England edges Scotland to advance to quarterfinals
Updated: October 01, 2011, 05:41
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AUCKLAND, New Zealand(AP) Chris Ashton dived into the right corner three minutes from fulltime to ensure England progressed to the World Cup quarterfinals with a 16-12 comeback win on Saturday that broke Scottish hearts.
Scotland played with passion and courage and punched above its weight, leading all the way until the 78th minute when Ashton took advantage of an overlap and crossed out wide. Replacement flyhalf Tony Flood converted from the sideline to put a nail into Scotland's coffin at the World Cup.
The Scots needed to win by eight points to ensure progression and held a nine-point cushion at 12-3 in the 56th before the English rallied with a dropped goal and a penalty from Jonny Wilkinson, who landed only two of his six shots at goal and also missed two dropped goals.
Wilkinson missed a chance to equalize in the 68th and, when England was awarded a penalty in kicking range late, skipper Lewis Moody opted to kick for touch and a lineout. The decision paid off when the English backs spread it wide to produce the only try of the first Anglo-Scottish clash on neutral soil, stunning a 58,213-strong crowd at Eden Park which got right behind the underdog Scots.
Scotland earned a bonus point for losing by fewer than seven points, but now its bid to extend its unbroken streak of quarterfinal appearances relies on Georgia producing an unlikely upset win over Argentina on Sunday.
The England-Scotland encounter is the oldest in international rugby and lived up to its billing for excitement, despite the lack of tries.
England now has 69 wins in 129 tests dating to 1871 and has won both World Cup encounters - the previous being the 9-6 semifinal victory at Twickenham in 1991.
The Scots took a 9-3 lead into halftime when Dan Parks, who replaced starting flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson in the fifth minute, snapped a dropped goal from in front seconds before the break.
A light drizzle which made the field slippery and the ball greasy stopped just after kickoff.
Chris Paterson, the most capped World Cup player in Scotland history, opened the scoring with a penalty from the left touchline in the 9th and Parks just got his long-range shot over the crossbar into a stiff breeze - after it was referred for a video replay - to give Scotland a 6-0 lead after 17 minutes.
Wilkinson missed his first three shots at goal in another uncharacteristically bad performance with the boot before sailing one over in the 34th to cut the margin temporarily to three points.
Scotland used some unconventional lineout moves to retain possession and pinch a few of England's throw-ins, and scrumhalf Mike Blair had an inspirational impact with his busy work behind the sturdy pack.
The Scots attempted to shift the ball wide at every opportunity to break down an English defense that had conceded only one try in the tournament but never managed to cross the line, despite getting within inches a couple of times with some enterprising work on the wing by Simon Danielli.
But as the match wore on, the English ground Scotland down.
England captain Moody came back from the bloodbin in just enough time to make a try-saving swoop on an in-goal kick in the 66th with Scottish attackers bearing down on him.
Parks made a try-saving tackle on a runaway Delon Armitage in the left corner, but the Scots ran out of defenders when Ashton converted England's best scoring chance of the match.
England finished with four wins from four starts in Pool B after a shaky 13-9 opening win over Argentina, while Scotland finished with two wins and back-to-back losses after conceding a try in a late 13-12 defeat to the Pumas last weekend.
England 16 (Chris Ashton try; Jonny Wilkinson 2 penalties, drop goal, Toby Flood conversion), Scotland 12 (Dan Parks penalty, drop goal, Chris Paterson 2 penalties). HT: 3-9.