Scotland v England: Calcutta Cup glory again for heroic hosts

Gregor Townsend's team make it three wins and a draw from their last five matches against the Auld Enemy

Ben White marked his Scotland debut in style with his team's opening try. Image: © Craig Watson -
Ben White scored on his Scotland debut last year against England. Image: © Craig Watson -

Scotland 20

England 17

DAVID BARNES @ Murrayfield

BRAVE and disciplined Scotland emerged from a Murrayfield monsoon clutching the Calcutta Cup, the third time they have come out on top in the oldest fixture in international rugby during the last five years, having also managed that crazy draw at Twickenham in 2019. It was as close as the score-line suggests, but there can be no real complaints about the ultimate outcome  

Gregor Townsend‘s side will travel to Cardiff next weekend high on confidence. But we saw this movie last year, when the seemingly easier second hurdle tripped Scotland up at Murrayfield following their famous opening weekend win at Twickenham. We will find out in seven days’ time whether that mauling Wales suffered in Dublin earlier this [Saturday] afternoon makes them more or less dangerous.

That’s a concern for another day, however, and all Scotland – the players and coaching stand in particular – can enjoy this moment, having shouldered the weight of expectation and delivered the tough, no-thrills victory they set out to achieve.

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England dominated the first quarter of an hour without putting Scotland under any real pressure, although the visitors did take the lead on 16 minutes when Jonny Gray was penalised in front of his own posts for pulling Ben Youngs into a ruck and Marcus Smith fired home the three easy points.

Scotland bit back immediately with a set-play involving a quick line-out to unmarked Jamie Ritchie at the front, a quick ruck in he middle of the park, and then the ball being transferred back the way it had come for  Stuart Hogg to send fellow Hawick-man Darcy Graham between two lumbering white jerseys. The diminutive winger accelerated into space then beat  Joe Merchant on a six-pence before sending Ben White five minutes into his debut as a temporary HIA replacement for Ali Price  over the whitewash for a glorious try, which blew the roof off the Murrayfield stands.

That moment of brilliance apart, it was tense, cagey stuff, with England dominating possession and territory but lacking the inspiration you might expect from a team containing a midfield of Smith, Henry Slade and Elliot Daly. The visitors did manage to get over the line on 31 minutes from a formidable line-out maul but couldn’t wrestle the ball onto the turf, so they made do with a second Smith penalty after hands in a ruck from Ritchie, which narrowed the gap to a single point.

However, when Kyle Sinkler was called for going off his feet 40 yards out and directly in front of his own posts in overtime of the first half, Finn Russell was happy to restore his team’s four point advantage at the turnaround.


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A Scottish mix-up which saw Grant Gilchrist penalised for obstruction when he got in the way of Graham running a kick back gave England the platform for a third Smith penalty, given against Graham for reaching past the ball as he went for the jackal.

As the game of cat-and-mouse continued, Russell was lucky the ball bobbled harmlessly into touch when a snatched kick was charge-down, then when Scotland were penalised at a scrum immediately after replacing their entire front-row, it allowed England to build pressure through their increasingly dominant line-out drive, and they fired their way into the lead when Youngs put Smith through a hole in Scotland’s out of shape defence.

That livened things up, with Scotland ratcheting the tempo to open up England through the middle twice, Price mugging Youngs at the base of a ruck and Duhan van der Merwe stretching his legs from deep. It was high-octane and high-risk, with Stuart Hogg chancing his arm when keeping a deep kick in play then managing to dance his way out of trouble.

Scotland had more of the ball during this third quarter than they had managed during the first half, but they couldn’t get any territorial pressure, and a Chris Harris penalty allowed Smith to take his and his teams’ tally for the match to 17.

It was time for Eddie Jones to send on his famous ‘finishers” with Joe Marler, Will Stuart, Alex Dombrandt and George Ford trotting off the bench for the final 17 minutes, but it didn’t have the desired effect. Within a minute, a penalty try had been awarded against the visitors and Luke Cowan-Dickie was on his way to the sin-bin for slapping the ball forward and out of play to prevent an easy catch and score for Graham off Russell’s cross-kick.

