As Marcus Smith kicked off the game against Scotland, England showed glimpses of a newfound identity and tenacity against their old rivals with a more uniform attacking strategy than in previous years.
However, it must be said that England faltered in the first half, with two tries by Scotland taking place in the first quarter, following on from England’s distracted dedication to chasing down the Scot’s most prolific player- Finn Russell.
The first came in the form of a clearance kick in the 10th minute of the game, where England Captain Owen Farrell took it upon himself to throw off the Scottish Fly Half with a strong tackle.
Minutes later, Farrell again made it his mission to hunt down the playmaker, resulting in a crucial line break for Scotland.
Just look as all eyes of the England squad are fixed on Russell‘s movements that resulted in Van der Merwe making a break for it:
A crucial mistake that opened up a window of opportunity, and one that would see Gregor Townsend‘s side charge into the lead in the 14′ thanks to Huw Jones‘s relentless dedication to secure a hat trick of wins against unsuspecting England.
A fantastic display of determination from Scotland’s Centre!
While England did their best to hold their own, it wasn’t until the 23rd minute England put one past their rivals after several attempts to knock down down Scotland’s seemingly impenetrable line of defence.
It was none other than England’s Marcus Smith who sought to turn the tables with an astonishing through kick caught in the try zone by Max Malins to bring the teams to 5-7 in favour of Scotland.
A beautiful display from the Backs!
The return of Winger Malins was a welcome addition to the team, with the Saracens sensation scoring twice in the game, a second following a try from Smith‘s cross-field kick. (More on this later)
In a battle of the greats, none other than Scotland’s Winger Duhan van der Merwe came to Scotland’s rescue to pull it back for the team.
In what many would regard as some of the finest playmaking to be showcased in years, the Scotland Winger knocked down and weaved through England Defenders Joe Marchant and Ollie Chessum, followed by a sidestepping of Freddie Steward and the fending off of Alex Dombrandt.
A “Mic Drop Moment” as branded by ITV commentators, with the player securing a try from a substantial 58 metres that led Scotland to a 5-12 advantage after 29 minutes, taking on five tacklers from the halfway line.
England later bounced back in the 37′ thanks to Saracen‘s Max Malins securing a second try for the team just before the halftime cut-off.
Owen Farrell later missed out on the opportunity for a conversion, but kicked a penalty a few minutes after Malins‘ try to bring England up to 13-12 before halftime.
After the Break
Upon returning after the break with a newfound sense of accomplishment in turning the game around, Prop Ellis Genge made a break to the try line against Scotland’s line of defence to cement a terrific try in the ’47 , placing England 6 points ahead bringing the scores to 18-12.
But whilst England were looking to dominate their rivals, it was Scotland’s Ben Kent who clawed it back for his side with a sensational try thanks to England’s inaccuracy in the ’50.
It was from here Scotland wasn’t letting up. Finn Russell scored a penalty to bring the score 23-22 to England- a nail-biting score that could have gone in either direction.
But as far as van der Merwe was concerned, the Scots weren’t going to let up that easily, and Merwe again showed relentless force and precision in clawing to the try line in an impressive feat against England with 6 minutes left on the lock.
Look at how he claws more than just the ball to the try line…
Some of the best playmaking from Scotland in years. A moment which saw the Winger justly earn the award of Guinness Six Nations Player of the Match.
Russell later followed up with a conversion in the 75′ to bring the scores to 23-29 in favour of the Scots.
Before long, the whistle blew, the 80 minutes were up and Scotland clinched their hat-trick victory to retain the Calcutta Cup– ‘an instant classic’ as branded by Guinness Six Nations hosts.
A Word from the Coaches
In reviewing what did and didn’t go well, Owen Farrell and Gregor Townsend both had plenty to say about the match:
“I think we started 11 days ago and there has been massive improvement, it feels like, over those 11 days – and we were trying to get that onto the field today.
“I thought we did it in large parts. There’s some stuff we need to look at and obviously we need to get better at, but we can look at that tomorrow and the day after.
A fair comment from Farrell.
After all, England has proven themselves to be a worthy contender thus far, but a more refined strategy could be just what’s needed to see them emerge victorious against their upcoming rival Italy on Sunday.
“That’s some result for us! To do it in the last five, 10 minutes was the most emotional game in the coaching box!
“I don’t think the players get as emotional as we do when you hang onto win and score a really good try to go ahead. It was much better second half from us and a brilliant win.”
We couldn’t agree more!
Whilst Scotland were letting up in the first round, a swift return of Merwe and Russell was enough to see Scotland uphold their hat-trick streak for the Calcutta Cup.
As the Six Nations kicks off again for a second round this coming weekend, will Scotland show the same skill against Wales? We can’t wait to find out!