Scotland make it a 'hat-trick' at Twickenham
MATCH REPORT: Scotland scored their third successive win over England when they came from behind to open their 2023 Six Nations campaign with a 29-23 win at Twickenham on Saturday.
It was two Duhan van der Merwe tries, the second two minutes from time, that sealed the win and kept the Calcutta Cup in Scotland for another year.
The result left new England coach Steve Borthwick with a loss in his first match, just seven months out from the World Cup.
The hosts looked as if they would launch the Borthwick era with a victory when 23-22 ahead minutes from time.
But Edinburgh wing Van der Merwe then crossed for his second try of the match, with Finn Russell converting before the Scots held out to record a third successive win over England for the first time since 1972.
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“It’s some result for us. To do it in the last 5-10 minutes is always good,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said.
“It was an emotional game and then a much better second half from us,” he added.
England twice led in a first half where home wing Max Malins scored his first two tries and were 20-12 ahead when prop Ellis Genge plunged over early in the second half.
But they were unable to seal victory as Scotland fought back in style.
But for England, booed from the pitch after a limp Twickenham loss to South Africa in their last appearance, the climax to a dire 2022 that resulted in coach Eddie Jones being sacked, there was some consolation in the way their attack performed in a seven-try thriller, although questions will be asked about their defence.
“We started 11 days ago,” said England captain Owen Farrell.
“There has been massive improvement… For now, we will give credit to Scotland for sticking at it like they did.”
An entertaining first half ended with England narrowly ahead at 13-12.
Scotland opened the scoring in the 14th minute Sione Tuipulotu’s well-judged grubber kick was touched down by fellow midfielder Huw Jones for the recalled centre’s fifth try in as many Tests against England.
Russell added the conversion and Scotland led 7-0.
But England’s re-shaped pack started to get into the game as the hosts laid siege to Scotland’s line.
Borthwick’s side kept possession for 15 phases before fly-half Marcus Smith cross-kicked to the right corner, with Malins diving on the ball for a first try in 15 career England appearances.
Van der Merwe’s stunning solo try
Farrell, however, missed the conversion and Scotland responded in stunning fashion just before the half-hour with a stunning solo try from Van der Merwe, who scored Scotland’s lone touchdown in an 11-6 win over England in 2021 that ended their 38-year wait for a Twickenham triumph.
Receiving the ball just inside his own half, the winger set off on a curving run that saw him beat five England players – doubtless to the anger of England defence coach Kevin Sinfield – and culminated with a hand off of No. 8 Alex Dombrandt.
Russell’s conversion come back off the post, with Scotland now 12-5 ahead.
England, however, hit back with lock Ollie Chessum and Genge involved in a slick handling move before flanker Lewis Ludlam found Malins, who sidestepped stranded Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg, en route to his second try of the match.
Farrell, unusually for a world-class goal-kicker, missed the conversion.
But with 40 minutes on the clock, he landed a penalty from in front of the posts.
England extended their lead early in the second half when, having kicked for an attacking line-out near Scotland’s line, Genge plunged over for close-range try, which Farrell converted to leave his side 20-12 ahead.
But more loose England defence saw Scotland cut that advantage to just a point in the 51st minute with a try from a seemingly unthreatening position.
London Irish scrum-half Ben White, preferred by Townsend to the more experienced Ali Price, caught England cold with a break off the back of a ruck, evading flanker Ben Curry.
Russell converted and England led by just a point at 20-19.
An exchange of penalties put England 23-22 up before accurate support play saw Van der Merwe seal what was just Scotland’s sixth win at Twickenham.
Man of the match: Max Malins scored twice and made plenty of metres for England, while Jack van Poortvliet kept asking questions of the Scottish defence. Freddie Steward used his booming boot to continuously drive Scotland back deep into their own half. Jamie Ritchie produced a number of crucial plays for Scotland, including the turnover to win a penalty right on full-time. Stuart Hogg, Kyle Steyn, Huw Jones and Sione Tuipulotu were all impressive. Finn Russell may not have been flawless, but he has ice in his veins. However, our award goes to Scotland’s South African wing Duhan van der Merwe – who was his team’s most productive back with the ball in hand. He made over 100 metres and scored two tries, including the match-winning five-pointer two minutes from time.
Moment of the match: Both the Max Malins tries and the sublime individualism of Ben White for his score in the 51st minute are worthy of consideration. The Duhan van der Merwe try on the half-hour mark, when he darted through and past several English defenders on a mazy 60-metre counterattack, and his second when he put Scotland into the lead two minutes from the finish were the most decisive moments in the game. We opt for the match-winning moment.
Tries: Malins 2, Genge
Pens: Farrell 2
Tries: Jones, Van der Merwe 2, White
Cons: Russell 3
England: 15 Freddie Steward, 14 Max Malins, 13 Joe Marchant, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Ollie Hassell-Collins, 10 Marcus Smith, 9 Jack van Poortvliet, 8 Alex Dombrandt, 7 Ben Curry, 6 Lewis Ludlam, 5 Ollie Chessum, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Ellis Genge.
Replacements: 16 Jack Walker, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Nick Isiekwe, 20 Ben Earl, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Ollie Lawrence, 23 Anthony Watson.
Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Kyle Steyn, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Sione Tuipulotu, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ben White, 8 Matt Fagerson, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Jamie Ritchie (captain), 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Willem Nel, 2 George Turner, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Fraser Brown, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 Jack Dempsey, 21 George Horne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Chris Harris.
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand) & James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
- Additional reporting by AFP