Scotland v England: Scotland player ratings

Darcy Graham, Finn Russell and Matt Fagerson stand out as Gregor Townsend's side get their Six Nations off to a flying start

Stuart Hogg is a double Calcutta Cup winning captain. Image: © Craig Watson -
Stuart Hogg is a double Calcutta Cup winning captain. Image: © Craig Watson -

15. Stuart Hogg – 8

One or two hairy moments at the back in difficult conditions but generally assured in a performance which underlined his credentials as one of the great Scotland captains. Demonstrated at various times his full repertoire of a huge boot, great cover defence, nice hands (notably in the lead up to White’s try) and dancing feet.

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14. Darcy Graham – 9

Into everything in both attack and defence, typified by his key role creating first try when he hit a brilliant line, beat Joe Merchant with some excellent footwork, and then released Ben White with a perfectly time pass, and by his turnover that sealed the win in overtime. If you don’t enjoy watching the Hawick man letting rip like this, then rugby might not be the sport for you.

13. Chris Harris – 7

Scotland completed 124 tackles and missed only six, while England completed 93 and missed 17. The outside-centre was not solely responsible for this heroic rearguard effort, but as Scotland’s defence leader he led by example.

12. Sam Johnson – 6

Solid. Key role in Scotland’s vice-like defence but no real chance to make a mark with ball in hand, before being replaced by Sione Tuipulotu with 21 minutes to go. He was what Scotland needed during his time on the park.

11. Duhan van der Merwe – 7

His backfield security was given a thorough examination, and the big South African was generally up to the task, although was caught in no-man’s-land at one point midway through the first half when he was lucky that Marcus Smith overcooked his cross-kick. Ran with intent but the game didn’t quite open up for him, and coughed up a couple of penalties when failing to release the ball after being tackled.


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10. Finn Russell – 8

Composed and controlled to show young pretender Marcus Smith who the master really is. Kicked his goals, found grass when clearing down field as part of a clear tactic to force England into having to attack from deep, and a couple of razor-sharp cross-kicks in quick succession which pulled England all out of shape in the lead-up to second half penalty try were both bang on the money.

9. Ali Price – 7

Missed 12 minutes of the first half getting an HIA – during which time his understudy, Ben White, claimed a debut try – then returned to play a crucial management and tidying-up role which underlined his credentials as the Scottish success story of last summer’s Lions tour.


1. Rory Sutherland – 6

A big shift from a guy who has hardly played during the last three months, and useful to have the impact of Pierre Schoeman coming off the bench

2. George Turner – 6

Line-out darts were on the money in very difficult conditions for 51 minutes until giving way when the whole home front-row was switched. Quieter round the park than we have come to expect with Scotland losing the battle at the pit-face. Made five metres from two carries, compared to 113 metres from eight carries from opposite number Luke Cowan Dickie.

3. Zander Fagerson – 6

Two tackles on England winger Max Malins inside two minutes of kick-off – the first a real thump – helped set the tone. The scrum was a struggle, and loose discipline still a factor.

4. Jonny Gray – 6

Coughed up a soft penalty when pulling Ben Youngs into a ruck which allowed Marcus Smith to nudge the visitors into a 17th minute lead. Struggled to impose himself as England dominated territory and possession, particularly in the first half.

5. Grant Gilchrist – 7

Not quite the physical presence you get from the likes of opposite number Maro Itoje, but a real warrior who constantly offers himself up to run hard yards and make close-range tackles, and his peddling against the tide on a tough afternoon for the front-five was critical.

6. Jamie Ritchie – 8

Harshly penalised for interference at line-out during that fraught opening for Scotland. He’s become a very important leader of this Scottish pack and his absence in the Dragons’ den that is the Principality Stadium next Saturday could be significant.

7. Hamish Watson – 7

So often the spearhead of Scotland’s back-row heroics but had a slightly lower key role supporting the marvellous Fagerson on this occasion, although still a hugely effective performer with 14 tackles and some great work slowing the ball at the breakdown. Penalty for a neck-roll on Tom Curry with four minutes to go could have been costly on another day.

8. Matt Fagerson – 9

Won an important early penalty competing the tackle area, which slowed the visitors’ early momentum. Huge work-rate. He made 13 tackles (more than anyone else on the park apart from Watson), was comfortably the biggest carrier among the Scottish forwards (53 metres made) and a constant menace at the breakdown, edging out Darcy Graham as official man-of-the-match.


16. Stuart McInally – 7

Strength in depth is perhaps the key factor which could make this team genuine Six Nations contenders, and the fact McInally can bring his experience and ability to the party in the final 20 is a huge benefit.

