Scotland A sent a powerful message to the senior team ahead of today’s Calcutta Cup match after scoring a superb win over England Saxons at Kingston Park in Newcastle to achieve back-to-back wins over their rivals and a first win on auld enemy soil.
England: Pens: Ford 3;
Scotland: Try: Taylor; Cons: Heathcote; Pens: Heathcote 2.
In miserable conditions of wind, rain, sleet and finally snow on Tyneside, Scotland A – who routed the English second string 35-0 at Netherdale 12 months ago – showed immense character in defence against an English side which reverted to type with powerful forward play.
The Scots were led from the front by No 8 and skipper Ryan Wilson, who was deservedly named as man of the match. But there were plaudits too for hooker Steven Lawrie, whose mobility about the field was impressive, debutant scrum Sean Kennedy, who made a useful break in the first half, full-back Greig Tonks, who helped lift the Scots’ performance with several runs out of defence, and new cap Duncan Taylor.
With only a minute of the match played Scotland scored a sensational try by Taylor, the former Bedford player, now with Saracens, fielding a poor kick out of defence by Saxons’ stand-off George Ford and then showing impressive running skills and a clever side-step to outwit the England defence.
Stand-off Tom Heathcote added the conversion goal but just after the restart Scotland were penalised, allowing Ford to claw back three points with a successful kick. The kicking duel between the two fly halves continued with each adding a penalty goal.
Scotland again looked sharp when the Edinburgh full-back Tonks skinned the initial England defence as he ran from his own 22, only to be caught ten metres from the opposition line. It may not have produced a try but it showed that Scotland were prepared to be adventurous despite the difficult overhead conditions.
The Scots might have gone further ahead had Heathcote been successful from the kicking tee with his two second quarter attempts had goal. But Scotland gained confidence from resisting a late challenge by England from two driven line-outs and powerful scrummaging to go into the break 10-6 ahead.
Scotland began the second half with a good resolve as skipper Wilson collected the kick-off and triggered an attack by off-loading to Lawrie. The Scots then hammered at the England line and came desperately close to scoring when Stuart McInally was stopped on the line and then when Nikki Walker was tackled into touch in the corner.
Surprisingly the reward for Scotland came from scrum pressure that brought a penalty allowing Heathcote to land his third goal. But when England won a penalty for a collapsed scrum Ford was just wide with his goal attempt, preserving Scotland’s seven points lead.
Another exciting run by Tonks stirred the blood of Scottish but when Tonks was forced to carry the ball over the visitors’ line it was English hopes that were raised, only to be dashed after the Scots gained a turn around at the five metre scrum. Then when England were penalised at the next scrum, Scotland had a further reprieve.
With eight minutes of play remaining, England’s scrum pressure forced another penalty and this time Ford converted to narrow Scotland’s lead to just four points.
Scotland were in further trouble when Gordon Reid was sin-binned but then the game turned into a farce when two minutes later Jon Welsh was also shown the yellow card resulting in uncontested scrums. But despite England’s attempt to use their two men advantage to batter their way to victory Scotland held out for a famous win.
England Saxons: Daly; May, Tomkins, Turner-Hall, Biggs; Ford, Wigglesworth, Mullan, Gray, Doran-Jones, Kitchener, Robson, Kruis, Fraser, Crane. Subs: Eastmond for May (59), Lowe for Tomkins (50), Simpson for Wigglesworth (59), Wood for Mullan (59), Buchanan for Gray (11), Brookes for Doran-Jones (69), Slater for Kruis (69), Gibson for Fraser (71)..
Scotland A: Tonks; Taylor, Grove, Dunbar, N Walker; Heathcote, Kennedy, Dickinson, Lawrie, Welsh, Ryder, Swinson, McInally, Vernon, Wilson, Eddie. Subs: Cairns for Tonks (73), Fife for Dunbar (55), Reid for Dickinson (66), Eddie for McInally (66), Shiells for Eddie (76). Not Used: A. Walker, McAlpine, Stevenson. Sin Bin: Reid (75), Welsh (77).