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Saturday, February 20, 1999 Published at 21:30 GMT

England edge Twickenham thriller

Tim Rodber breaks through a tackle to score the opening try

England 24-21 Scotland

England kicked off their Five Nations campaign in nail-biting style, with a narrow victory over Scotland in a gripping Calcutta Cup clash at Twickenham.

BBC Radio 5 Live's Ian Robertson reports from Twickenham
The result keeps England's Grand Slam dream alive - but for long periods of the second half it looked as though a resilient Scotland side were about to pull off one of the most sensational Five Nations upsets for years.

In Saturday's other game, Wales crashed to their second defeat - a late surge not enough to stop Ireland taking the spoils 23-29 at Wembley.

Lawrence Dallaglio: "A lot of hard work ahead" (BBC Radio 5 Live)
Scotland have not won at Twickenham since 1983, but three times England's defence was devastated with exhilarating tries from their midfield runners as they pushed the favourites to the wire.

But Clive Woodward's team, who passed up the chance to kick their way to victory with a succession of penalties, hung on grimly at the death.

If Kenny Logan had proved more clinical with the boot, Scotland's brave efforts would have been rewarded with their second successive victory.

As it was England's exhausted players were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief following a stuttering display.

England threaten early rout

The Scots, who stunned Wales with a try after just 10 seconds a fortnight ago, again sprinted out of the blocks.

But this time their early attack failed to translate into points as Logan missed with a straightforward penalty.

And England immediately made them pay for Logan's profligacy with the first try of the game.

[ image: Paul Burnell hangs onto the ball under Neil Back's watchful eye]
Paul Burnell hangs onto the ball under Neil Back's watchful eye
It was the awesome English pack that did the damage, with a sprint through the Scottish ranks from No.8 Richard Hill setting up a line-out in the corner. From the throw, the forwards piled on the pressure and gradually wore down Scotland's defence, allowing Tim Rodber to crash over.

Jonny Wilkinson, on his Five Nations debut, settled any first-night nerves with a cleanly hit conversion to make it 7-0 after seven minutes.

The next score was the epitome of the total rugby Woodward wants his team to play.

Luger started and finished a rampaging move that stretched the Scots from one side of the pitch to the other. The back row was again to the fore, as Hill and Neil Back punched holes in the midfield to send the left wing over in the corner.

[ image: Two try Alan Tait breaks through]
Two try Alan Tait breaks through
Scotland were now in danger of being swamped. But they took advantage of an English error to force their way back into the contest with a superb try in the 26th minute.

From a line-out deep in the home side's territory, Lawrence Dallaglio failed to get a clean connection and Scotland snatched the loose ball from Matt Dawson's grasp.

Fly-half Gregor Townsend danced through the English ranks and a quick exchange of passes set up Alan Tait, who sprinted in to score under the posts.

But Logan missed another penalty and predictably England stormed back. Scotland strayed off-side on their own line to allow Wilkinson to slot an easy penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Tait's double delight

But Scotland were not out of the contest and, with Scott Murray in gigantic form in the line-out, they barged back into the game after the break.

[ image: Richard Hill launches an assault on Scotland territory]
Richard Hill launches an assault on Scotland territory
Much had been made before the match of the battle between the centre pairings and another brilliant score gave the Scots the edge in that particular tussle.

John Leslie produced a decoy run and Gary Armstrong popped the ball up to outside centre Tait, who scythed through England's despairing tackles to claim his second try of the match and reduce the lead to just three points at 17-14.

England had another escape, as Nick Beal, who looked nervy at full-back throughout, conceded a penalty, which Logan was again unable to nail from long range.

A tense period seemed to have handed the advantage to the visitors, but it was England who claimed what proved to be the decisive score after 67 minutes. Dawson launched a sniping run from the base of the scrum and Beal, coming into the line, atoned for his earlier lapses with a piece of blistering finishing.

But England's errors so nearly proved their undoing. Fly-half Mike Catt took his eye off the ball after a pass from replacement Kyran Bracken, and arch opportunist Townsend plucked it from his hands and raced 30 yards to score.

In the last few tense minutes Scotland gamely hunted for the score that would take them into the lead for the first time.

But England proved they can at least protect a lead and victory was secured.

Twickenham teams:

England: Beal; Rees, Wilkinson, Guscott, Luger; Catt, Dawson; Leonard, Cockerill, Garforth, Johnson, Rodber, Dallaglio (capt), Back, Hill.

Replacements: Perry, Grayson, Bracken, Corry, Grewcock, Rowntree, McCarthy.

Scotland: Metcalfe; Murray, J Leslie, Tait; Logan; Townsend, Armstrong (capt); Smith, Bulloch, Burnell; Murray, Grimes, Walton, M Leslie, Peters.

Replacements: Longstaff, Chalmers, Fairley, Pountney, Reed, Hilton, Brotherstone.

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