Scotland kept their foot on the gas and England were rattled, struggling to exit after a Russell kick pressed them back deep inside their own 22, and an early scrum engagement allowed the Scots stand-off to nudge his team back in front with just eight minutes left on the clock.

The chance of three more points with just four minutes to go evaporated when an interfering-on-the-deck penalty in front of the posts for Scotland was reversed after the TMO identified a neck-roll by Hamish Watson on opposite number Tom Curry, and England found a way to their opponents 22 with less than two minutes to play.

The last minute was high drama, with Scotland stealing a line-out through Sam Skinner, kicking long, England countering with real bite, Pierre Schoeman ripping the ball in contact, and Grant Gilchrist not managing to collect  all of which meant the visitors had a scrum 35 yards out in the middle of the park as the game clock ticked past the 80 minute mark.

Four times it was re-set as Scotland struggled to cope with the pressure coming through on them, but at the fifth time of asking they held firm and England went left, only for Graham snaffle possession and Hogg to fire his clearance kick deep into the North Stand behind his own in-goal line.

Teams –

Scotland: S Hogg; D Graham, C Harris, S Johnson (S Tuipulotu. 59), D van der Merwe; F Russell, A Price (B White 12-24, 64); R Sutherland (P Schoeman 51), G Turner (S McInally 51), Z Fagerson (W Nel 51), J Gray (S Skinner 63), G Gilchrist, J Ritchie (M Bradbury 59), H Watson, M Fagerson.

England: F Steward; M Malins, E Daly, H Slade, J Marchant (J  Nowell 80); M Smith (G Ford 63), B Youngs; E Genge (J Marler 63), L Cowan-Dickie (S Simmonds 76), K Sinckler ( W Stuart 63), M Itoje, N  Isiekwe (C Ewels 76), L Ludlam (A Dombrandt 63), T Curry, S Simmonds (J George 69). 

Referee: Ben O’Keefe (New Zealand)


Scorers –

Scotland: Tries: White, Penalty Try; Con: Russell; Pen: Russell 2

England: Try: Smith; Pen: Smith 4.

Scoring sequence (Scotland first): 0-3; 5-3; 7-3; 7-6; 10-6 (h-t) 10-9; 10-14; 10-17; 17-17; 20-17.


Yellow cards –

England: Luke Cowan Dickie.

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About David Barnes 3913 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. Interesting comments in press about referee not giving England scum penalty in last few minutes it was all debatable as it always is in scums . But did anyone notice that it should not have been a scum in first place the ball was knocked / punched out off Gilchrists hands by Itoja. Law states rip or knock out the players hands by opponent is not a knock on its play on. Ah well all’s well that ends well. Overall thought the changes to front row and introduction of Sam Skinner made a big difference. Think should start Skinner at very least next week and big improvement required next week Welsh attack will not be so one dimensional as England and they will be up for it given humiliation in Ireland .

    • Agree re the final scrum award, just re-watched it and it’s a terrible mistake. So three big bad calls by O’Keefe … and we still won !!

  2. Agree with other posts that I’d like to see a bit more from the centre. Perhaps redpath or Hutchinson on the bench. Is darge now a possibility for ritchies place or will he only be considered at 7?. Wish we didn’t box kick at all. Ireland use the tactic brilliantly but price telegraphs it and we don’t seem to win the hall back ever from it and just give opposition a platform. I’d rather we kicked deep. Great result of course but not sure tactically what we were trying to do? Didn’t go through many phases.

