Cam Redpath enjoys Scotland debut to remember and does what his dad couldn’t
“Almost” of course is a nebulous concept. Especially so in the case of the team in dark blue, especially so at Twickenham. Almost can almost mean nothing at all.
But here was a young man embarking on an international career which seasoned observers and experienced coaches predicted would be “huge”. A player with all the gifts and a great rugby pedigree. As far as England were concerned, though, not a secret weapon.
He might have worn the rose instead of the thistle. All of his development had been as a future Auld Enemy prospect. He showed his talent in a white shirt until the age of 20. Eddie Jones wanted him to tour South Africa with the big team but a knee injury scuppered that. Then, only a few weeks ago on turning 21, Redpath elected to play for the country of his Galashiels-born father Bryan.
“The one that got away,” read a few English headlines in the build-up, and there he was, belting out Flower of Scotland in a stadium which was less of a cauldron and more of a colander, although if you didn’t know him as one of the rugby’s coming men - and given he’s been entirely based south of the border, that’s the vast bulk of us - you might have wondered: “Are we sure he’s Son of Brush?”
Bryan, a scrum-half in the terrier tradition, was 5ft 7ins and 177lbs when he played. Cameron is 6ft 2ins and 212lbs. In tracksuited clips from training days before Cam still looked slight. In the shirt, though, as quite often happens, his chest seemed to swell.
Scottish hopes invariably swell as Twickenham looms. Maybe, just maybe this would be the year. It hadn’t been for 38. Maybe this year for England recently have been dubbed “boring”. Ah but boring doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Redpath’s old man played England seven times, four at Twickenham, losing the lot. The last was a 40-9 defeat in 2003 when head coach Gregor Townsend was Brush’s half-back partner and Cameron was three.
Mature beyond his years, he may be according to Townsend, but he’d have wanted a good early touch at inside centre and meaningful involvement. He was right by Finn Russell’s side but the maverick playmaker didn’t introduce him immediately. Then came a pleasing quickfire sequence for the newbie with a thudding tackle on Tom Curry, a danger-clearing kick to touch and a dancing break past two men sparked by Russell.
How were England going to handle the lad who’d spurned them? What would their new cap Ollie Lawrence, Redpath’s opposite number, do? Intriguingly, two years ago this pair were side by side in a young England midfield and thumping their Scottish counterparts.
Redpath’s next break was even more promising when he found a lovely angle for his run, skipping across the turf in turquoise boots. Next, a collect on the hoof from a long lineout from fellow debutant George Turner. He was starting to have fun.
So was Russell, arrowing kicks one side hither and yon. So was Hamish Watson who dived for the tryline only to be thwarted. So was Turner, called “fearless” by Townsend, the same description given to Redpath, and certainly a quality needed if this was to be a famous win. Only Ali Price might have been carrying round some apprehension having had a couple of clearances charged down.
Ten points of a start would have been nice, and a change from letting England race away at Twickenham. Last time Scotland caught up for the phantasmagorical 38-38 draw which surprisingly didn’t trigger post-match testing of two entire XVs for evidence of wild hallucinogens.
This time, England weren’t boring but they were bewildered. Scotland were making as many breaks as their dear rivals were conceding penalties. They needed a try, though, and after Duhan van der Merwe regretted clipping his fingernails, just failing to grasp a Russell punt to the corner, the same player grabbed Scotland five points - supplied by Redpath.
To win, though, total concentration was going to be needed. Stuart Hogg was caught in possession, then Russell. Then Russell, the off-the-cuff prince, brought too much improv to his tackling by using a leg and was sin-binned.
Redpath stepped up as stand-off as Watson, Jonny Gray and the pack contrived ten minutes of clever game-management to see out Russell’s enforced absence.
Sean Maitland’s running and Hogg’s running and also the captain’s steepling spiral kicks maintained Scotland’s domination of the match but they weren’t quite about to grab the second score their bold and buccaneering play merited.
As England rang the changes, unloading some heavy timber, it might have seemed that Redpath, looking a bit skinnymalink now while sizing up the replacements, would make way himself. But he produced a crunching turnover inside the final ten minutes to offer up the chance of a penalty, missed by Hogg.
That didn’t matter. And the fact there were no kilts, no pipes, no C U Jimmy hats, no Braveheart facepaint didn’t matter either as the 38-year hoodoo was laid to rest. Redpath made the right choice, chose the right team - and did almost everything right during the game. As he got to hoist the Calcutta Cup as the rookie, Eddie Jones will surely have acknowledged that.
A message from the Editor:
Get a year of unlimited access to all of The Scotsman's sport coverage without the need for a full subscription. Expert analysis of the biggest games, exclusive interviews, live blogs, transfer news and 70 per cent fewer ads on Scotsman.com - all for less than £1 a week. Subscribe to us today
Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.