Scotland beat England at Twickenham for first time since 1983, on opening weekend of Six Nations; Duhan van der Merwe scored only try, with Finn Russell adding two penalties in memorable Test for Scots; England register only two Owen Farrell penalties
By Michael Cantillon at Twickenham
Scotland sealed their first victory over England at Twickenham for 38 years as a dominant and tireless display was rewarded with an 11-6 Six Nations victory.
The visitors – clearly the better team in both halves – scored the only try through Duhan van der Merwe on his championship debut, along with two Finn Russell penalties.
England kept in touch via the boot of skipper Owen Farrell as time and again Scotland passed up further chances to extend their lead.
Russell missed a penalty to go eight points ahead in the second period before skipper Stuart Hogg did likewise with just nine minutes remaining.
Neither moment was to prove decisive, however, as Scotland held on for a memorable and deserved victory on the 150th anniversary of the Calcutta Cup.
England began the contest by forcing a huge chance inside the first minute as Maro Itoje charged down an Ali Price box-kick deep in the the Scotland 22, but Jonny Hill went straight to floor, sealing off the ruck, with the home side seemingly certain to score the opening try.
English indiscipline was to became a theme for the rest of the contest. Two successive penalties saw Scotland into the England 22, but the visitors turned down a potential shot at goal for a kick to the corner.
It almost paid immediate dividends as Scotland charged to within metres of the England try-line as George Turner broke off a rolling maul. Itoje failed to roll away soon after under the shadow of his own posts, and on this occasion Russell did split the uprights for the opening points.
Eddie Jones’ charges continued to look sluggish, however, as scrum-half Ben Youngs threw a pass to no one within the Scotland 22, Henry Slade was caught offside, wing Jonny May knocked on a Price box-kick within his own half, before the visitors forced a penalty at the consequent scrum.
Once again Scotland could not take advantage of their time in possession, however, as passes continually failed to come off.
A Tom Curry penalty for side entry saw Scotland back to the England 22 within minutes, but further points eluded them – Russell almost latching on to a Sean Maitland offload after a superb grubber kick ahead.
After yet another penalty – two offences from Billy Vunipola (offside, high tackle) in the same sequence on 24 minutes – referee Andrew Brace had little option but to sin-bin the England No 8 for persistent team infringements.
Flanker Hamish Watson came within inches of scoring for Scotland in the subsequent attack but was just short and then held up, before Ellis Genge was penalised for hinging at the scrum.
Scotland took another scrum instead of kicking for the posts with that penalty, and came close to a try again when Russell chipped for Van der Merwe but the bounce looped over the wing in a stroke of misfortune.
Within seconds, Van der Merwe did get the score Scotland’s wealth of possession and territory deserved, though, as he battered his way to the line in the corner for a brilliant score, after No 8 Matt Fagerson had made ground down the right before him.
Russell slid the conversion wide, however, and the lead was shortened to five points when Scotland loosehead Rory Sutherland rolled onto the wrong side, allowing Farrell to strike over with a crisp kick from just over 40 metres out for 8-3.
Vunipola returned from his sin-binning thereafter, with the damage suffered to England’s cause not as severe as it may well have been.
Indeed, England chipped away further at the Scotland lead in the closing stages of the half when Farrell struck between the posts after Russell had intentionally tripped Youngs – an offence for which the Scotland No 10 was sin-binned.
Scotland pinched an England lineout to end the half, but the home side were extremely fortunate to go in just two points behind having been second best by a considerable margin.
Despite being down to 14 men, it was Scotland again who started the brighter in the second period as more penalties against England allowed the visitors into the 22 to threaten the try-line, before Russell kicked three more points after Genge was pinged for a no-arms tackle.
A lineout indiscretion from England handed Russell a further chance off the tee on 54 minutes, but the 10 missed the opportunity to put his side eight points in front – a moment which felt enormous in the Test.
England’s lacklustre display brought head coach Jones to the sideline soon after Russell’s miss, but replacement scrum-half Dan Robson lashed a kick straight into the air immediately, from which the home side were offside. Scotland kicked to the corner but England forced the maul unplayable and survived again.
With nine minutes left on the clock, Cameron Redpath jackalled over the ball near halfway to win a penalty, but Scotland captain Hogg put the effort wide of the posts.
From then, Scotland looked to keep the ball and run down the clock when in possession, and tackled furiously when out of it before Watson turned over the ball in dead time to clinch an historic win.
Stats of the Test
So much was good from Scotland. Rarely if ever have they dominated and controlled a Test against another Tier 1 Nation (barring Italy) in the Six Nations era.
Centre Redpath – who Eddie Jones called up for England in 2018, but withdrew at the time through injury before being ignored since – enjoyed a Scottish Test debut to remember. He was energetic and looked silky and skilful on the ball, causing the England defence a host of problems.
Scotland’s back-line in general looked exciting: Maitland, Hogg and Van der Merwe each gained metres, beat defenders, looked solid under the high ball and did not put a foot wrong defensively. In fact, each looked Lions worthy on this display.
In the forwards, No 8 Fagerson – who is just 22 – really stood out. His very first carry of the game left Anthony Watson on the floor, and he continued in the same vain throughout. Superb.
To a man, Scotland were brilliant, and there is real credence to the argument this was one of the finest performances in their history.
Was this the worst home performance of Eddie Jones’ time in charge of England? Quite possibly so.
A first loss at home to the Scots since 1983, but also only the second time in half a century. And it was no fluke, they were outwitted, outworked and outplayed.
The Saracens spine of Jamie George, Maro Itoje, Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly haven’t played a game of rugby since December, and it showed. The rest of team was also flat, uninventive and lacked the required aggression and accuracy.
England also badly missed prop duo Mako Vunipola and Kyle Sinckler. Their work-rate, tackling and carrying ability was sorely lacking.
Discipline, or lack thereof, truly proved England’s undoing though. In all, they gave away 15 penalties – 10 of which occurred in the first half – and as the stat above references, only once since 2011 have they been penalised as much. It ensured Scotland were always on top.