It would be wrong to blame Dan Parks entirely for yet another poor, tryless performance by Scotland; after all he was off the pitch for the last quarter of the game.
It wasn’t him that dropped Richie Gray’s off load with the English defence all but broken. It wasn’t him who failed to get the pass away to either of either Greg Laidlaw or Mike Blair who had the line at their mercy. That was the two flankers, Alasdair Strokosch and Ross Rennie, respectively
And although it was his clearance kick that Charlie Hodgson charged down for the decisive try, even that could, on a bad day, happen to anyone, especially if they tend to take rather too long for comfort to get their kicks away and generally kick with a low trajectory that can be charged down without needing to be too close. Even so, if Parks ever gets picked as first choice fly half for Scotland again, coach Andy Robinson’s reputation as a great coach but a lousy selector could be set in stone for ever.
Parks was picked for his tactical acumen, his reading of the game and for his supposed pin-point accuracy kicking out of hand. Instead, a series of aimless kicks, giving English defenders all the time in the world to gather and counterattack, were one of the key reasons why England had more than 70% of the territory in the first 20 minutes of the game.
This was supposed to be the 20 minutes of chaos that Robinson had promised and chaos there was aplenty. The trouble was it was in the Scotland ranks not the English ones as Parks, in addition to the hapless positional kicking, missed touch with a penalty, threw passes wildly behind him and at one stage, actually side-stepped a tackle, only to be so surprised at himself that he clearly had no idea what to do next.
Instead, the supposedly wet-behind-the-ears England neophytes were able to settle, to hush the Murrayfield roar and even get their noses briefly in front with the first score of the game, a Farrell penalty.
The irony is that the records will show that Parks did actually score Scotland’s only points in this Calcutta Cup defeat. But is there anyone, Robinson possibly apart, who thinks that Scotland were more of a threat when he was on the field than they were when Greg Laidlaw came on? Laidlaw turned out to be the only Scottish player to cross the line, following up his own neat little chip and very nearly squeezing in for the touchdown, though as far as one could see from the television replays - and that’s all that the TMO has - the TMO was right not to award the try.
Parks or not, quite what Robinson has to do to stop whoever he selects making simple handling errors in attack is anybody’s guess. Scotland had more than enough possession and territory to win this game several times over. But time and again moves broke down or were slowed to the point where they lost any momentum from the simplest of errors.
On the bright side, David Denton showed some purposeful touches and was rightly judged Man of the Match, relatively unusual for someone on the losing side. Transport problems prevented me from being at the game in person but that meant I had the benefit of the television summariser and so Man of the Match judge, who on this occasion was the former England hooker Brian Moore. Few people read the game better. He didn’t think much of Parks either.