England return to winning circle
SIX NATIONS REPORT: England got their Six Nations campaign back on track with a 13-6 win over Scotland at a rainswept and windy Murrayfield on Saturday that saw them regain the Calcutta Cup.
With 10 minutes to go, the match was all square at 3-3 thanks to a penalty apiece before England replacement prop Ellis Genge was driven over for a try converted by Owen Farrell.
England captain Farrell added a penalty before Scotland flyhalf Adam Hastings kept the hosts in the hunt with his second of the match.
But England closed the game out to secure victory after their defeat by South Africa in the World Cup final was followed by a 24-17 loss away to France in their Six Nations opener last weekend.
By contrast, Scotland have now lost both of their first two matches of the championship with this loss following a 19-12 defeat by Ireland in Dublin.
Scotland were again without flyhalf Finn Russell.
The gifted playmaker, a key figure in Scotland’s 25-13 win over England at Murrayfield in 2018 and the inspiration behind their comeback from 31-0 down in a remarkable 38-38 draw at Twickenham last year, was once more left out by coach Gregor Townsend following a late-night drinking session that saw Russell miss training prior to the Ireland match.
Australia-born centre Sam Johnson hit England wing Jonny May with a strong, legal tackle from the opening kick-off, but otherwise there was little for the home crowd to cheer in a first half where Farrell’s 11th-minute penalty was the lone score.
With Storm Ciara lashing Britain, the conditions made running rugby all but impossible.
Farrell missed two penalty chances either side of being on target with a 25-metre effort to punish Scotland lock Scott Cummings for not rolling away at the breakdown.
Scotland, by contrast, declined three kickable penalties, with captain Stuart Hogg also failing to find touch with one of them.
It was not as costly a mistake as when the fullback squandered a try by dropped the ball over the goal-line against Ireland but it was another unforced error.
George Ford nearly doubled England’s lead shortly before half-time but the flyhalf’s drop-goal went just past the left post
Scotland centre Huw Jones, a try-scorer in the 2018 Calcutta Cup, threatened England’s line early in the second half before persistent pressure from the Scots forwards saw England concede a penalty near their own half which Hastings, Russell’s replacement at fly-half, kicked to level the scores.
A rejuvenated Scotland, with the wind changing in their favour, then enjoyed sustained possession only to turn the ball over.
Several England kicks went directly into touch as they carelessly ceded territory.
Heading into the final quarter the game was still deadlocked, with Farrell missing another penalty as Genge held the ball.
But Farrell’s kick through almost led to Hogg gifting England a try when he fumbled the ball over his line under pressure from Jonathan Joseph.
Nevertheless, Hogg’s error led to a five-metre scrum for England and Genge was driven over for the key score.
Pens: Hastings 2
Pens: Farrell 2
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg (captain), 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Blair Kinghorn; 10 Adam Hastings, 9 Ali Price; 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie; 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Scott Cummings; 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Ben Toolis, 20 Nick Haining, 21 George Horne, 22 Rory Hutchinson, 23 Chris Harris
England: 15 George Furbank, 14 Jonny May, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Tom Curry, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 5 George Kruis, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Dunn, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Will Stuart, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Courtney Lawes, 21 Ben Earl, 22 Ben Youngs, 23 Ollie Devoto.
Referee: Pascal Gaüzère (France)
Assistant referees: Mathieu Raynal (France), Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)