It is the first time since 1983-84 that Scotland have achieved back-to-back Calcutta Cup victories and they did so with a courageous performance.
Finn Russell dictated Scotland’s operations with a cool head and although Marcus Smith responded in kind for the visitors, his 63rd-minute exit marked a change in momentum.
A moment of madness from England’s Luke Cowan-Dickie opened the door for Scotland with 15 minutes remaining and the hosts rushed in. The hooker found himself under a cross kick from Finn Russell with Darcy Graham closing in on him. Inexplicably, Cowan-Dickie pushed the ball into touch, obstructing Graham in the process. They showed him the yellow card and Scotland, with a penalty try, went from 10-17 to 17-17. Just as important, they had a numerical advantage and Russell’s penalty put them ahead in the 70th minute.
There were plenty of ebbs and flows in the final ten minutes, including a harrowing sequence of England scrums at Scotland’s 22-yard line as the clock ticked past 80 minutes, but Scotland won a crucial turnover and captain Stuart Hogg gleefully kicked the ball away. .
It was a remarkable game in many ways and one that Scottish debutant Ben White will remember for a long time. The Scotland scrum-half came off the bench to score a try in the first half after Ali Price had to be taken off for a head injury evaluation.
England’s brightest spark, Smith restored their lead in the second half and also took 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 attempts for a deserved win. What Gregor Gets Townsend’s 2022 Six Nations campaign is off to the best possible start.
Now they will travel to Wales with a belly full of optimism.
England had the best of the early exchanges, but had little to show for their early poll. Elliot Daly’s deft kick was met by Hogg and the Scotland captain then stopped Max Malins in the corner with a solid tackle.
Away fans in the stands at Murrayfield perked up and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” began to play through the drizzling rain. They had more reason to celebrate in the 16th minute when Smith put England ahead with a penalty from 30 metres.
It was the signal for Scotland to come alive and White’s 12-minute cameo produced the defining moment of the first half.
Scotland made a quick lineout and when the ball was recycled, Hogg took it as the first receiver. He fed Darcy Graham, who worked his way towards the England line, fooling Joe Marchant with a daring sidestep, before passing inside to White, who had a clear run towards the line. The debutante’s face cracked into a wide smile before he had even landed and he was quickly gobbled up by his delirious teammates.
It was a superbly crafted try and Russell kicked the conversion to put Scotland 7-3 ahead.
England responded directly to the Scots who had to defend strongly. England thought they were in the corner within half an hour, but the home defense stopped them.
Smith cut the lead to a single point after Jamie Ritchie was penalized at the ruck, but Scotland finished the half on the lead thanks to Russell.
Ellis Genge prevented the confrontation as he advanced and the England prop was rightly penalized. The pair exchanged a few words ending with a wink from Russell before he saved the penalty to put Scotland 10-6 up at half-time.
Smith brought England back within a point with another penalty, with Graham blamed for Scotland, and worse was yet to come for the hosts.
England worked a maul at the lineout, then Ben Youngs released Smith from the blindside and the fly-half ran the perfect line to fool Graham before evading Russell’s attempted tackle.
Smith missed the conversion attempt but was successful on a penalty kick ten minutes later and England were suddenly 17–10 ahead with just 18 minutes remaining.
Jones’ team then made a slew of substitutions and seemed to lose their way, most clearly when Cowan-Dickie transgressed at the key moment of the game.
Scotland goalscorers: Triestes: White, penalty trial. With: Russell. Pens: Russell 2.
England goalscorers: Test: 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. Substitutes: B Kinghorn.
England: Butler F; Malins M, Daly E, Slade H, Marchant J (Nowell J. 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 (New Zealand).
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.