Scotland 20-17 England: Scots stay in the fight to win Calcutta Cup

Gregor Townsend's side weather a storm to defeat their oldest rivals for the third time in five years.

Scotland 20-17 England: Scots stay in the fight to win Calcutta Cup SNS Group

Scotland put the capacity Murrayfield crowd through the Six Nations wringer to emerge with a stunning opening day victory over England.

Put under immense pressure by the abrasive visitors, Gregor Townsend’s men emerged to seize the game late on and win by the narrowest of margins, retaining the Calcutta Cup in the process.

The Scots defence kept them in the fight before a helter-skelter finale that saw them stand up to the late English rally and send their nation into ecstasy at the final whistle.

England dominated the ball for the opening quarter hour but found Scotland’s defence up to the task.
The hosts’ exit kicks were solid but found the white jerseys tearing back towards them every time.

The pressure told in the form of a penalty which Marcus Smith slotted between the posts in the 17th minute.
From the kick off Scotland found an incredible rhythm with their very first attack.

A quick lineout fed Darcy Graham who danced past the English defence before offloading to debutant Ben White to score just moments after taking the field for Ali Price.

Finn Russell kicked the extras to put the Dark Blues up 7-3 with 19 minutes on the clock.

Price passed his head injury assessment and returned in place of White with 16 minutes to go in the half.

The Scots passed up opportunities for territory with errors and let England re-establish their dominance in possession.

After winning a penalty and kicking for touch, a dangerous English maul was well held up over the try line. Jamie Ritchie infringed next, on the 22, and Smith this time took the points to reduce the lead to one.

But the Scots had the last word on the half, when Ellis Genge was called for not releasing and Russell was spot on from the tee to head to the break 10-6 up.

The second period began with more inaccuracies from the hosts – Graham squandered a counter attack by running into an offside Grant Gilchrist, then conceded a penalty beneath the posts which the England stand-off again kicked successfully.

These were lessons that Scotland failed to heed. The lost the ball from a rolling maul, then conceded a penalty at the resulting scrum.

England kicked to the corner, won another penalty advantage then released Smith to score in the corner and put the visitors ahead.

The conversion was fluffed wide but Scotland trailed 14-10.

Gregor Townsend began to empty the bench but the pattern remained the same.

Smith ticked the scoreboard to 17-10 with 17 minutes to play as the hosts prayed for a shift in momentum.

And it was exactly what they got.

Russell’s crossfield kicks caused mayhem and when his second one was cynically batted away by Luke Cowan-Dickie a penalty try and yellow card inevitably followed.

The scores were tied at 17-17 and Murrayfield bellowed its approval.

Suddenly it was England making errors and they surrendered their lineout on their own five metre line with a slack short throw.

Flower of Scotland pierced the Edinburgh air as Scotland won a penalty and Russell kicked his country ahead by three points with just eight minutes to play.

Of course, it is never Scotland without nerves and added drama. First the Dark Blues thought they had another kickable penalty but it was called back for a neckroll by Hamish Watson.

They stole the resulting lineout but were again dispossessed with a knock on. The clock went dead with an England scrum inside the Scots half.

After a seemingly endless count of reset scrums, England finally got the ball out and released down the left.

In contact the ball was lost and Graham scrambled it back to the hosts side. Hogg gleefully kicked dead and a nerve-shredding victory was complete.

Scotland Player Ratings

Stuart Hogg 7 – Exit kicks were a lifeline in the first half. Mopped up some tricky situations at the back.
Darcy Graham 8 – Twinkling footwork set up the opening try as he burst into life off the set play.
Chris Harris 7 – The defensive leader marshalled the Scots line magnificently under the English first half onslaught.
Sam Johnson 6 – Unable to get involved as Scotland struggled for front foot ball.
Duhan van der Merwe 7 – Targeted under the high ball but handled the challenge. Dangerous counter attack but got himself isolated a couple of times, leading to turnovers.
Finn Russell 7 – Hunted down whenever he got the glimpses of the ball he craved. Cross field kicks changed the course of the game as Scotland finally seized the occasion.
Ali Price 6 – Box kicked well but starved of quick ball.
Rory Sutherland 7 – Physical in contact and won a breakdown turnover but never established control in the scrum.
Geroge Turner 6 – Asked to do more defending than carrying. Was unable to get the scrum denting the opposition front row.
Zander Fagerson 6 – Brought his abrasive carrying and was sound in defence. Scrum was a problem for Scotland all day.
Jonny Gray 6 – Not as influential as he would have liked on his long-awaited return to the test side.
Grant Gilchrist 7 – Powerhouse more than justified his selection in the bioler room.
Jamie Ritchie 7 – Always on the edge with the ball on the floor but defended superbly. Withdrawn injured.
Hamish Watson 7 – The warrior on the ball and over it gave his backrow opponents a torrid afternoon.
Matt Fagerson 8 – Immense in collisions and given a high load of work with the ball. Never toom a backwards step.
Replacements 7 – Ben White was superb on his debut, finishing his try brilliantly then brining tempo for the final 15. Front row also had a fine impact and brought Scotland scrum cohesion when they needed it.

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