England v Scotland report: success at last at Twickenham

An inspired performance from Gregor Townsend's side provides ideal start to Six Nations

Duhan van der Merweon his way to scoring Scotland's decisive try. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Duhan van der Merweon his way to scoring Scotland's decisive try. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

England 6

Scotland 11

DAVID BARNES @ Twickenham

SCOTLAND’S 38-year wait for victory at Twickenham is over. Gregor Townsend’s side played with intelligence, purpose and no little courage to dominate their opponents in almost every area of the match, and the scoreline flattered the home team.

It was a well deserved victory which will live long in the memory of any Scot who witnessed it. What a shame it is that the stands were empty apart from a very light sprinkling of support staff and media. This was an occasion which deserved a full house for the victorious side.

England were poor. Unfocussed and ill-disciplined. But you can only beat what is put in front of you, and Scotland will march into next week’s round two clash against Wales with a spring in their step.

Captain Stuart Hogg led by example with a man-of-the-match performance. His kicking from hand was sensational.

Debutant Cameron Redpath justified the faith Gregor Townsend had shown when throwing him at the deep-end with an accomplished all-round performance, the highlight being a crucial turnover towards the end which halted England’s momentum as they looked to salvage a match which they would have had no right to win.

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Ali Price dodged a bullet early on when his box-kick was charge down my Maro Itoje, only for Jonny Hill to be penalised for sealing off as he tried to manufacture quick possession five yards from Scotland’s try line.

That was the first of four penalties conceded by England in quick succession, allowing Scotland to march the length of the pitch and earn an opportunity for three easy points from directly in front of the posts, which Finn Russell had no problem clipping over with six minutes played.

Price was charged down again by Itoje a few minutes later, and this time the ball rebounded harmlessly into touch, but the scrum-half was clearly rattled by the attention he was getting from the big second-row.

Redpath had a couple of impressive early involvements both sides of the ball. He looked composed and resisted the temptation to spin the ball wide when England fumbled on Scotland’s 22, directing a 40-yard clearance downfield instead.

England just couldn’t settle. Jonny May appeared spooked by the onrushing Sean Maitland and dropped a high ball, and it got better still for Scotland when they squeezed a penalty out of Ellis Genge at the resulting scrum.

Russell was clearly determined to make full use of his box of tricks. He prodded a grubber through to Maitland on the right touchline and it might have been try time if the winger’s overhead offload back inside to the onrushing Russell had gone to hand.

An excellent diagonal by Owen Farrell put Scotland under pressure and Itoje harangued Price into slicing his clearance into touch inside his own 22, but Matt Fagerson saved the bacon by getting up to steal the ball at the tail.

England’s indiscipline continued and Billy Vunipola saw yellow for a high tackle on Russell as Scotland played advantage on the ninth penalty they had been awarded inside the first 23 minutes.

Scotland continued to turn the screw and Hamish Watson was held up over the line. A series of scrums had England under pressure on their own line, but they avoided a penalty try, and when Russell tried a change of tact, he put a touch too much on his cross-field kick which bounced just beyond Duhan van der Merwe’s reach in the in-goal area.

England kicked their 22-restart long and Hogg ran it back. A few minutes later, Scotland finally got reward for their dominant first half hour when a sweeping passage of play culminated in van der Merwe stepping inside his man and shrugging off three more defenders as he somehow found a way to the line.

Having worked so hard to open up clear daylight between themselves and their hosts, Scotland will have been frustrated that they almost immediately gave away a penalty when Rory Sutherland got caught on the wrong side of a tackle, and Farrell fired home the points from 40-yards.

One of Scotland’s big problems in recent years has been their habit of compounding errors with more errors, and they did it again here. First Chris Harris – having been given the ball under pressure – kicked it out on the full from just outside his own 22, handing England an attacking line-out. Then Russell got himself yellow-carded for sticking a leg out to trip Ben Youngs after being caught wrong-footed, with Farrell kicking his second penalty to make it a two-point game at the break.

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You wouldn’t have known that Scotland were down to 14 men during the first eight minutes of the second half. They spent most of that period camped on England’s line after Hogg had fired a wonderful penalty 50 yards into the corner with pinpoint precision, and Russell’ s first task after returning to the fray was to fire over an offside penalty to make it 11-6 to the visitors.

