Joseph leads England to Six Nations title in Scotland rout

Julian GUYER
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England's centre Jonathan Joseph scores his team's first try during their Six Nations international rugby union match against Scotland at Twickenham stadium in south west London on March 11, 2017

Jonathan Joseph scored a hat-trick as England retained their Six Nations title with a 61-21 rout of Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday which also equalled New Zealand's record of 18 successive wins by a 'tier one' nation.

A rampant England ran in seven tries in total against a Scotland side who had arrived in London bidding for the Triple Crown and with hopes of a first Twickenham victory since 1983.

England's points tally was also the most either side had managed in the 135-match history of rugby union's oldest fixture and saw them equal their record 40-point margin of victory against the Scots set in a 43-3 success in 2001.

England had not led at half-time in any of their previous matches this Six Nations but were all but, in their best display of the season, were out of sight at 30-7 ahead at the break

Owen Farrell, passed fit shortly before kick-off following a leg injury, converted all seven tries and kicked four penalties for a match haul of 26 points.

Scotland did manage three converted tries, prop Gordon Reid going over in the first half before centre Huw Jones crossed twice after the break.

But Joseph completed his treble early in the second half before the strength of England's bench came to the fore.

Powerhouse No 8 Billy Vunipola needed just five minutes of his Test comeback following a knee injury to score a try before replacement scrum-half Danny Care crossed twice late on to seal an emphatic win.

England will surpass the world champion All Blacks' record if they beat Ireland in Dublin in the final match of the Six Nations next weekend -- a match where a victory will also see Eddie Jones's men complete back-to-back Grand Slams.

"I was really pleased with our effort and now the focus is on the Grand Slam next weekend," Jones, yet to lose a match as England coach, told ITV.

"I have to give credit to the players, they have worked hard and learned new things."

Meanwhile, a delighted Joseph added: "Credit to the boys, I just ran the lines outside what they created and the holes were there for me."

Dejected Scotland captain John Barclay slammed his side's display, saying: "We are trying to move away from the tag of plucky losers but that wasn't even that. We were useless."

England kicked off this Calcutta Cup clash knowing any kind of win would see them crowned Six Nations champions after Wales beat Ireland 22-9 in Cardiff on Friday.

Scotland were fortunate that hooker Fraser Brown was not sent off as early as the second minute for a dangerous, late tackle on Elliot Daly, with French referee Mathieu Raynal deciding a yellow card was sufficient punishment.

- Damage limitation -

But no sooner had Scotland been reduced to 14 men, than Joseph, recalled in place of Ben Te'o following the 36-15 win over Italy, scored a third-minute try.

The ball was spun wide and Joseph's run saw him beat opposing centre Alex Dunbar.

England, with flanker Maro Itoje making ground and Joseph continuing to cause problems, then won two close-range penalties which Farrell kicked to extend their lead to 13-0 as early as the 15th minute.

Scotland then saw star fullback Stuart Hogg leave the field for a head injury assessment, with his replacement Mark Bennett soon forced off with a leg injury.

In the midst of the disruption, Joseph scored his second try when another well-timed run saw him slice through yet more weak defence.

The Scots got on the scoreboard just before the half hour when Reid burrowed over after his side had declined a kickable penalty.

But Farrell added another penalty and England had a third try in the 35th minute.

Farrell released Joseph with a well-timed pass and he in turn found Anthony Watson, on for the injured Daly, who sped over against an overwhelmed Scotland defence.

Joseph completed his hat-trick early in the second half when another well-judged run saw him go over off the back of a close-range ruck.

Farrell converted and added another penalty to leave England in command at 40-7.

Huw Jones did reduce England's lead he crossed for a 50th-minute try, fly-half Finn Russell again converting, but Scotland were now in damage-limitation mode.

Billy Vunipola charged over from a line-out drive in the 58th minute before Huw Jones grabbed his second score.

But Care's two late tries, a dart followed by the scrum-half crowning a prolonged period of possession, emphasised England's dominance.