Scotland U21s down England youngsters
March 18, 2005

Scotland produced supremely dedicated and determined rugby in the under-21 international against England in ideal conditions this evening at Franklin's Gardens, Northampton.

The result was a hard, fiercely contested match and, more important, a famous victory that took the Scots into third place in the final table in the championship.

It was only the second time Scotland had beaten the Auld Enemy at this level. Both victories have been away from home - the first two years ago in the under-21 world championship match in Newbury.

Also, following on from wins against Ireland and Italy last month, both at home, this has been the first season in which Scotland have won three matches against the five other European nations. Those three wins will be beneficial to the Scots in the seedings for the world championship in Argentina in June.

John Jeffrey, Scotland's team manager, was, of course, highly complimentary about his players. "They've got attitude, he commented. "They're not happy just to put on the Scotland jersey. They want to improve."

"It was a big game live on TV," he added. "They showed they want to do it."

It was a particularly hard match with plenty of injury stoppages. But that did not deter the Scots. "There was a lot of bottle out there," was the former Scotland flanker's pointed summary.

Sky TV's commentators voted Scott Forrest, the winners' No.8, as the man of the match. It was his second such award in this championship, adding to the accolade from the press reporting the win against Ireland at Falkirk last month.

Forrest excelled in close-quarter commitment, not least in securing good possession from any threatened scrummage. In that, though, his back-row colleagues, Colin White and Neil Cochrane, deserved credit as well in alliance with A J McFarlane.

Reviewing thoughts turned also to the work of McFarlane and David Blair in cover defence. Then similar memories, augmenting notes, come spilling back in the mind about the quality of the Scots' committed rugby in swarming defence.

It was thus understandable why their team manager declined to identify any player for specific compliments. "From one to fifteen, I want everyone to get credit," he said.

The tone of the game was set in the first 10 minutes or so. England could hammer away as much as they liked, but Scotland would respond in kind and take their chances. So they did with a Ben Addison try after nine minutes.

Tom Varndell had already threatened twice for England down the left touchline. But when the Scots turned over a ruck on halfway McFarlane struck a finely judged kick deep to the right. Garry Law chased to hack ahead, and Addison scored, though the try was awarded only after an anxious wait while the referee called for a decision from his colleague with the aid of a TV screen.

Blair added the conversion, and Scotland held the lead until deep into injury time. Ben Foden replied with a try when the Scots, with a rare mistake, lost a turn-over in their own 22. But Toby Flood missed the conversion, and that was to prove vital in the final count with the Scots' two-point winning margin.

Blair and Flood traded penalty goals for 10-8 to the Scots after 33 minutes. Sean Tomes was sin-binned for obstruction, the infringement from which Flood kicked that goal, but Scotland conceded nothing more during the lock's absence.

Indeed, the Scots had chances even while short-handed. Nick De Luca's chip ahead forced Varndell to save under severe pressure, and Law was wide with a long-range drop kick. Conversely, the Scots twice denied Varndell before Flood kicked his second penalty goal ... after six minutes of injury time.

England thus led 11-10 at the interval, but the Scots' commitment continued after the interval. Blair was almost over at the posts from his own break, but he took the Scots back into the lead at 16-11 with two more penalty goals, the second of those following excellent lead-up by Addison, Blair, Steven Manning, and Forrest.

Flood cut the margin back to two points with another penalty goal on the hour. David Seymour then threatened twice on thrusts into the visitors' 22, and Flood's well judged kick into the right corner set up the position for a fourth goal by the stand-off himself.

But back came the Scots. Maul offside allowed Blair to kick his fourth penalty goal, stretching his match haul to 14 points, and the visitors held out, though only just. Michael Cusack was held up over the line, all credit to a Scot who was anonymous in the pile-up, and Flood missed a drop at goal under fierce pressure four minutes into added time.

By then, the Scottish victory was only a few seconds away.

England's Under-21 players won the praise of team manager Pete Drewett and coach Jim Mallinder for the way they responded to the injuries sustained by team-mate Matt Hampson as they ended their Six Nations campaign with defeat at Northampton this evening.

England's players voted unanimously to fulfil the fixture as a gesture of support for Hampson, of Leicester Tigers, who suffered serious neck injuries in a training ground injury on Tuesday.

"Our thoughts are with Matt and his family and there have been moments of reflection this week, " Drewett said.

"We have had to take into account a wide range of emotions but the players felt very strongly about wanting to support Matt and his family and playing this game was part of that.

"I am very proud of how the players handled a very difficult situation."
The England players had the initials MH embroidered under the red rose on their jerseys as another gesture of support for Hampson and they showed a professional attitude in retaining their focus against a lively Scotland side.

But they could not deliver the victory they wanted as a further tribute to Hampson as Blair kicked his fourth and final penalty just two minutes from time.

Defeat was a disappointment for England but Mallinder echoed Drewett's sentiments. "I am really proud of the way the lads have handled themselves this week," he said. "They always wanted to play this game for Matt and they went out and played some cracking rugby."

England Under-21 - Olly Morgan (Gloucester); Tom Biggs (Leeds Tykes), Matt Cornwell (Leicester Tigers), Simon Whatling (Worcester), Tom Varndell (Leicester Tigers); Toby Flood (Newcastle Falcons), Lee Dickson (Newcastle Falcons); Michael Cusack (Leeds Tykes), Neil Briggs (Rotherham), Wayne Thompson (Bristol), Richard Blaze (Worcester), Sean Cox (Sale Sharks), Tom Rees (London Wasps) captain, James Haskell (London Wasps), David Seymour (Saracens). Substitutes - Ben Foden (Sale Sharks) for Dickson (22-27 minutes and 53), David Ward (Bath) for Briggs (23-35 and 53), Tom Ryder (Leicester Tigers) for Blaze (60), Ryan Davis (Bath) for Whatling (60), Mark Hopley (Worcester) for Haskell (74), Mark Hopley (Worcester), Ross Broadfoot (Leicester Tigers) for Cornwell (76), Martin Halsall (Sale Sharks) for Thompson (84).
Try, Foden; penalty goals, Flood (4).

Scotland Under-21 - Alan Nash (Watsonians and East of Scotland Institute of Sport); Ben Addison (Stirling County and Central Scotland Institute of Sport), Nick De Luca (Heriot's and East of Scotland Institute of Sport), Garry Law (Hawick and East of Scotland Institute of Sport), Steven Manning (Ayr); David Blair (Sale Sharks), Alasdhair McFarlane (GHA); Stuart Corsar (Aberdeen GSFP and Grampian Institute of Sport), Ross Ford (The Borders and Scottish Institute of Sport), Willie Blacklock (Hawick), Ian Nimmo (Heriot's and Tayside & Fife Institute of Sport), Sean Tomes (Newcastle Falcons), Colin White (Stirling County and Central Scotland Institute of Sport), Scott Forrest (Glasgow Hawks and West of Scotland Institute of Sport), Neil Cochrane (Watsonians and East of Scotland Institute of Sport) captain. Substitutes - Douglas Flockhart (Currie) for Nash (43), John Beattie (Glasgow Rugby, GHA, and West of Scotland Institute of Sport) for Nimmo (53), Ben Di Rollo (Watsonians) for Manning (67), Stuart Fenwick (Ayr) for Corsar (72). Not used - Steven Lawrie (Watsonians and East of Scotland Institute of Sport), Grant Strang (Aberdeen GSFP and Grampian Institute of Sport), Richard Snedden (Currie).
Try, Addison; conversion, Blair; penalty goals, Blair (4).

Referee - Franck Maciello (France).

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