Dubai: Scotland managed a piece of history by defeating their ‘Auld Enemy’ England on their own turf on Saturday night. It was a moment to savour as only those of a certain age will recall the last time they achieved such a feat — 38 years ago.
The 11-6 success over reigning champions England in the teams’ Six Nations opener stunned Eddie Jones’ side, who were favourites for the title once again. Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe scored the only try of the match as the Scots won at Twickenham for the first time since 1983 and for just the fifth time in their history.
Former England coach Clive Woodward said Gregor Townsend’s side can now go on to achieve “great things” after claiming the Calcutta Cup. “It’s a game-changing win for Scotland as a team and a huge moment for Townsend,” the World Cup winner said. “He is the coach who will lead Scotland to great things and this will kick-start that process,”
Scotland coach Townsend said his side had got a “monkey off our backs” after ending their for a win at Twickenham.
None of the current squad were born when Scotland triumphed 22-12 at Twickenham in 1983, with Townsend himself then only nine years old at a time when Margaret Thatcher was British Prime Minister and Michael Jackson was No. 1 in the UK charts with ‘Billie Jean’.
But all that history was put to one side in a rainswept match where Scotland dominated the set-piece, besting England at the scrum and line-out, while fly-half Finn Russell and skipper Stuart Hogg expertly directed play behind their pack.
Scotland wing Van der Merwe struck in the 30th minute to score the only try of the match, with both Russell and England captain Owen Farrell landing two penalties apiece in a match where the final scoreline did not reflect the visitors’ superiority.
“I came down here a number of times as a player and then as a coach and hadn’t come away with anything,” former Scotland fly-half Townsend said. “So this result is definitely up there with the best ever results in our history, and certainly myself in my coaching career. Today the players were outstanding in really tricky conditions.”
The match marked the 150th anniversary of rugby’s oldest international fixture. Scotland have shown signs of progress since their group-stage exit at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, with October seeing them win in Wales for the first time in 18 years — a match, like Saturday’s fixture, played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus.
“We had moments before and after the World Cup, and that’s how we’ve been shaped as a group of players and coaches,” said Townsend.
And not even the sin-binning of Russell shortly before half-time disrupted Scotland’s game on Saturday.
“It was so good to see the players play so well in the period of Finn Russell’s yellow card, and we won that 10 minutes 3-0,” said Townsend, with a home clash against Wales next up for his developing team. “It is definitely a monkey off our backs.”
Meanwhile, an elated Hogg said: “During the week we said that if we got everything right on both sides of the ball we’d give ourselves a chance. And we did exactly that.”
England conceded 15 penalties, including 10 inside the first 35 minutes, and Woodward said that lack of discipline was a worrying sign for Eddie Jones’s side.
“In 2020 they averaged nine penalties conceded per game ... in the previous two Calcutta Cup encounters they conceded only 11 penalties in total yet in this game they had clocked that up before halftime,” he wrote.
“It was ridiculous and ... undermined everything they were trying to do.” Former England captain Lawrence Dallaglio described the performance as one of the worst he had seen and questioned the mindset of Jones’ players.
“England looked clueless. Not just for parts of it, all game,” he wrote in the Times.
“I don’t know whether that’s down to the fact that a number of key players hadn’t played for eight weeks or whether everyone just had an off day. Whatever the cause, it’s got to be sorted out quickly because that was as bad as it gets.” England next host Italy on Saturday while Scotland entertain Wales.
Antoine Dupont scored a try and set up three others as France got their Six Nations campaign off to a thumping start with a 50-10 bonus-point victory over Italy in Rome.