  3. It’s interesting, the centres “work” defensively- tries against and success over last 18months show that, Harris and Johnson are the guys in possession and they did nothing wrong yesterday. However what they don’t possess is the break of Bennett, the power of Tuipulotu or the flair of Jones or the 2nd 5/8 abilities of Redpath.
    So to my point……v Wales I’d have Redpath at 12, Tuipulotu on bench duty again. (Although I’d love Bennett to be back dark blue again)

  4. Finding ways to win when you’re not on form is a sign of a winning team. England were excellent for much of the game but Scotland saw it through. Based on how things went today for Wales, they are there for the taking next weekend. If Scotland can step it up from todays performance then who knows where that can take us.

  5. Eddie Jones, Owen Farrell, Mick Hucknall, Piers Moron, Janet Street Porter, Boris Johnson, your boys took one hell of a beating! Bring on the Welsh, Mon the Scotland!

  6. Bloody hell that was tense! Defence, Defence, and more defence won it. Well done Steve Tandy. Agree D’Arcy was outstanding and silenced the doubters. Only one issue-better discipline please. Onwards and upwards

  7. Its a strange feeling to come away from an England game feeling like you didn’t actually play that well but managed to win. As others have said we have played better and lost. It says a lot for our defence and organisation. A bit worrying we gave up so much possesion which we won’t always get away with. We gave away a few daft penalties and got turned over a few times without getting past a couple of phases. In the first half we just couldn’t get out our half and kept kicking the ball straight back to the English. So still some things to work on but nice to say that after a win. Wales have been our bogey team recently and will be hurting after today so will need to be on our game in Cardiff.

  8. It doesn’t seem all that long ago when any visiting team ventured into our 22 a try was pretty much a given – what a strange feeling it is to be confident without the ball.

  9. We have often outplayed opponents and yet found a way to lose. This was different. We found a way to win. Great defense, which has been there for some time now. We were efficient with meagre rations and took our chances exceptionally well. A real team effort and I feel guilty about singling out any one player, but I do think Darcy Graham does not always get the credit he deserves. This is not the first game in which he has excelled. In countless internationals, he has demonstrated real commitment, courage and considerable skill. He should have gone with the Lions. In my humble opinion he is the most complete winger in rugby today. Well done Scotland.

    • Graham has had a few wobbly moments in previous games but I feel some fans are looking for reasons to discount him. Today he was exceptional and is a nailed on starter on Cardiff. Loved how he left Marchant for toast before serving up Ben White his try on a plate.

  10. Agree with Dom Ward, resilience being a slightly better descriptive word rather than discipline considering the penalties we shipped up, so Dom’s correct, resilience did win the day, just, and Big Al is also correct suggesting that a few seasons ago we would have folded.
    It’s not just the best XV we have had for years the strength goes down through the Bench players and into the Squad.
    Lots of heart in mouth moments, Hogg going back on that bouncing ball and getting out of Jail was certainly one of them. Would Darcy Graham have scored, for me the Jury is out on that but no doubt about the Yellow from O’Keefe who seemed to me to have a strange game with some of his decisions, one minute you hated his decisions but then he was sensible if you were on our side, especially not awarding penalties in the last moments.
    As David Barnes suggested we will need to be better down in Cardiff, but the belief is there if they can deal with the slow start especially as Wales will be desperate to make a better fist of their display earlier in the day, were Ireland good or Wales way below par, I think we will have the answer to that next week.
    I thought Darcy Graham put in an excellent shift, especially for lets face it his stature, VdM’s ability under the high ball excellent as were some of his typical storming runs, but it was a great collective defensive performance from the team/bench against admittedly an England side that had 2/3rds plus possession but failed to capitalise.
    So there you go the Lads did well, I hardly had time to enjoy the Jacobite Ale during the game, edge of the seat stuff, but I will be making up for it soon following up with the Auchentoshan just before somnolence sets in.

    • George, flapping the ball into touch like that is a clear example of foul play. Take the offender out, (ie imagine he wasn’t there). would Graham PROBABLY have scored? yes, probably he would. So pen try and YC were nailed on and correct decisions.