During the next 10 minutes Scotland played like they were used to coming down to London and winning matches. We had Hogg dancing past tacklers from deep, Russell pulling England’s backfield from pillar to post with his kicking repertoire, and not to be outdone, Hogg got back in on the act with an inch-perfect 70-yard spiral which pinned England right back on their own line again.

Scotland should have edged further ahead when a frustrated Itoje was called for taking out Scott Cummings at a line-out, but Russell was off target with his shot at goal from wide on the left.

England continued to offend, and referee Andrew Brace warned Farrell that another yellow-card was becoming increasingly likely.

It was all looking so promising for Townsend’s boys, but then England managed to isolate Price and snaffle a turnover on their own line to relieve the pressure, and Scotland wobbled.

There was a knock-on when Russell tried to tip a rash pass from Price back inside, their once dominant scrum started to creak, and the hosts sensed that it was now or never.

Then Redpath halted that momentum when he got over the ball and hung on like a limpet to win a long-range penalty. Hogg pushed his effort to the right of the posts, but the Scots had received a vital energy injection with 10 minutes to go.

England continued to come at them hard – but without much variation – and the blue wall soaked it up.

Replacement scrum-half Scott Steele and Jonny Gray managed to wrap May up in a tackle, winning another important turnover inside their own half, and the clock ticked past the 75 minutes mark.

Poor May then fumbled another of Hogg’s howitzer clearances, which handed Scotland the chance to see out the game inside England’s 22, although there was one hairy moment when Russell went for the drop-goal and ended up being charged down.

It all sounds so easy, but this was a mighty achievement.

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Teams –

Scotland: S Hogg©; S Maitland (H Jones 72), C Harris, C Redpath, D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price (S Steele 69); R Sutherland (O Kebble 64), G Turner (D Cherry 67), Z Fagerson (W Nel 64), S Cummings, J Gray, J Ritchie (R Gray 66), H Watson, M Fagerson (G Graham 64).

England: E Daly; A Watson, H Slade, O Lawrence (G Ford 69), J May; O Farrell©, B Youngs (D Robson 56); E Genge (B Obano 72), J George (L Cowan-Dickie 56), W Stuart (H Williams 63), M Itoje, J Hill, M Wilson (C Lawes 53), T Curry, W Vunipola (B Earl 67).

Referee: Andrew Brace

Scorers –

England: Pen: Farrell 2

Scotland: Tries: Van der Merwe; Pen: Russell 2.

Scoring sequence (England first): 0-3; 0-8; 3-8; 6-8 (h-t) 6-11


Yellow cards –

England: Vunipola

Scotland: Russell


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About David Barnes 3816 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including he Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Well. I think my proudest moment as a Scotland fan was when Russell went off and the restart after half time. The lads managed that 8 minutes very well. With composure and calmness we went forward, Hogg stood up and drove the game. For me that is THE most memorable part. England were shell shocked and heedless.

    I was 13 the last time this happened and we still managed to come fourth that year in the five nations. Here was the team…not a bad side at all.
    FB 15 Peter Dods
    RW 14 Jim Pollock
    OC 13 Jim Renwick
    IC 12 Keith Robertson
    LW 11 Roger Baird
    FH 10 John Rutherford
    SH 9 Roy Laidlaw
    N8 8 John Beattie
    OF 7 David Leslie
    BF 6 Jim Calder
    RL 5 Iain Paxton
    LL 4 Tom Smith
    TP 3 Iain Milne
    HK 2 Colin Deans
    LP 1 Jim Aitken (c)
    Coach: Jim Telfer

    But its a cautionary tale…This could be the beginning of a run at the triple crown. I don’t think its a title run. France are looking very good and we have to play the Irish and the Welsh. Albeit on home ground. The conditions could be right, Ireland and Wales are not firing well as teams and after their match yesterday there are a few injuries and a citing in the offing.

    However, one swallow does not make a summer. That kind of performance needs to be a regular occurrence, and imagine if Russell actually had a good game?

