England have won the Six Nations Championship with a game to spare. They have claimed the Calcutta Cup after blasting Scotland 61-21. And they are now the joint-record holders for the most consecutive Tier One Tests won in a row, with their 18th victory on the spin. And while you get to grips with the fact that England have matched the All Blacks’ record, it is worth noting that in this win England put more points past Scotland than they ever have before at Twickenham and in the process won with their biggest ever margin over the Scots.
There were handbags, there were histrionics and there were disjointed passages, but in the end there was a clear winner in this particular fight – and it became pretty obvious pretty early.
England utilised fine set-piece attack and up-front dominance to rack up a score that had the Scots dizzied before half an hour had passed. The Gray brothers dug in and Hamish Watson got on with it, but while two Huw Jones tries and a Gordon Reid score sounds okay, they were so far away from their hosts who scored seven.
England were very good for their hefty win with hat-trick-scoring Jonathan Joseph standing out for his try heroics but his back-five forwards laid the groundwork for a memorable day.
England’s lineout attack – Forget sixes and sevens, England’s passing from off-the-top lineout ball sliced Scotland into decimal points. Three first-half tries came from first-phase lineout attack. Joseph’s second try was a prime example of this. Courtney Lawes plopped the ball off the top, the ball was passed out so it slid behind a dummy runner, Ford hit his Bath team-mate and he was at the races again. England’s third was just as silky, with slight of hand by Ford and Farrell again unleashing Joseph who then handed off to a scoring Watson.
Farrell’s boot – Why was anyone worried about his match fitness? He flew threw this game looking like his body was totally fine and as for kicking there was nothing too far out for him to take on. He finished with 26 points to his name.
Atmosphere – It could feel oppressive at times when Scotland were under the hammer, but it roared the other way when Scotland staged a mini mutiny. The Scots will be particularly disappointed in their defence, but there were a few moments of delight for those hearty travelling fans.
The Twickenham jitters – From the start it was clear Scotland were so fired up they could have melted steel. But have you ever tried to hold your hand steady with that much adrenaline swilling around your body? Well two minutes in Fraser Brown had a rush of blood, trying to obliterate Elliot Daly, and lifted him above the horizontal. Yellow. Then shortly after, Joseph scored by scything past Alex Dunbar. There was a lot of joy between those blue centres. The visitors took a long, long time to settle.
Shirt-grabbing and shoving – Between the tries being scored, we may have had some rugby. But with every break in play there was some minor tussles. And if you think that sounds exciting, it most certainly wasn’t. It just ate up athletes’ energy. Energy that could have best been put to use elsewhere…
Scottish injury woes – Scotland lost Stuart Hogg, Mark Bennett, Ryan Wilson, and Tommy Seymour to injury. That is incredibly tough to deal with and Scotland did well to hold it together as they did with a remarkably makeshift backline. They’ll need to pull together for their game against Italy. Three tournament wins are still attainable and, remember, it’s Vern Cotter’s last match as head coach.
5 – The number of line breaks Jonathan Joseph made in the first half alone. He finished the first 40 with 104m run.
11 – The number of penalties Scotland conceded, compared to Scotland’s five.
15 – Joe Launchbury completed more tackles than anyone else, with 15. James Haskell and Dylan Hartley were just behind with 14.
England: M Brown; J Nowell, J Joseph (B Te’o 58), O Farrell, E Daly (A Watson 2); G Ford, B Youngs (D Care, 60); J Marler (M Vunipola 58), D Hartley (capt, J George, 51), D Cole (K Sinckler, 58), J Launchbury, C Lawes (T Wood, 66), M Itoje, J Haskell, N Hughes (B Vunipola, 51).
Tries: Joseph 3, Watson, Vunipola, Care 2. Cons: Farrell 7. Pens: Farrell 4.
Scotland: S Hogg (M Bennett 17, H Pyrgos 21); T Seymour (D Weir 53), H Jones, A Dunbar, T Visser; F Russell, A Price; G Reid (A Dell, 43), F Brown (R Ford, 43), Z Fagerson (A Berghan, 60), R Gray, J Gray (T Swinson, 75), J Barclay (capt), H Watson, R Wilson (C du Preez, 61).
Tries: Reid, Jones 2. Cons: Russell 3.
Yellow card: Brown (2min).