6N: Scotland blows away England 25-13 to lift Calcutta Cup
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — There was a time, not long ago, when a debate centered on Scotland’s worthiness of a place in the Six Nations.
Try reviving that discussion after one of the most memorable victories in the team’s recent history, at the expense of its greatest rival.
It wasn’t just the scoreline but the manner of the performance in the 25-13 win against England on Saturday that should give Scottish rugby supporters so much heart for the remainder of the championship and beyond.
England, bidding for a second Grand Slam in three years and arriving on a run of 24 wins in 25 games under coach Eddie Jones, was overwhelmed by a sea of blue at the breakdown and the exuberance of Scotland’s center of excellence, Huw Jones.
Jones scored two of the Scots’ three first-half tries — one an individual score from near halfway — as they blew away England before halftime then weathered an inevitable response from the visitors with a brilliant defensive effort and indomitable spirit.
It was a first win over England in 10 years, and there was a revelry and electricity inside Murrayfield not witnessed or felt in years.
“We knew what we were going to get,” Jones said, “but we just couldn’t meet the challenge.”
Scotland started the Six Nations with a dismal loss in Wales but rebounded by beating France in round two. Like England, the Scots have two victories from three and can still win the Six Nations.
Just four years ago, Scotland was losing 20-0 at home to England and on its way to a finish of fifth place or lower for the ninth time in the previous 11 championships. Calls were growing for the introduction of promotion and relegation in the championship, giving the likes of Georgia and Romania hope of a spot in the northern hemisphere jamboree.
Only last year, Scotland was thumped 61-21 by England at Twickenham.
Now, the Scots have won their last six home matches in the Six Nations and nine of their last 10 home games in total, the only defeat being a narrow one against New Zealand in November.
“We were fueled by last year and the disappointment of the Wales game,” Scotland captain John Barclay said. “We said after that we didn’t become a bad team overnight.”
Scotland’s last win over England in the Calcutta Cup was 15-9 in the 2008 Six Nations. They relied on penalties that day but this was a different story altogether.
Jones, a star in the making, kicked forward and gathered to ground in the 15th minute for Scotland’s first home try against the English since 2004.
His other try might end up being the best of the tournament, breaking through a tackle just inside England’s half and running 50 meters before bursting through two defenders to score.
He has 10 tries in 14 tests, having also crossed twice in Scotland’s humiliating Twickenham loss last year and against Samoa, New Zealand, and Australia in the autumn.
Winger Sean Maitland crossed for the other try — from a move started by Jones’ 60-meter break down the right. Russell, another of Scotland’s star players, floated a miss-pass over to Maitland, who dived in at the corner.
England came out for the second half 22-6 down — its largest halftime deficit in 136 meetings against Scotland — and scored its only try almost immediately through center Owen Farrell. It didn’t spark a comeback, though.
The visitors’ chances of victory all but ended when replacement Sam Underhill was sin-binned for a no-arms tackle in the 66th, when the score was 22-13.
Flyhalf Finn Russell knocked over the penalty and the party could start in earnest in a fevered atmosphere at Murrayfield.
“They were too good for us,” Jones said. “Unfortunately we just weren’t in the game for the first 40 minutes.”
England’s only other loss under Jones was against Ireland last March, denying the team a second straight Grand Slam.
“That was as good a victory Scotland have had probably since 1986,” former Scotland fullback Gavin Hastings said.