  2. Amongst the best things about yesterday’s match were that the Scotland players, though playing extremely well and in control of almost the whole game, were not playing “out of their skins” or at the very limits if their abilities, nor did they “cling on” to win. They were comfortably the better side even though they left a lot of points out there, even though one or two of the players have had (and will have again) better days. But we did see a few of the guys attain heights never before seen or get back to near their very best. Our lineout functioned better than for several years (talk about grabbing your opportunity with both hands, George!) and it was great to see Sean Maitland playing again with flair, pace and confidence.
    Also, while we may not have many current options at scrum half, there’s a couple of really good ones coming up…
    Thing is, this isn’t a one-night stand. That was a good opening show… now they have to go out there and do it all again, with no drop in focus, energy and clear-headedness. But a great and very enjoyable start.

  3. Heart stopper of a game to watch, worried we’d lose until the final whistle !

    Main thing for me is the maturity of Townsend to realise his ‘fastest game’ strategy was just wrong … and he’s re-throught and turned it round. Main issue with the team does seem to be Scrum Half, is George Horne the answer?

  4. What an outstanding performance
    The Centenary match was my first visit to Murrayfield and in all that time perhaps only 1986 can match it in terms of mastery upfront and game management and 1990 in terms of commitment by the whole team.
    Congrats to all, especially as one commentator has said below to Gregor who appears to have learned a lot since WC19, and is now harnessing his coaching team, has harmony in the camp and is giving Finn his voice.
    In Redpath he may also have found for Finn what John Leslie did for him.

  5. Obviously the result is great but the best thing for me is that that was a proper 80 minute performance; nobody posted missing at any point, no drop off in intensity or ambition.

    A few mistakes which keeps our feet on the ground – the charge downs (especially the first), Hogg’s attempt to run it out of the 22 in traffic (that cost us 3pts eventually and the Russell card), the 8pts missed from the tee and the butchered drop-goal attempt (bad call but an even worse pass from Steele).

    We should have won by more but I don’t see anyone caring.

  6. A strange game, not least because there was no atmosphere. Jonny May’s ineptitude pretty much summed up the England effort on the day, offering nothing but a white wave to be dashed on blue rocks. The Scottish defence is immense these days, across the team, well organised and no prisoners taken. I found the strategy against mauls a bit perplexing, but no harm done, this time. The two charged down kicks early on might have caused some concern in less determined teams, but there was purpose amd cohesion in the Scottish team, whereas it’s stretching things to call what England offered a team at all. Quite what Jones was thinking, only he knows, but he might have been wiser to pick a match fit squad. Anyway, that’s his problem, We could only play the team that turned up and ours was better, across the board. Redpath was immense on his debut.

    • There is a lot of talk about the match fitness of England’s Saracens players but it didn’t seem to affect Sean Maitland. Just deflection from a team looking for excuses.

      • Deflection? That was indisputably a toothless England team, yet there were plenty of caps on the pitch. You might prefer to believe that’s solely attributable to the Scottish performance, I don’t believe that’s realistic.

  7. Won by a point in 1871 and by 5 points in 2021. This shows improvement, but whilst I think getting the win is the first and foremost thing to do, we should really be looking to win by more than 9 in 2171.

  8. Outstanding
    Gray J, Watson, Fagerson (x2), superb.
    Hogg and Russell bringing confidence, class and experience. What a joy for guys like Gary Graham, Scott Steele, David Cherry, George Turner and Rory Sutherland to play on a day like today – they have all had many days in unheralded teams, or on rehab from injury, and everyone of them says to us today, never, ever, give up!

  9. The sheer arrogance of Jones and Saracen’s lads to think that could show up with no match practice and just pap the Scots was breathtaking and stupid. I worried Fagerson would be out muscled at 8 but Billy V was a as mobile as a fridge so England playing with 14. Correct call by Townsend that I was wrong to be pushing for Gary Graham. Itoje did show up and arguably man of match but he lost so he isn’t. I really impressed by Turner and Redpath but actually across board we were ace. Why England don’t play Sam Simmonds is a mystery.

    • The argument that the Sarries contingent was undercooked can only be stretched so far. Maitland was immense, and Itoje was one of England’s least bad performers.

      • Specifically no one can argue that Jones picking Billy V was a massive bonus for us. All he did was offside penalty and sin bin for high tackle. He was abysmal. If Simmonds is at 8 the whole result could have changed. Farrell was similarly lacking any sharpness. Maitland was annoynopus apart from one run and off load second half. Itoje is different gravy – and yet his penalty count was very high for him so again maybe mentality wrong. My concern remains that vs Stander or Falateau let alone Olivion we will be on back foot which kills our game.

