Scotland 20 England 17

Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup and made it back-to-back victories against England for the first time since 1984 in a pulsating winter’s day in front of a packed BT Murrayfield.

If the weather had been the proverbial four seasons in the space of an hour earlier, come the closing stages of the game, Scotland would ultimately unleash their own storm in the face of an English forward assault that truly meant business.

For the neutral or rugby purist there probably was not enough continuity to make this a stunning game.

But for the teams’ opening contest of the GUINNESS Six Nations Championship it had reams of quality and no shortage of courage and drama. It was another BT Murrayfield epic and saw Scotland post their third victory over England since 2018.

With Scotland trailing 10-17, 15 minutes before no-side, and England’s forwards seemingly exerting the sort of control that has quashed the spirit of other sides, you might have been forgiven for the home support feeling a bit deflated.

But the ambition of Finn Russell, firing kicks left then right and the tenacity of Darcy Graham, to set up a penalty try, brought the crowd into the contest big time.

A Russell penalty gave Scotland the lead and as the clock entered the red the tension was palpable. But it was Graham again with a turnover for the ages that brought the loudest roar of the night.

England kicked off to the railway end through Marcus Smith and controlled the opening exchanges in the face of strong Scottish engagement.

The first contact penalty went Scotland’s way in the third minute but a knock-on following Grant Gilchrist’s lineout take deprived the hosts the chance to build any momentum.

First scrum took up some three minutes. Two free-kicks against Scotland and then a penalty on the second reset.

England attacked right after ten minutes, and Max Malins seemed to have space outside Darcy Graham but Scotland’s defence held firm.

From the lineout Scotland threw long to Man of the Match Matt Fagerson who bulldozed forward and Ali Price cleared superbly to the half way.

Price then departed for an HIA to be replaced by new cap Ben White, who qualifies for Scotland through a paternal grandfather from Edinburgh.

A grand, rolling touchfinder from Stuart Hogg took Scotland to just outside the England 22 but a penalty for contact in the air allowed England to return to home territory.

In sharp contrast to the game at Twickenham last year, the early penalties were going against Scotland and when they were adjudged to have played Ben Youngs illegally at the breakdown, Smith stepped up to goal the opening points (0-3, 16 mins).

From a quick Scotland lineout, George Turner found Jamie Ritchie at the front. From the first phase, Scotland headed back to the East Stand touchline. White found Hogg and the captain’s slick service unleashed Graham. The diminutive winger toyed with Joe Marchant like a beast with his prey before his perfectly timed pass sent White in for quite a try just six minutes into his international career. Finn Russell struck a glorious conversion (7-3, 18 mins).

Price returned in the 24th minute as Scotland were awarded three penalties in quick succession. England continued to dominate territory, however, and opted to use the kick ahead frequently.

They chose the touchline after a penalty in their favour around the 10-metre line and their driving maul cranked ominously into gear but Scotland managed to hold up Henry Slade and his chums over the goal line.

Another penalty at contact, this time on the 22-metre line, enabled Smith to pull back three points (7-6, 34 mins).

Scotland sought to create off lineout ball and Duhan van der Merwe thundered off his wing, but another breakdown penalty halted that attack.

Another breakdown, another penalty, this time it was England going to deck and from the subsequent lineout Scotland released Hogg on the right and when ball was recycled England infringed. Russell was on target from 45 metres. (10-6, 40 mins).

Half-time: Scotland 10 England 6

Scotland emerged on top in the first little battle of the half, Price’s box-kick forcing a knock-on from Freddie Steward.

But the staccato nature of the contest continued as Gilchrist was penalised for obstruction as Graham sought to counter from a Youngs clearance.

Smith landed his third penalty from in front of the Scotland posts off another driving maul from the visitors (10-9, 47 mins).

England’s driving maul was the heart of their next score too. A scrum penalty against Scotland saw England go for ball at the tail to the lineout.

Once again, their pack surged forward and when they released ball on the blindside Smith sailed through for a well-crafted try. The stand-off missed the conversion (10-14, 53 mins).

Graham threatened in Scotland’s response and Pierre Schoeman also carried purposefully but Hogg had to look lively at the other end as England put boot to ball off a turnover.

On the hour mark, Scotland lost Jamie Ritchie to injury, replaced by his Edinburgh team-mate Magnus Bradbury.

Van der Merwe looked dangerous on a counter from his own 22 and the penalty against Hogg for going to deck seemed harsh.

England over-cooked the penalty to touch but, with their forwards counter-rucking furiously, it set up another close-range centre field penalty chance and Smith made no mistake (10-17, 63 mins).

The game then took a dramatic turn, Russell’s crossfield kick release Van Der Merwe on another pulverising sortie forward. When ball was recycled, Russell then fired the ball in the air to the opposite wing. It was then 5ft 8ins Graham versus 6ft Luke Cowan Dickie.

The English hooker got there – but at the expense of a knock-on.

After consultation with his TMO, referee O’Keefe ruled Cowan-Dickie’s knock-on to be deliberate issued a yellow card and a penalty try! (17-17, 67mins).

The crowd were now in full song and when Russell fired a grubber deep into the England 22, England had substitute Joe Marler throwing in at the lineout.

It did not go five and from the subsequent scrum, England were penalised. Russell stepped up to coolly regain the lead (20-17, 72 mins).

Scotland appeared to have earned another penalty opportunity inside the England 22 but it was reversed for a neck roll by Hamish Watson.

In the closing stages Sam Skinner won a priceless lineout against the throw and with the clock in the red, England had a scrum 35 metres out.

It was reset thrice before England opted to spread it. Scotland’s midfield stood firm and Darcy Graham latched on to ball for the most delicious turnover. Hogg blootered the ball into the North Stand and the Calcutta Cup remained at BT Murrayfield after the most astonishing final quarter.

Full-time: Scotland 20 England 17

Scotland: Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) CAPTAIN; Darcy Graham (Edinburgh Rugby), Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby), Sam Johnson (Glasgow Warriors), Duhan van der Merwe (Worcester Warriors); Finn Russell (Racing 92), Ali Price (Glasgow Warriors); Rory Sutherland (Worcester Warriors), George Turner, Zander Fagerson (both Glasgow Warriors), Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs), Grant Gilchrist, Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson (all Edinburgh Rugby), Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors).

Subs: Stuart McInally (Edinburgh Rugby) for Turner (51 mins), Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) for Sutherland (51mins) W P Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) and Zander Fagerson (51 mins), Sam Skinner (Exeter Chiefs) for Gray (63 mins), Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh Rugby) for Ritchie (59 mins), Ben White (London Irish) for Price (12-24 mins) and for Price (63 mins). Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby), Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) for Johnson (59 mins).

England: Freddie Steward; Max Malins, Elliot Daly, Henry Slade, Joe Marchant; Marcus Smith, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Nick Isiekwe, Lewis Ludlam, Tom Curry CAPTAIN, Sam Simmonds.

Subs: Jamie George for Simmonds (69 mins) Joe Marler for Genge (63 mins), Will Stuart for Sinckler (63 mins), Charlie Ewels for Isiekwe (75 mins), Alex Dombrandt for Ludlum (63 mins), Harry Randall, George Ford for Smith (63 mins) and Jack Nowell for Marchant (80 mins).

Referee: Ben O’Keefe (NZ). Assistant referees: Nic Berry (Australia) and Craig Evans (Wales).

TMO: Ben Whitehouse (Wales).

Attendance: 67,144

GUINNESS Player of the Match: Matt Fagerson (Scotland).

live commentary 4:45 PM Saturday 5 Feb 2022

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Kick-off 4:45 PM

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