Rugby World Cup 2011: England 16-12 Scotland

By Tom FordyceChief sports writer at Eden Park, Auckland
Chris Ashton scores England's winning try
Ashton dives over to score England's winning try with three minutes left

England stumbled into the World Cup quarter-finals and almost certainly put Scotland out after an error-ridden victory at Eden Park.

Scotland needed a victory by eight points to have a realistic chance of progressing to the knock-out stages, and for long periods of a ferocious contest looked as if they might pull it off.

But two penalties and a drop-goal from Jonny Wilkinson, despite a host of other wayward attempts, plus a late try from Chris Ashton were enough to send a misfiring England through.

Scotland must now hope Georgia produce a huge upset and beat Argentina by at least eight points in Sunday's final Pool B match to prevent them failing to make the last eight for the first time in World Cup history.

England can look forward to a quarter-final next weekend against a similarly struggling France, a reward they scarcely deserve on the evidence of this disjointed display.

With rain lashing across the ground at kick-off and every man in Auckland seemingly either English-born or supporting Scotland, Eden Park was transformed into Murrayfield in March.

Fly-half Ruaridh Jackson departed early with injury but Chris Paterson nailed a penalty from wide out left to give Scotland an early lead, and Jackson's replacement Dan Parks added three more points with a penalty which skimmed over the crossbar.

England were shipping penalties at an alarming rate - five in the first 15 minutes alone - and with Wilkinson missing three long-distance pots of his own in the first 20 minutes, the alarm bells began to ring for Martin Johnson's men.

It took until the 33rd minute for England to get on the scoreboard, Wilkinson finally finding his range from out left, but a knock-on from James Haskell from the re-start put his team straight back under pressure.

England were ponderous with ball in hand, their runners static when taking the ball and their lines obvious, while their front row struggled badly in the scrum.

Scotland, so disappointing in defeat to Argentina a week ago, tryless against the comparative minnows of Georgia, carried all the menace and mobility.

Scotland had the territory and the momentum, forcing England into almost twice as many tackles and rattling them repeatedly at set-pieces.

Matt Stevens was crumpled by Euan Murray in another scrum, allowing Parks to kick for the corner, and when Richie Gray's clean take from the subsequent line-out set up a series of drives under the posts, Parks was back in the pocket to belt over a drop-goal to make it 9-3 at the interval.

Sent back out by Johnson with fire in their bellies, England at last began to threaten as Manu Tuilagi smashed Sean Lamont and then sent Delon Armitage racing down the left touchline.

A sniping run from Ben Youngs took England deep into Scotland territory again, and when Wilkinson was fed the ball with time and space in front of the posts the lead looked certain to be cut to just three.

But the World Cup winning veteran's left boot was awry again, the attempt sliced horribly wide of the left upright, and the saltires were waving aloft again a moment later when a long pass in the England midfield was picked off to almost offer up a breakaway try.

It then took a desperate piece of defending from Ben Foden to deny Scotland a try in the left-hand corner, the full-back reaching out an arm to knock the ball from Simon Danielli's grasp, Nick de Luca knocking on with the line at his mercy.

But another infringement at the scrum offered Paterson the chance to extend the lead further, and the full-back curled his penalty over to make it 12-3.

That scoreline had Scotland going through, only for Wilkinson to belt over a defiant drop-goal from distance with his right boot with 22 minutes left to throw his team a World Cup lifeline.

Another Wilkinson attempt was charged down before a fine clearing run and kick from Ashton and burgled Scottish line-out worked a penalty chance from wide left.

Wilkinson curled the ball between the uprights to make it 9-12 and launch the first chorus of "Swing Low" all evening long, only to come up short from near halfway as the game became increasingly ragged.

Tom Croft's covering dive denied Gray in the corner from Parks' astute cross-kick before Joe Ansbro almost wriggled clear on the left wing.

But with England trailing 9-12 and the game entering its final moments, replacement Toby Flood threw a fine miss-pass out to Ashton on the right wing, and the Northampton man dived over to end Scotland's hopes, Flood adding the extras from the touchline.

England team: B Foden; C Ashton, M Tuilagi, M Tindall, D Armitage; J Wilkinson, B Youngs; M Stevens, S Thompson, D Cole, L Deacon, C Lawes, T Croft, L Moody (capt), J Haskell. Replacements: Easter for Moody (53), Palmer for Lawes (56), Hartley for Thompson (67), Flood for Tindall (71), Corbisiero for Stevens (72), Wigglesworth for Youngs (73), Banahan for Wilkinson (75),

Scotland team: C Paterson; M Evans, J Ansbro, S Lamont, S Danielli; R Jackson, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, E Murray, R Gray, A Kellock (capt), A Strokosch, J Barclay, R Vernon. Replacements: Parks for Jackson (4), De Luca for Evans (40), Hines for Strokosch (64), Rennie for Barclay (64), Dickinson for Jacobsen (67), Cusiter for Blair (71). Not Used: S. Lawson.

Ref: Craig Joubert (South Africa).

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