the Soccerex conference. He explained that his first two years with England were the easier part of the run-up to the 2019 World Cup, because the players were so hurt by the sorry way they had played at the 2015 tournament.The hard task, Jones said, was keeping them hungry now they had won so many games. Because there was a risk all that success would start to go to their heads, and blunt their edge. “It’s in the next two years,” Jones explained, “that I’ll really earn my money”. It feels like that second stretch, when England will need to reset and then kick on again, started this Saturday night. They were shot away, especially in the first half. They looked powerful but ponderous, a labouring, lumbering beast of team.Early on, England attacked through a series of short, sharp drives down the centre and a couple of rolling mauls out wide. Neither approach made much impression on the Scots, who soaked it up and then pounced on the breakdowns, where John Barclay and Hamish Watson went digging around like starving hounds looking for scraps of meat. When they did get the ball the Scots played deft and nimble rugby, they stretched play wide either side, pulling England this way and that until they tore holes in their defensive line. Read more Scotland 25-13 England: how the players rated in the Six Nations At the beginning of the Championship, Barclay had described his team’s strategy as “organised chaos”, and here England, so well-drilled, seemed almost bewildered by Scotland’s helter-skelter style of play. The lingering images from the rush of the first half were of Anthony Watson scrabbling around to try and gather Finn Russell’s little chip while Huw Jones raced past him to score, and of Watson, alongside Mike Brown now, throwing himself desperately after Jones as he sped through again for the third try.That was the crucial score. At 15-6 down, England were fighting back hard. The match had become a test of their mettle, and they are nothing if not relentless. In the next few minutes they twice came right up into the Scottish 22. But they lost the ball both times, once after a sloppy penalty, then to a turnover. Then Huw Jones made it 22-6. Eddie Jones’s finishers, as he calls them – they might be starters after this – have dug the team out of trouble often enough in the past. But not this time; the first half left them too much to do.It felt telling that the England coach substituted all three of Mike Brown, George Ford and Dylan Hartley. But it was not just a question of the personnel on the pitch but of England’s entire approach to the game. They simply were not powerful enough to grind Scotland down nor sharp enough to cut them open. They did not commit enough men to the breakdown, they were sloppy in the defensive spacing and their high penalty count – which Jones had defended before the match – cost them plenty too. Share on Twitter If England shot ahead of everyone else in Europe during 2016, those teams have been slowly reeling them back in since. Ireland caught them last year, and Scotland have done this. Jones was quick to praise his opponents. And they were brilliant: as stubborn in the second half as they were slick in the first. England, as the song goes, were sent homeward, to think again. And the thousands of Scottish fans inside Murrayfield took a lot of pleasure in telling them exactly that, over and over again. Finn Russell masterminds historic Scotland victory over England It was a crisp, clear afternoon at Murrayfield, with just enough sun to fool you into thinking it was going to be a warm and pleasant day. It wasn’t, not for the English. The Scots’ hospitality turned with the weather and by the time the England team arrived, their welcome was anything but. You could feel the atmosphere grow tense as their bus, stuck behind the Fife Police Pipe Band, made the long, slow crawl through the gauntlet of Scottish fans at the back of the West Stand. They were hanging off the gantries there, waiting to let Eddie Jones know exactly what they think of his team up here in Edinburgh. 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