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Player ratings: The one that got away

OPINION: The plain-speaking new boss Steve Borthwick said this was never going to be about performance frills.


Winning was all that mattered to him to get his tenure off to a great start. Instead, the poor chap got the exact opposite – a performance laced with plenty of English scores but no victory in a 23-29 loss sealed by a late converted Scotland try.

Liam Heagney rates the England players!

15. Freddie Steward – 6.5
Buoyed the crowd with an early sitdown of Sione Tuipulotu, but his neck roll was the game’s first penalty. Clocked up his usual big metres on the carry but the Scots asked questions of him defensively with a few tackles missed and an inability to shut the door on the four-try visitors.

14. Max Malins – 8
Fell out of favour under Jones but was back with a potent bang here. He was set to be the star player with his two first-half tries, especially with his wonder grounding of the Marcus Smith crosskick. However, Duhan van der Merwe stole his scoring thunder and had the decisive say, Malins unable to halt his momentum for the result changing.

13. Joe Marchant – 6
Picked to glide across the pitch as opposed to the bulk of Manu Tuilagi, that vision of him gliding didn’t include him grasping at air on halfway when van der Merwe set off on his exhilarating first-half try-scoring gallop. Redeemed himself with the sprint that bust the Scottish cover for Malins’ second score, but had it tough in the second half and was whipped off on 76 with his team in arrears.

12. Owen Farrell – 7
Named as Borthwick’s captain despite the noise for change, he needed to repay that faith but ultimately fell short. Missing in action when the Scots’ midfield combined for the first try, but a fabulous tackle on the ball-fumbling Finn Russell was a highlight as was his role as stand-in out-half when manipulating the defence for England’s second try. Two missed conversions didn’t help. Neither did a bang with 20 minutes remaining.


11. Ollie Hassell-Collins – 5.5
The debut maker had a start to forget. Cajoled by a crowd fed up with a kicking exchange, it was his no-release when running possession back that gave Scotland the penalty that left early England industry unrewarded and the visitors instead scoring off their first attack. He bounced back, clocking up big metres in the carry and showing initiative to switch wings. Ultimately, though, he didn’t fully convince.

10. Marcus Smith – 7.5
Needed a huge game now that Nick Evans, his Harlequins attack coach, is in the England staff and he played without his Jones leash on, mixing up what he did and providing the smart kicking assist for Malins’ opener. Couldn’t goosestep into the corner on 59 and he missed the key tackle on van der Merwe for the deciding try.

9. Jack van Poortvliet – 7
Another whose reputation was dented by South Africa, he began with a soft knock-on at a ruck but his passing was soon in the groove. A big break threatened a try at 20-19 but he was then hooked on 59.

1. Ellis Genge – 8
Busy in general play in ensuring England swung momentum back their way to lead at the break, he can’t be happy that a free and a penalty went against him in the first-half scrums. Rose to the occasion in the second half, scoring with a textbook low carry finish and was his team’s most frequent ball carrier when he exited on 61.


2. Jamie George – 7
Had some issues at the lineout finding his target but his physicality and energy were important in getting England out in front before they lost their way down the finishing straight. Played the full 80, which was unusual for a hooker at Test level.

3. Kyle Sinckler – 7
Radiated energy, his ball carry figure was in double digits when he left on 61 minutes with his team still in front and looking poised for a win.

4. Maro Itoje – 7.5
Mixing lock with blindside wasn’t great for him in November but having a boss who was a second row himself would surely help restore him to his very high standards? Not quite. There were some first-half handling slips and a couple of penalties, including the one that allowed the Scots to get it back to 23-22. Large tackle count, but didn’t decisively dominate.

5. Ollie Chessum – 8
Put in a shift that suggests Jonny Hill won’t be in the team anytime soon. His action man effort included reliable handling, a huge metres tally in the carry and a high lineout count catch. Will rue a sealing-off penalty nine minutes from time, though.

6. Lewis Ludlam – 7
Was asked by his coach to provide grit and determination and he did this plentifully, even giving Malins the assist for the second try and latching into Ben Curry on an important carry for the third. His effort wasn’t fully polished, though. For instance, he agonisingly couldn’t prevent Tuipulotu from getting the kick through for Scotland’s opener.

7. Ben Curry – 7.5
Was all set to have a huge mark in his just his second appearance at Test level, but then his inexperienced kicked in, the flanker failing to snuff out Ben White’s snipe around a ruck for Scotland’s third try. Before that he had been excellent, carrying productively and tackling frequently.

8. Alex Dombrandt – 6.5
With Billy Vunipola axed from the squad and Sam Simmonds excluded from match day, the stage was set for him to start making the No8 jersey his and he didn’t. Endured a horrible period, missing the last-man tackle on the scoring van der Merwe and then fumbling the ball twice. Showed guts to win a turnover penalty in his own 22 near the break, but was gone on 56.


16. Jack Walker – No Rating
The uncapped player didn’t make it off the bench.

17. Mako Vunipola – 7
Big yardage when he carried in his 19-minute cameo.

18. Dan Cole – 6.5
Amazing that he got back in the mix for the first time since the 2019 RWC final. Arrived on in the 61st minute and helped win a scrum penalty in his first contribution.

19. Nick Isiekwe – 6
Packed down at back row during his appearance. Didn’t have much involvement.

20. Ben Earl – 6.5
Arrived in with 24 minutes left and the score at 20-19 for England. Made metres on most of his half-dozen carries but will rue two penalties, the last confirming his team’s loss with Jamie Ritchie in for the poach.

21. Ben Youngs – 6
Was on for 21 minutes and had a role in winning the penalty for the final England score, but ultimately keep his team in front.

22. Ollie Lawrence – N/R
Another Calcutta Cup for him to forget. Just four minutes was all he had.

23. Anthony Watson – 5.5
Back after his long-term injury absence, he has 15 minutes for Hassell-Collins to no major effect.


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