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Six Nations 2021: An 11-6 thrashing? There is such a thing as Scotland end four decades of hurt at Twickenham

The Six Nations kicks off tomorrow - with Scotland hoping to retain the Calcutta Cup as they take on England at Murrayfield.
The Six Nations kicks off tomorrow - with Scotland hoping to retain the Calcutta Cup as they take on England at Murrayfield.

We can stop speaking and (mercifully) writing about it. Scotland won at Twickenham at last and actually, it wasn’t even that close.

It was an 11-6 thrashing, if such a thing can happen.

Scotland dominated and controlled the game almost completely. They had more than two-thirds of possession and territory. England didn’t handle the ball in the Scottish 22 once.

The penalty count – a major fault of Scotland’s during the autumn – was massively in Scottish favour at 16-6, because of the pressure the Scots were exerted on England’s ball. The other occasions England started to threaten, they spilled the ball in contact.

The other issue of the autumn was the lack of composure when it mattered, especially in the last two games against France and Ireland – with the English, the benchmarks of quality Scotland seek to reach.

 

One last heartstopping moment

There was still a little remaining. Whose idea was it to drop a goal with a minute left? Finn Russell, for all his many brilliant talents, is possibly the worst drop-goaler in international rugby. It wouldn’t be Scotland if they didn’t have one final heartstopping moment.

But in the main, they managed this game superbly, and especially in the 10 minutes when Russell was off due to instinctively throwing out a leg to stop Ben Youngs.

Jonny Gray’s lineout steal right at the half stopped England’s threat. Then they effectively played out the remaining eight minutes of the yellow card in English territory. When Russell returned, it was to kick the goal that took Scotland out to the eventual finishing scoreline.

Scotland missed a couple of penalties in the second half, got turned over at a maul they were driving at the English line, were held up over the line, and one kick bounced away from Duhan van der Merwe.

If they’d taken all their opportunities they could easily have doubled their points total, and England never even got a sniff at their try-line.

Scotland lift the Calcutta Cup after the Guinness Six Nations match at Twickenham Stadium.

This was the pack’s triumph

While Stuart Hogg got man of the match, Russell was sparky, Cam Redpath far better than anyone had a right to expect and van der Merwe scored the try brilliantly, this was the forward pack’s triumph.

Jonny Gray was my man of the match, with a key lineout steal when Scotland were down a man, and the kind of authoritative all-round performance that shows he matured in the player we hoped he might. He outplayed the rightly acclaimed Maro Itoje and his clubmate Jonny Hill.

The back row were relentless, but we expect that of Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie. Matt Fagerson came of age as an international player at No 8, putting everything on the line in the hour he was on.

When Scotland had to defend, especially in the final minutes with the replacements on, they were relentless.

England had no line breaks – none at all – and the twice they got into the Scottish 22 were both on penalties kicked to the corner. On both occasions, Scotland pinched the throw.

Championship contenders

Where from here? The baseline target of three home wins still must be fulfilled, starting with Wales at Murrayfield next week.

But the resilience and belief of this Scottish team is now unquestionable. They ended the awful run in Wales last October, and now we can consign the 38 years of hurt at Twickenham as well.

It’s 25 years since Scotland won in Paris. They’re a really great team, but why the hell not?

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