17. Pierre Schoeman – 7

Brought real energy off the bench. Carried hard – and often – pressurised England possession late on – an ideal impact sub.

18. WP Nel – 6

The ‘Squad-Father’ perhaps doesn’t have the dynamism as his fellow front-row replacements but he stacked up the scrum and trundled around at a decent lick prove that at the grand-old-age of 35 he is still more than up to the challenge of international rugby.

19. Sam Skinner – 7

Played his role in big impact off the bench. Powerful run in midfield as Scotland put England onto the back foot during that final 10 minutes, and the stole the crucial line-out with just a couple of minutes to go.

20. Magnus Bradbury  – 5

Not quite the same impact as some of his fellow replacements.

21. Ben White  – 7

Thrown in at the deep end as an early HIA replacement for Price and marked the occasion in style with a debut try, then helped see the game out at the end.

22. Blair Kinghorn –  N/A 

Didn’t get on.

23. Sione Tuipulotu – 6

Made the gain-line with some determined running then stretched England with a good pass from the two possessions he had during 20 minutes on the park.

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The 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. Excellent point David (Blair) about Russell’s clarity of thinking and reading of the game situation. Really feel England
    lost the game by the poor quality of their thinking Off the pitch. Firstly Jones was wrong IMO to take Smith off as early as he did although I was delighted that he did so. Secondly not getting a hooker on for Cowan-Dickie quickly was negligent. Thirdly I was pleased Jones kept Nowell on the bench until the final minute. Nowell always looks dangerous and is a proper winger. I have seen Marchant playing at centre for Harlequins numerous times and Malians occupied the No 15 slot when at Bristol last season.
    Our strength was in defence. Only 6 tackles missed out of 130 is impressive but we will need more attacking bite in Cardiff. Johnson might have to be replaced by Redpath. But to attack we need more quality ball and our scrum looked under pressure. Concerned by Ritchie’s injury and wonder who will replace him

  2. I see England are having a bit of a moan about the final set of scrums. Pretty sure I saw their LH drop and change his bind right in front of the ref so it goes both ways – O’Keefe wanted to see the ball come out the back of that scrum and was pretty determined not to award a pen either way. I particularly liked his instruction “the side that keeps it up will be rewarded”.

    • I thought the Nel/Marler battle was key.

      He won a penalty and then didn’t concede one when Marler tried a few tricks at the end. Still our best scrummager.

  3. I think MotM was Russell, just for the second try alone !

    I think VdM worth more than a 7, caught all his high balls and made progress in attack. I’d say you have to blame the following players for the 2 penalties, he did his bit, just needed support.

  4. Before the game, I was generally happy with the team, with only mild concerns Johnson might not be the most potent attacking 12 we could have chosen and that Graham was not at his best. I might have opted for Steyn instead of Graham and I would have been wrong to do so. Graham is back at his best, after trying a little too hard in the autumn internationals, and it is great to see.
    In the conditions, “solid” was perhaps good enough from Johnson and Townsend may opt for something different in future games.

    Re Smith being subbed by Jones, which seems to be regarded as controversial, try aside, the general assessment of England were they were largely toothless against the Scottish defence and Smith missed a penalty kick to touch. Was bringing the highly-regarded Ford on as a replacement really a bad decision?

  5. I think these ratings are too high, Scotland defended well and were clinical with the attacks we managed but we were hardly able to build any phases. we were pretty wasteful with a lot of our possession, our maul defense was poor and there were a fair few silly individual errors. We can play so much better.

  6. I think these ratings are too high, Scotland defended well and were clinical with the attacks we managed but we were hardly able to build any phases. we were pretty wasteful with a lot of our possession, our maul defense was poor and there were a fair few silly individual errors. We can play so much better.

  7. With more than a little exaggeration a former English International praised Scotland for winning without the ball through sheer defensive quality.
    Here’s hoping they still have plenty attacking flair for Cardiff.

  8. If there’s fight in the dog, then the dog will stay in the fight – and at last we have a team with real teeth. Fagerson was awarded man of the match and his performance was mighty, but for me Darcy was the boy. The way he stood Marchant all ends up to put White in for that try was pure magic. His positioning for Finn’s kick was perfect and would have almost certainly have resulted in a score. And his stealing of the ball at the death made five million Scots leap in the air with joy – and let’s face it relief. What a fantastic warrior he is – only five foot and a few inches, but what fight there is in that wee dug!

  9. Russell’s kick to touch when England had no hooker on the pitch was superb – even in the maelstrom he seemed to be thinking the game more clearly than Eddie Jones, and it ultimately led to the winning penalty.


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