How Scotland defeated England 20-17 in Six Nations opener to retain Calcutta Cup in front of packed Murrayfield
So Eddie Jones was right after all. The England coach had declared Scotland “red hot favourites” and so it proved as the home side edged out their oldest adversaries 20-17 after a thrilling finale at Murrayfield.
It is the first time since 1983-84 that Scotland have chalked up back-to-back victories in the Calcutta Cup and they did it with a performance full of courage.
A moment of madness from England’s Luke Cowan-Dickie opened the door for Scotland with 15 minutes left and the home side went rushing through. The hooker found himself under a Finn Russell cross-kick with Darcy Graham bearing down on him. Inexplicably, Cowan-Dickie palmed the ball forward into touch, obstructing Graham in the process. He was shown the yellow card and Scotland, awarded a penalty try, went from 10-17 down to 17-17. Just as importantly, they had a numerical advantage and Russell’s penalty edged then ahead on the 70th minute.
There was plenty of ebb and flow in the final ten minutes, including an agonising sequence of England scrums on the Scotland 22 as the clock edged past 80 minutes, but Scotland won a crucial later turnover and captain Stuart Hogg joyously booted the ball dead.
It was a remarkable game in many ways and one Scotland debutant Ben White will remember for a long time. The Scotland scrum-half came off the bench to score a first-half try after Ali Price had to be removed for a head injury assessment.
Smith, England’s brightest spark, restored their lead in the second half and also kicked four penalties over the course of the game but it wasn’t enough,with Russell adding two penalties and a conversion to Scotland’s two tries for a merited victory which gets Gregor Townsend’s 2022 Six Nations campaign off to the best possible start.
They will now travel to Wales with a bellyful of optimism.
England had the better of the opening exchanges but had little to show for their early probing. Elliot Daly’s deft kick through was dealt with by Hogg and the Scotland captain then stopped Max Malins going over in the corner with a solid tackle.
The visiting fans in the Murrayfield stands were encouraged and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” started to be heard amid the drizzle. They were given more cause to cheer in the 16th minute when Smith kicked England ahead with a penalty from 30 metres.
It was the cue for Scotland to come to life and White’s 12-minute cameo produced the defining moment of the first half.
Scotland took a quick lineout and when the ball was recycled, Hogg took it on as first receiver. He fed Darcy Graham who slalomed his way towards the England line, fooling Joe Marchant with an audacious sidestep, before passing inside to White who had a clear run to the line. The debutant’s face cracked into a wide grin before he’d even touched down and he was quickly engulfed by delirious team-mates.
It was a superbly worked try and Russell kicked the conversion to put Scotland 7-3 ahead.
England came straight back at the Scots who had to defend stoutly. England thought they were in in the corner on the half hour mark but were held up by the home defence.
Smith reduced the lead to a single point after Jamie Ritchie was penalised at the ruck but Scotland finished the half on the front foot thanks to Russell.
The stand-off was impeded by Ellis Genge as he chipped through and the England prop was rightly penalised. The pair exchanged a few words which ended with a wink from Russell before he knocked over the penalty to put Scotland 10-6 up at the break.
Smith brought England back to within a point with another penalty, with Graham the Scotland culprit, and worse was to follow for the home side.
England worked a lineout maul then Ben Youngs released Smith down the blindside and the fly-half ran the perfect line to fox Graham before evading Russell’s attempted tackle.
Smith missed the conversion attempted but was successful with a penalty ten minutes later and England were suddenly 17-10 ahead with only 18 minutes remaining.
Jones’ side then made a slew of substitutions and seemed to lose their way, most starkly when Cowan-Dickie transgressed in the game’s key moment.
Scotland scorers: Tries: White, penalty try. Con: Russell. Pens: Russell 2.
England scorers: Try: Smith. Pens: Smith 4.
Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris (S Tuipulotu 64), S Johnson, D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price (B White 12-24; 63); R Sutherland (P Schoeman 51), G Turner (S McInally 51), Z Fagerson (WP Nel 51), J Gray (S Skinner 63), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie (M Bradbury 59), H Watson, M Fagerson. Subs: B Kinghorn.
England: F Steward; M Malins, E Daly, H Slade, J Marchant (J Nowell. 80); M Smith (G Ford 63), B Youngs; E Genge (J Marler 63), L Cowan-Dickie, K Sinckler (W Stuart 63), M Itoje, N Isiekwe (C Ewels 76), L Ludlam (A Dombrandt 63), T Curry, S Simmonds (J George 69).Subs: H Randall
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (NZ).