Mon, Feb 23, 2004 - Page 20 News List

England and France still not in top form

REUTERS , LONDON

Scotland's Brendan Laney, front, is tackled by England's Will Greenwood a Six Nations match in, Edinburgh, Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

England and France secured their expected Six Nations victories on Saturday but both sides looked disjointed as the world champions beat Scotland 35-13 in Edinburgh while the French overcame Italy 25-0 in Paris.

England made it 15 wins from their last 16 games against the Scots to retain the Calcutta Cup but even though they scored four tries it was one of their least convincing performances of the last few years.

It was a similar story in a stuttering French display at the Stade de France where tries in either half by Imanol Harinordoquy and a late one from Pepito Elhorga secured victory over an Italian side who defended well all match.

England and France both have four points from two wins but Wales could join them on Sunday with a win over Ireland in Dublin in what is likely to be the tightest game of the weekend.

The Murrayfield clash started messily and remained so for almost the entire 80 minutes as Scotland produced a much-improved performance after last week's poor 23-10 defeat by Wales.

Ben Cohen scored the opening try after a lucky bounce and Iain Balshaw added a second with the Scots appealing in vain for a knock-on in the build-up.

Flyhalf Paul Grayson, again covering smoothly for the absent Jonny Wilkinson, converted both and added two penalties and with Chris Paterson landing two penalties for the hosts, England led 20-6 at the break.

The scruffy nature of the match continued in the second half, Josh Lewsey claiming England's third try after charging down a Chris Paterson kick and Simon Danielli replying for Scotland after another fortunate bounce.

It was Scotland's first try against England since Duncan Hodge scored in their 2000 victory but it counted for little as, with the hosts down to 10 men after a yellow card for Simon Taylor, lock Danny Grewcock charged over for England's fourth.

It was England's highest score in 133 years of playing in Scotland.

In Paris, rushed passes, dropped ball and a general impatience put paid to much of France's early dominance, though Harinordoquy finally found a way through on the left wing after 24 minutes.

Jean-Baptiste Elissalde, who scored an early penalty, converted for a 10-0 halftime lead, increased to 13-0 with a long-range penalty by Damien Traille early in the second.

The crowd were then treated to one of the biggest blunders of recent seasons when Christophe Dominici dropped the ball when trying to touch down one-handed after crossing the line unopposed.

Harinordoquy was more secure when he dived over for his second try on the hour while Elhorga ran 50m down the right touchline for the third eight minutes from time.

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