To be honest, England could have played for days and still wouldn’t be any nearer crossing the Scottish tryline than they were on Saturday.
Scotland were brilliant at times. Brutal and composed in defence, dominant at set piece and showed an ability to keep the pressure on where Scotland teams in the past would have hit the release valve. Nevertheless, even accepting how terrifically Scotland played, England were poor. A lot has been said about the Saracens contingent being off the pace and it certainly looked that way with only Maro Itoje achieving pass marks. But it wasn’t just them. Ellis Genge was way off the pace, Will Stewart was anonymous and England’s back row was totally ineffective and overpowered. It’s not often you can say that.
The attack was also toothless. Ollie Lawrence and Anthony Watson didn’t touch the ball until the 60th minute and Henry Slade was a spectator for much of the game.
England just seemed to have no creativity. They would go two or three phases and when they were knocked backwards again and again by the outstanding Scottish defence, they looked devoid of ideas.
They constantly looked to kick the ball and put it in behind – but the Scottish back three marshalled everything that came their way, replying with a mix of devastating counter attacks and brilliant kicking. We talk a lot during training about how we can use defence to gain control of games and on Saturday they did just that. The last 20 minutes was a perfect example of how to shut a game down without the ball.
The discipline was also excellent. We were critical of ourselves in the autumn because we went too hard at breakdowns when it wasn’t on and we got on the wrong side of referees.
At Twickenham, Scotland just made great decisions. It helps when you’re making dominant collisions and you’re slowing the ball up. They picked the right options at the breakdown on when to go for it and when not to go for it, when to blast through rather than jackalling.
What that meant was that they could get more numbers on feet, get the defence set and be aggressive when the ball was in the air.
Then on their own ball, which often goes unnoticed, Scotland’s ball retention was excellent conceding just one turnover at the breakdown.
I thought Cam Redpath had a brilliant debut at inside centre. In the first half he showed his attacking capabilities and in the second half his defence was excellent.
Finn Russell at 10 is always going to stress teams and I felt England focused way too much on him. They tried to put too much pressure on him, tried to force him into mistakes and shut him down. This created space on Finn’s outside and he did brilliantly well on occasion to shift the point of attack and pick the right options, often Cam, who’s lines and footwork were too good for the English defence.
His distribution was also good and he worked really hard off the ball to be an option out the back, resulting in Duhan van der Merwe’s try in the corner. I just thought it was an excellent debut from him, very mature.
George Turner, playing in his first Six Nations game, was excellent at hooker. He carries hard and he’s particularly dangerous breaking off the back of the maul, something he’s been doing for Glasgow all season.
He’s very dynamic, punching holes in the England defence and creating quick ball.
His set-piece was probably the most pleasing thing. I know how much work goes in from coach John Dalziel and second rows Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings into putting that lineout together and George executed it brilliantly.
I watched the game in the BBC studios and while it was gutting not to be a part of it, I feel very privileged to have commentated on such an incredible achievement for the whole squad.
You never want to miss out through injury but at the same time we’ve got such a tight-knit group that everyone’s just delighted with the win. It’s one big squad and we all work hard for each other and I know that the whole team’s focus will know switch to Saturday’s visit of Wales to BT Murrayfield.