      • Specifically no one can argue that Jones picking Billy V was a massive bonus for us. All he did was offside penalty and sin bin for high tackle. He was abysmal. If Simmonds is at 8 the whole result could have changed. Farrell was similarly lacking any sharpness. Maitland was annoynopus apart from one run and off load second half. Itoje is different gravy – and yet his penalty count was very high for him so again maybe mentality wrong. My concern remains that vs Stander or Falateau let alone Olivion we will be on back foot which kills our game.

  10. Awesome performance. Eddie Jones and the Saracen boys were arrogant to think they could just rock up with no game time and take it to Scotland. Only Itoje looked sharp (arguably player of match). Fagerson was very good at 8 which I wasn’t expecting but partly because his opposite number was static like a giant fridge on the park. Good call by Townsend. Man of match for me would be Gray, Watson, or Turner but all the pack were superb. To be fair so were all the backs. And all the replacements. And the coaches. And the coach driver. Come on!

  11. When I saw Jones being interviewed before the game he looked nervous and I had a feeling an upset was on the cards. Well done to the boys, every man did his duty.

    There’ll be dancing in the living rooms of Scotland tonight!

  12. Let. The. Pros. Do. Their. Jobs.

    Hope VDM is dropped for the next game as I can only get so erect.

    • They will shrink and go silent i suspect James.

      Another fantastic result in 2021 for Dodson et al,.

      Let the pros do their jobs

      • Yes indeed James. Not only smiled roared at the tv at the end

        Perhaps you need to go back and review the 6N matches on the back of the WC campaign?

        It’s obvious that Townsend has learned and is now a much better coach. Credit where it’s due to him and his coaching team.

      • It’s the coaching staff and players that deserve credit not Dodson. And if he did then he deserves the blame for so many previous poor performances under his tenure.

        Well done the players and coaches.

      • Another mealy-mouthed nothing from the “neil” camp. It shows how small a man you really are. No one wants the team to fail. But they need to be held accountable along with the SRU. Instead you’d rather tug your forelock to your “betters” and let them dwindle OUR, and it is OUR, union into mediocrity.

        Grow up son…

  13. The team played for each other and it was a well-deserved result. If Finn had done the whole 80 mins they would have got more and more confident and I’m sure would have crossed the line again. Unfortunately Price has had his day. Service and kicking too slow. Thought Steele looked very composed when he came on, but George Horne still my pick (when he returns).

    • Yes, Price does look slow compared with Dupont or Connor Murray but we should bear in mind that those are 2 off the very best. It’s a part of his game that needs to improve, and he’ll be aware of that especially after yesterday. I wouldn’t write him off though, her still offers a lot in many other areas.

    • Doddon deserves credit for sticking with toony and giving him the resources to improve the team.

      • Well said MisterC, sadly some people can’t give the boss credit when it’s due. As usual the man at the top will always be unfairly targeted by a corrupt few.

      • Indeed they are JW, and you know all about that don’t you ? try give a balanced argument once in a while and people might not think so little of you.

  14. Fantastic tactics, beautifully carried out. I wasn’t sure about Matt Fagerson starting ahead of Gary Graham but I guess that’s why GT is head coach and I do a mundane job, sitting at my desk drinking too much coffee and eating too many KitKats.

    The only possible change is at 9 where Price just got his box kicking all wrong?

  15. That’s a match an occasion 150th anniversary and result which needed a crowd, still I take it and the Calcutta cup with great pleasure. The forwards were immense, young Gray has benefited from his Exeter experience , he was great today, front row , locks and back row were all brilliant. Think Hoggy was excellent some great breaks and long range kicking , the backs did what they needed to do, Redpath justified his place and Maitland looked sharp.
    Negatives well we had a lot of time in the England 22 and should have scored more tries and Finn’s kicking was poor, Price still not my No 9 , and our and his box kicking was poor.
    Still there is a spring in my step tonight, 1983 was Thatcher not PM back then , well done guys.

  16. I have to confess being in streams tears at the end having never witnessed a win at Twickenham. Massive, massive congratulations to the lads and i hope all fellow Scotsmen enjoy and savour their night best they can!

  17. Best team(by miles) won. Should have scored more but I’d have snatched your hand off for that result. Johnny Gray was my mom, best display ever in the dark blue.


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