Touching distance


Grand Slam just one win away after England survive a scare to defeat tenacious Scotland

ENGLAND manager Martin Johnson admits major improvement is needed if his side are to complete the Grand Slam in Dublin next weekend.

Scotland put up brave resistance at Twickenham yesterday but eventually succumbed to Tom Croft’s try, the boot of Toby Flood and his second-half replacement Jonny Wilkinson.

The Red Rose will complete an RBS 6 Nations clean sweep for the first time since 2003 with a win over Ireland at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, but Johnson is aware a repeat of yesterday’s performance against Scotland will yield nothing but disappointment.

He said: “We’ve got to be better than that. The second half was a strange one. It was a bit disjointed and we just couldn’t knock them out. It felt like the longest game of all time and it was always tough.

“We were clearly a little bit off it but they probably knocked us out of our stride a bit. We talked about the breakdown all week and we had too many turnovers in the first-half.”

Despite dominating possession and territory England went in at the break on level terms at 9-9 and only managed to cross the try line once John Barclay had been harshly sent to the sin-bin.

England failed to build on substitute Tom Croft’s score and a tense finale was set up by a superb piece of individualism from Scotland wing Max Evans, before Wilkinson’s trusty boot secured the Calcutta Cup. But Johnson was unimpressed by the way his side let Scotland back into the contest.

“They were fatigued and down to 14 men at one point and we did everything but score a try in that period,” he said. “When we finally did get over we let them straight back in. We didn’t get it right often enough.

“Everyone was talking about it all week. They were hurting and desperate and they came out fighting and to battle. At times they won that battle because we weren’t good enough at the breakdown.”

Johnson could be without captain Mike Tindall in Dublin after the centre left the fray at half-time with an injury to his left foot.

The Gloucester star left Twickenham in a protective boot and was due to undergo precautionary X-rays.

Johnson said: “There are a few battered bodies about. It was a pretty tough game.

“But it was not a bad game for us to go into next week. When everyone is telling you how good you are it can leak in a little bit. We’ve got lots to be better at. We’ll be in a fight next week. We know we can play a lot better than that.

“We’ve got to make sure we are a bit smarter the next time we play.”

56 mins: Scotland flanker John Barclay was dispatched to the sin-bin for attempting to wrestle the ball free from an attacking England player on the Scotland five metre line. It looked a little harsh and it proved to be a turning point in the game.

65 mins: With under a minute of Barclay’s sin-bin remaining, Ben Foden skipped past Chris Paterson and England piled back across the pitch. Mark Cueto sucked in a couple of defenders and offloaded to Tom Croft who smashed straight over the top of Dan Parks.

Full-time: Max Evans’ try, the result of a superb piece of improvisation, set up a tense finale, but Jonny Wilkinson’s penalty settled matters. England captain Mike Tindall then received the Calcutta Cup from him future mother-in-law The Princess Royal.