England shrugged off a poor first half performance to finish as comfortable winners against the cross-border raiders, although it wasn’t as convincing as England supporters, or Wayne Bennett, would have wanted to see.
England have one real Achilles heel, they start far too slow, it cost them dearly last week against New Zealand, it lead them to a worrying situation against Steve McCormack’s Bravehearts when Kane Linnett and Matthew Russell scored very deserved tries.
Linnett’s try was too easy, Russell’s came from a finish that few would have believed possible. What was very obvious early on was that Danny Brough seemed intent on making England pay for their lack of respect towards him personally earlier in his career, and his adopted national team leading into this match.
In the first quarter Scotland were settled, they got into a comfortable rhythm, and England looked incapable of stopping that as they spluttered and stuttered their way around, again lacking any real leadership, while Brough controlled everything.
The Scottish defence found England’s attack far too easy to stop, their endeavour and enthusiasm was running high and it showed as they took a two-score lead, before England really got going.
George Williams or Gareth Widdop?
On this showing Wayne Bennett would be mad not to pick the Wigan Warriors half back next week as England attempt to topple the imperious side in Green and Gold.
Williams gave England exactly what they were missing last week, he ran at defenders, he distributed expertly and he provided kicks, he was at the heart of everything that was good about England and was a clear choice for Man of the Match.
The one thing that will stand Widdop in good stead for the game against Australia is that, playing in the NRL, and with his international experience, he will know exactly what to expect from players that he plays against every week.
However Williams would bring that unknown element that can unnerve any opponent, he could be a surprise package who can unpick a thoroughly organised Australia defence. We know all about Williams in England, the Aussies don’t and that could be an ace card up the English sleeve, Williams is proven in big games, as evidenced in the Super League Grand Final a few weeks ago, this match could really suit him.
Danny Brough v England
The Huddersfield Giants talisman set out to show England what they’ve been missing, ever since they snubbed him several years ago despite his prodigious talent.
Born in Dewsbury, his Scottish heritage, particularly his Grandfather, has provided him with a platform to show particularly Steve McNamara, what he missed when picking Kiwi born England flop Rangi Chase, among others, ahead of him.
Interviewed as he came off at half-time he said he was enjoying himself, at only 12-8 down, he had good reason for his happy demeanor and grinning face, however that was soon to disappear after the break. What shouldn’t be taken away from him, is that in the first half he controlled everything to a frightening degree showing, despite his advancing years, that he has still got it in him in spades.
However he would, no doubt, rather forget the 2nd half, when things started to go wrong in dramatic fashion. Within eight minutes of the restart he had sent not one, but two, kicks in general play out on the full and, armed with an alarmingly growing penalty count, this gave much territory and possession to England, which they duly took full advantage of.
A professional foul then saw him dispatched for ten minutes by referee Gerard Sutton, during his absence England added two tries, both of which proved the handicap of being a man down, in different ways, first with his Giants teammate Jermaine McGillvary scoring on the outside, then when Luke Gale profited down the middle when the Scottish middle was cut wide open by a break and pass from Sam Burgess.
Ill-discipline a big cost again
In this game England conceded seven penalties, about average especially considering the contentious nature of any game in any sport between England and Scotland, and yes they have far more players of a higher standard than Scotland possess, but that isn’t what decided this game.
What gave England the necessary time on the ball, in their opponents half particularly, was the 17 penalties that the Bravehearts conceded. Simply put, you cannot expect to win a game at any level, especially international level, when giving away that many penalties, it’s a harsh lesson, and one that Steve McCormack needs to drum into his team quickly.
A fortnight ago France conceded too many penalties and England ran up 40 points in Avignon, it goes to show that, given that amount of penalties, piggy backs up the field and opportunities, England are good enough to rack up some points.
The warning for England is that Australia will not afford them such luxuries, and the warning for Scotland is that, give those chances to New Zealand and the likes of Shaun Johnson and Issac Luke are more than capable of racking up a painful score for them.
Penalties: England 17 Scotland 7
Goal Line Drop Outs: England 1 Scotland 2
England: Tries: Elliott Whitehead (28, 36) Mark Percival (50) Ryan Hall (55) Jermaine McGillvary (58) Luke Gale (63) Liam Farrell (80) Goals: Luke Gale 5/7
Scotland: Tries: Kane Linnett (6) Matthew Russell (24) Dale Ferguson (69) Goals: Danny Brough 0/3