How Scotland stormed Twickenham to end 38 years of hurt
The answer came in the affirmative and was delivered with a performance of skill and controlled aggression which deserved a bigger margin of victory than 11-6.
To put the achievement into perspective, the Scots had conceded 99 points on their previous two visits. To limit the hosts on this occasion to a pair of Owen Farrell penalties is testament to the work of Gregor Townsend, his defensive lieutenant Steve Tandy and the rest of the Scotland coaching staff.
There was plenty of inventiveness to go with the solidity, particularly in the first half as the Scots took the game to England.
Finn Russell was at the heart of everything that was good about Scotland, outplaying opposing stand-off Owen Farrell in front of Warren Gatland, the British & Irish Lions coach who was watching from an empty stand.
Russell was calm and controlled, probing for the opening with a range of kicks which tempted and teased.
Outside him, debutant Cam Redpath delivered a performance which belied his inexperience. It was a nerveless display from the Bath man and he was aided by the defensive ballast of Chris Harris at outside centre.
Captain Stuart Hogg turned is a display fitting of the fixture’s 150th anniversary and was deserved winner of the man-of-the-match award.
Up front, Scotland were brave and physical. Hooker George Turner, making his first appearance in the Six Nations, was dynamic in the loose and accurate with his throws. Jonny Gray and Scott Cummings ruled the lineout and the back row of Jamie Ritchie, Hamish Watson and Matt Fagerson were all-action heroes.
England, by contrast, were dismal. They conceded four penalties in the first five minutes alone, one of them resulting in three points for Russell. The hosts’ indiscipline became a running theme and it was no great surprise when Billy Vunipola was sent to the sin bin for a neck-high tackle on the Scotland stand-off.
Jones reckoned Scotland had 75 per cent possession in the opening 40 minutes, yet they went in at the break only 8-6 ahead, hardly reflective of the visitors’ dominance.
Duhan van der Merwe scored the all important try, having been denied just minutes before by the length of his fingernails. Townsend would have liked more but acknowledged the wet conditions made it difficult.
“It became a bit weather influenced,” he acknowledged. “We did have a couple of opportunities in the first half to move the ball wide – and obviously we had a kick to Duhan from Finn that almost led to a try.
“But, because of the weather and because of our opposition defence, it had to go tighter.
“And it was pleasing to see guys like Duhan still manage to get on the ball a lot.”
The try was a good one but first came the near miss.
Russell’s cross-kick to the corner looked well judged but bounced just a fraction too high for the in-rushing van der Merwe who was able to grin at his misfortune, holding up finger and thumb to show just how close he’d come to scoring. Maybe he knew what was coming.
Russell was again at the heart of the matter. His hoisted kick was latched on to by Matt Fagerson who charged into the England 22. The ball was recycled and went through the hands of Price, Russell, Redpath, Sean Maitland and Turner before reaching van der Merwe.
The big winger barged past four England men to force his way over the line for his fourth Test try in his fifth start for Scotland. So much for the wave of white shirts.
The score seemed to rouse England but could they walk the walk? Farrell kicked a penalty to reduce the lead to 8-3 and when Russell was yellow-carded for tripping Youngs you started to worry for Scotland. Farrell made it 8-6 and England were going into the break with more than they deserved.
We needn’t have fretted. Scotland kept their cool with 14 men and when Russell returned to the fray after 49 minutes he did so in time to land a penalty and stretch Scotland’s lead to five points.
England were strangely toothless and the full-time stats reflected the Scots’ control. They had 63 per cent of possession, 59 per cent of territory and 128 carries compared to England’s 66.
“It wasn’t just the forwards that were carrying,” pointed out Townsend. “Cam Redpath had a couple of good close carries.
“But the work of the forwards was excellent. Zander [Fagerson] was in double figures with his carries, Jonny Gray too.
“We knew we had to get players up off the bench with the fatigue that must have set in. And I was really pleased with those players, too.”
Jones, to his credit, was gracious in defeat and accepted the blame for England’s display. “Congratulations to Scotland. They played very well,” he said. “I thought they played with a lot of intent, a lot of spirit.
“We just had one of those days. I didn’t prepare the team well enough. We weren’t quite right, we were a long way off our best.”
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