Scotland V England
Scotland posted their first victory over England in ten years amid tumultuous scenes at BT Murrayfield this evening.
Three beautifully crafted tries to one, a performance of huge heart, hunger and invention – that was utterly indicative of the supreme qualities that characterised head coach Gregor Townsend as a player.
But it was passion with a calm persona and unyielding physicality too, epitomised by a second half penalty count where Scotland only conceded two penalties to the eight of the thoroughly rattled England.
There were heroes aplenty in Scotland colours as England’s Grand Slam ambitions were spectacularly derailed. An England side that had lost only once in the Championship since Jones made his bow in this competition in the white of England some two years ago.
The lead from John Barclay was phenomenal, Finn Russell was at his best and it was one of those days that will be forever etched in the memory as Scotland lodged their Championship chasing desires for all to see.
Scotland Head Coach Gregor Townsend said: “The preparation this week has been excellent, the players knew the game that we wanted to play in attack and defence.
“We knew we had the weapons to shock England and disrupt their game and (we) executed it well today so I’m very proud.”
Scotland kicked off towards the railway end and Finn Russell’s first touch with hand was a sweet miss-pass to Sean Maitland. As Scotland recycled, Huw Jones’ kick-ahead was well policed by England but Grant Gilchrist got over ball at a subsequent ruck and England were penalised for holding on. Greig Laidlaw goaled, a great start for the hosts. (3-0, 3 mins).
England countered through a Nathan Hughes charge but when they sought to go through the phases into Scotland’s 22, they transgressed at a ruck.
The game continued at a cracking lick and Tommy Seymour had a scamper up the right before Stuart McInally thundered into the visitors’ 22, where Chris Robshaw’s work at breakdown earned England a penalty.
Mike Brown sent Jonny May on a touchline burst before Scotland loitered after a tackle on Owen Farrell, who then stepped up to level the scores (3-3, 13 mins).
BT Murrayfield erupted two minutes later as Scotland scored their first try on home soil against England in 14 years.
A lineout was driven from just outside the 22 and with referee Nigel Owens signalling a penalty advantage to Scotland, McInally unleashed to his half-backs and Russell prodded the ball forward inducing some guddling on the deck from England’s centres, Huw Jones, try sniffer extraordinaire, was on hand to collect and scoot home from eight metres for his ninth try for Scotland. Laidlaw converted (10-3, 16 mins).
From the kick-off, Scotland were penalised for being in an obstructive position and Farrell immediately pulled back three points (10-6, 18 mins).
Russell, with one lovely cross field touch-finder and then another miss-pass to the persistently threatening Jones had enjoyed his opening quarter.
There was a sense England were looking to crank it up through their pack but the second turnover penalty won by Barclay close to his own 22 was quickly tapped and Maitland had a dart up the touchline. Pete Horne rescued and then Russell, at this most cavalier, threw an exquisite pass to Jones. The centre romped into the 22, Scotland recycled and Ryan Wilson, Barclay, Laidlaw and McInally played critical roles in sustaining the move before Russell, with yet another miss-one pass, found Maitland for the most glorious of tries.
Maitland scored against England on his debut in 2013 at Twickenham and it was his third try in successive BT Murrayfield outings and his eighth overall for Scotland. Laidlaw could not land the difficult touchline conversion (15-6, 30 mins).
If that was stunning, Scotland’s third try was remarkable. Barclay had thumped on off a lineout ball – that he had set up through yet another piece of burglary at the breakdown that England had thwarted illegally.
Laidlaw then found Huw Jones and unerringly the centre burst the first line of defence between Hughes and Farrell and then had the pace and strength to carry Mike Brown and Anthony Watson over the line with him. It was try number ten for Jones. What a strike rate! Laidlaw converted (22-6, 38 mins).
Half-time: Scotland 22 England 6
The second-half started with a response from England that had to be expected but after Mike Ford and Jonny May had menaced on the left Scotland again counter-rucked with such vigour that they secured another invaluable turnover, within sniffing distance of their try line.
England however were not to be denied and Farrell was released on the narrow side of a ruck by Danny Care to canter in for their first try of the day. Farrell converted (22-13, 43 mins).
England were penalised for slowing up ball at a ruck as they sought to capitalise on an interception through Care. Instead, from five metres inside the England half, Stuart Hogg lined up a kick at goal, which drifted to the right of the posts.
The game continued to bubble like some intoxicating elixir and Scotland seemed to have created an opening only for Hamish Watson to fail to latch onto a pass that lacked sympathy from Horne.
Farrell’s dominance of the England scoresheet looked to have continued as from Lawes’ tackle on Barclay, Anthony Watson led the chase and Farrell grounded the ball. However, TMO Simon McDowell ruled that Lawes’ forearm had knocked the ball forward and play was brought back into then England half for a scrum feed for Scotland.
Ball was a slow commodity from breakdown but after a pirouette in midfield from Wilson, Scotland got the precious manna of quick ball. Hogg and Maitland combined on the left touchline but the move foundered on English defence.
Scotland’s discipline had been better than England’s and another breakdown penalty on their ten-metre line enabled Scotland to find touch midway in English territory.
Almost on cue a penalty against England’s back-row replacement Sam Underhill for a blatant body check on Jamie Bhatti – a yellow card was the immediate consequence – saw Russell extract maximum mileage with his first penalty of the game (25-13, 66 mins).
In a frantic finale England threw the kitchen sink to try to pulverise their way to a score but Scotland’s defence was unrelenting and in the 125th playing of the Calcutta Cup the most venerable of trophies – first presented in 1879 – will join the Century Quaich, the Hopetoun Cup and Auld Alliance trophy in the BT Murrayfield cabinet!
What a day!
Full-time: Scotland 25 England 13
Scotland: Stuart Hogg; Tommy Seymour, Huw Jones, Pete Horne (all Glasgow Warriors), Sean Maitland (Saracens); Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors), Greig Laidlaw (Clermont Auvergne); Gordon Reid (London Irish), Stuart McInally, Simon Berghan, Grant Gilchrist (all Edinburgh Rugby), Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors), John Barclay (Scarlets) CAPTAIN, Hamish Watson (Edinburgh Rugby), Ryan Wilson (Glasgow Warriors). Subs: Scott Lawson (Newcastle Falcons), Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) for Reid (55 mins), Willem Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) for Berghan (69 mins), Tim Swinson (Glasgow Warriors) for Gilchrist (55 mins), Dave Denton (Worcester Warriors) for Wilson (69 mins), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors) for Laidlaw (62 mins), Nick Grigg (Glasgow Warriors) for Horne (71 mins), Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) for Seymour (64 mins).
England: Mike Brown; Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Owen Farrell, Jonny May; George Ford, Danny Care; Mako Vunipola, Dylan Hartley captain, Dan Cole, Joe Launchbury, Maro Itoje, Courtney Lawes, Chris Robshaw, Nathan Hughes. Subs: Jamie George for Hartley (56 mins), Joe Marler for Vunipola (69 mins), Harry Williams for Cole (65 mins), George Kruis for Launchbury (71 mins), Sam Underhill for Hughes (53 mins) Richard Wigglesworth for Care (71 mins), Ben Te’o for Ford (65 mins), Jack Nowell for Brown (55 mins).
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Jerome Garces (France) and Andrew Brace (Ireland).
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
NatWest Man of the Match: Finn Russell (Scotland)