Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 18 News List

Scotland overcomes England

RUGBY INTERNATIONALS In Six Nations action the Scots won 18-12, while France easily beat Italy 37-12

AP , LONDONAP, WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

England's Josh Lewsey, center, beats the Scotland defense during their Six Nations rugby union match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland, Saturday. Scotland defeated England 18-12.

PHOTO: AFP

Scotland wrecked England's Grand Slam hopes with an 18-12 triumph and France beat Italy 37-12 on Saturday as the Six Nations championship race was thrown wide open.

After five losses to England in a row, Scotland outkicked Andy Robinson's team at Murrayfield, with Chris Paterson making five penalties out of five and Dan Parks landing a drop goal. All England had to offer in reply were four Charlie Hodgson penalties.

Bernard Laporte's French team made it two victories in a row after its surprise loss to Scotland, while Italy is last in the standings with no points from three games.

Ireland hosts Wales on Sunday with both teams 1-1 so far in the championship and, unless it's a tie at Lansdowne Road, the results mean three teams will be 2-1 going into the fourth round March 11-12. Those matches are Ireland vs. Scotland, Wales vs. Italy and France vs. England.

The only team in Grand Slam contention after victories over Wales and Italy, England went to Edinburgh a strong favorite but was defied by some standout Scottish tackling and forward play.

Although England led 6-3 early in the second half, the advantage was short-lived as Paterson's accurate kicking underlined the fact that the Scots enjoyed far more possession, especially in the English half.

"I'm so proud. This was an awesome, absolutely sensational defensive effort," Scotland coach Frank Hadden said. "The commitment that the boys showed was absolutely fantastic.

"Make no mistake England played pretty well today. England get a lot of criticism for the style which they play but they are so difficult to play against. They hold up the ball for such long spells but our defense was just magnificent," he said.

England coach Andy Robinson said the result showed that, this season, there is not a lot to choose between any of the Six Nations teams.

"All these games are very competitive," Robinson said. "Only one side have won away from home so far in the tournament, and that's us. Scotland managed the game better than us today, and that was the difference.

"We're going to reflect on the whole game and we need to do that. On a couple of occasions we opened Scotland up, but it's really just a question of taking our chances."

France scored 29 unanswered points in the second half to turn around a 12-8 halftime deficit against an Italian team coached by former France captain and coach Pierre Berbizier.

For the third game in a row, the Italians held the lead but wound up losing. They led Ireland 13-10 before losing 26-16 and England 9-7 ahead of a 31-16 defeat.

This time, Berbizier's team was four points ahead at halftime at the Stade de France only for France to take over with second-half tries by Yannick Nyanga, Pieter de Villiers, Aurelien Rougerie and Frederic Michalak.

Flyhalf Ramiro Pez had threatened an upset with some strong kicking, scoring three penalties and a 45m drop goal. The only try of the first half came from French No. 8 Thomas Lievremont.

"Italy caused us a lot of problems but we came back and that is a good sign for our next match against England," said France fullback Thomas Castaignede, whose burst set up Nyanga's try to put his team ahead.

"At this level, whoever you play, you must do everything right and we didn't today. We didn't play well in the first half when we made mistakes," he said.

The Canterbury Crusaders rallied late for a 22-20 victory over South Africa's Sharks on Saturday, keeping it within a point of the Wellington Hurricanes while the Auckland Blues, Otago Highlanders and Bulls also won close games to improve their standing in rugby's Super 14.

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