Scotland v England Talking Points from BT Murrayfield
Scotland defeated England at a buzzing BT Murrayfield to claim the Calcutta Cup.
The game will go down as one of the most memorable in Six Nations history… at least north of the border. It was an instant classic. Scotland cut loose and an ill-disciplined England could not recover from early set-backs. The final score was 25-13 to the Scots but the margin of victory is hardly the story here – the victory itself is the story.
Huw Jones got the party started when he thought faster than the English cover, gobbling up a Finn Russell grubber to score his first of two tries. Scotland created pressure all game, forcing turnovers and most importantly causing havoc at the breakdown – skipper John Barclay was at the vanguard of this effort.
The first half continued in this fashion, with two more tries to savour. The second was a Sean Maitland special that was founded by a Barclay turnover and a Russell pass floated over Mike Brown’s head. In the end, all Maitland had to do in the end was sneak in out wide.
But perhaps nothing was as significant as Jones’s second score, when he hared onto a flat pass and with acres left, backed himself to score. With Brown and Anthony Watson closing in on him, he cut through the middle and pumped his legs, dragging the pair over. With so much ground to make up and men to pull with him, maybe he should not have scored. But this was Scotland’s day. They went in to the changing room 16 points.
And if the first half was about Scottish attack, the second was notable for three things. Firstly, Scotland’s defence, particularly at the breakdown, was ferocious. Secondly, England could not stop ticking off referee Nigel Owens. And thirdly, entertainment does not need buckets of tries.
Related: Pre-Calcutta Cup debate
The hosts couldn’t get a dot-down in the second. Instead they soaked up wave after wave of English pressure. Owen Farrell scored a fine try just after the break, hitting another flat ball from a beautiful line – something he is now doing with regularity. However, England could just not find the answer and the tries dried up after one.
This is the day so many Scots have been waiting for: a first Calcutta Cup win for Scotland since 2008. Gregor Townsend has said the players will be allowed to revel in this one.
That is what you should remember. But here are a few more points you can talk about…
When Maitland scored his try, Scotland’s second, it felt like some stadium screws were loosened. When Huw Jones burst through and dragged both Brown and Watson over the line with him as he got his second, the noise rose a little again. When Stuart McInally got the final turnover to snuff out any residual hope of an England fightback, Edinburgh could well have been reduced to a crater.
Scotland played with such an attacking intensity in the first half (led by the on-song Russell, the eventual Man of the Match) while England only played bloody-minded, hard-nosed rugby. Edinburgh crackled with electricity. As a spectacle, it outdid so many previous Calcutta Cup ties. In the second half, Scotland utilised the buzz in the stadium and doubled it back on England’s offensive charges.
Related: Finn Russell talks to Rugby World
England, in turn, got caught in quicksand. They compounded errors often.
Both captains deserve credit for keeping a lid on things – although there was a minor fracas in the tunnel after the warm-ups, with both packs jostling each other. But it was cooled as quickly as it started.
The more frustrating thing is that England were infringing regularly. And they woke up unlucky. They could have gotten a lot more frustrated. They had a try chalked off because the ball was knocked on in a tackle at the other end of the field. Ref Owens let them away with nothing. Bounces just looked to elude them too.
Some days go like this. But then, when they do and the opposition are bringing incredible intensity, it’s the perfect storm. As Martin Johnson said, post-match: “England will be stunned by this.”
No Grand Slam for England
This one is obvious. But England still have time to sort themselves out and win a record third title in a row. But it will be tough – unbeaten Ireland await them in the final round (after France in round four).
And if they are to have a chance, they cannot give away anywhere near as many penalties as they did today. The total of 13 will have some fans cursing. Loudly.
Huw Jones hit the line as flat as a pancake to score his try. Owen Farrell ran a beautiful line at the very start of second half, ghosting past Grant Gilchrist to get his. Pete Horne burst through and could have manufactured a score if he hadn’t held the ball too long and made Hamish Watson palm it forward.
Little kicks were bamboozling players all over too. Finn Russell’s little grubber caught England’s defensive line floundering with Jones zeroing in on it to get his first try. The same worked out wide for Scotland – and there were lots and lots of space for Scotland to exploit out wide as England rushed up, though it is a miracle there were not more intercepts all game. Often when a wide defender decided to bite, to race up, a Scottish playmaker floated the ball over the top of the hungry defender.
It all made for real fun.
When it rains it pours
Sam Underhill had barely been on the park when he got a yellow card for a needless no-arms tackle on Jamie Bhatti’s knee.
England were making errors and giving away silly penalties already by this point. There is a fine line between intensity and senseless infringement. Underhill did no one any favours.
“It wasn’t a dive”
a minor one this, but maybe something a little lighter.
Stuart Hogg went down in this one after a jumping Maro Itoje tried to block his kick and came down with Hogg going down under the pressure. Later in the game the full-back approached referee Nigel Owens to assure him that there was no dive involved.
These two have previous. At the 2015 Rugby World Cup, at the home Newcastle United FC, Hogg went down theatrically against South Africa. At the time Owens penalised and rebuked Hogg, saying: “Dive like that again and come back here in two weeks and play (when the football is on). Not again. Watch it.”
The 15 was keen not to be seen repeating history.
Scotland – Tries: Jones 2, Maitland. Cons: Laidlaw 2. Pens: Laidlaw, Russell.
England – Tries: Farrell. Cons: Farrell. Pens: Farrell 2.