      Some of O’Keefe’s other decisions less good. We gave away about 4 silly pens, but he warded a similar number against us which were nonsense. Factor that in and the pen count isn’t at all bad. Fortunately we have better refs from here on in

      • Regarding the Penalty Try, agree with you and you expressed the incident better than I did, what I tried to infer [badly] was that if Cowan-Dickie had actually gone for the catch and caught it etc..
        As for O’Keefe or any other Referee, I struggle at times to see some of the alleged offences but I’m sure I am not alone in that especially from former players of my generation.
        Fingers crossed for next week in Cardiff they will be smarting from their performance in Dublin but our biggest Hurdles will be France and our trip to Dublin even at that Italy looked to have improved on the fitness front from what I saw today against the French, I think it is fair to say that nothing is a given in this years 6N but massive thanks to Luke C-D and Eddie Jones for pulling Smith and a mention for Mr Marler’s brain fade wouldn’t go amiss.

      • Regarding the Penalty Try, agree with you and you expressed the incident better than I did, what I tried to infer [badly] was that if Cowan-Dickie had actually gone for the catch and caught it etc..
        As for O’Keefe or any other Referee, I struggle at times to see some of the alleged offences but I’m sure I am not alone in that especially from former players of my generation.
        Fingers crossed for next week in Cardiff they will be smarting from their performance in Dublin but our biggest Hurdles will be France and our trip to Dublin even at that Italy looked to have improved on the fitness front from what I saw today against the French, I think it is fair to say that nothing is a given in this years 6N but massive thanks to Luke C-D and Eddie Jones for pulling Smith and a mention in dispatches for Mr Marler’s brain fade wouldn’t go amiss.

      • Certainly agree re some of the Refs decisions. If you re-watch Englands first two scores, I’d say Fagerson is on his feet for the first one and it’s an England foot that takes the ball out the scrum for the second one, so 20-11 coming into the final scrums and then who cares if he gives that one.

        But what a great performance, can we back it up re Wales, I think maybe we can !

  11. Great to squeak a win there, when let’s face it, we never really controlled the match for any decently long spell. We gave away some silly penalties at times and rode our luck, but stayed in the fight and were clinical with what little we had in terms of chances. Roll on Cardiff! Thought Darcy Graham’s all round game was fantastic and obviously he basically made both tries (!) and got that vital turnover to ice the game. Ben White looks a good find at scrum half, and Finn Russell’s kicking really strong. Lots of positives!

  12. Guts and fortitude, to get the win, when well below par….
    Roll on Cardiff now that the fave tag at home is off our back!

  13. Expected it to be tight and historically in those first 20 minutes it’d be fatal, but Scotland’s defence is far more composed and our first try was smart and a rare opportunity taken.

    Full credit to all involved. England without some of their first picks are still a quality team but we grinded it out. Win is a win.

    • Tremendous result.
      Very pleasing to see us taking our chances when the opportunity arose. Had to defend for long periods but defended expertly against a physical but somewhat blunt England attack.

      Best moment of the match was the Hawick boys combining superbly to send White in. Just shows the threat we have given a wee bit space.

      Next week I’d have Redpath in, interesting who will replace Ritchie if he’s out, Crosbie has no luck whatsoever

  14. The most important thing from the game is we won a game we could have lost. In the past we might have lost but today we stuck to our task and pulled it off. We were not great today except in defense. As well the weather was a little bit kind also.
    What a debut for young White comes on as replacement and scores a debut try, he and the rest of us will remember that for a while. It all came down to the Finn double kick that Cowan-Dickie messed , to crown what was mature game from Finn. Good games from Graham and VDM as well as M Fagerson and Hogg for saving that almost try. Hope Ritchie is OK. O how I want to beat Wales as well.
    Well done men we will smile for the rest of the week now.

  15. Changed days. A few years ago we would likely have lost that. The guys stayed in the fight, showed lots of heart and edged it. Lots to work on but happy tonight.

  16. What a match.

    Resilience and fortitude. Thought we had blown it when Smith scored.

    Take a bow the team. Bring on Cardiff.


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