Scotland beats England again in Six Nations thriller
EDINBURGH, Scotland (AP) — Scotland pulled off successive wins over England for the first time in 38 years with a gripping 20-17 victory at Murrayfield in the Six Nations on Saturday.
The self-belief Scotland took from its historic win at Twickenham a year ago was brilliantly backed up as it soaked up intense pressure from a young England side in front of its own expectant full house of fans.
England was an embarrassing fifth place last year because it was undercooked. Coach Eddie Jones kept his job and reacted by raking in new faces. They edged world champion South Africa in November and carried that form into a hostile Murrayfield, where they were controlling the action in the rain.
Scotland had spent a total of seven seconds in the England 22 and seemed to be out of the game until England’s self-inflicted double blow in the 66th minute.
As a Finn Russell cross-field kick was falling to Darcy Graham on the right wing near the England tryline, England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie rose above him and deliberately slapped the ball volleyball-style into touch. Cowan-Dickie was sin-binned and Scotland given a penalty try to tie the score 17-17.
Suddenly, Scotland had a firm foothold in the game again and Murrayfield found its voice again.
Without Cowan-Dickie, England was flustered. A lineout throw-in was penalized. A seven-man scrum collapsed and was penalized. Russell converted the chance and Scotland regained the lead at 20-17 with eight minutes to go.
But the Scots couldn’t let the drama end there.
A kickable penalty for them to go six points ahead with three minutes to go was overturned. England then received a kickable penalty but went for touch instead.
The tension extended the game an extra five minutes because Scotland disrupted three England scrums. Finally, England attacked but Graham turned over ruck ball and ended the contest.
“I was so nervous for that set of scrums at the end,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said. “It was crossing my mind what England might do if they got a penalty, but fortunately it was decided on an error rather than a penalty.
”(Our self-belief) is excellent, as is our character. We were behind and came back. Some of our best rugby was in the last 15 minutes in tricky conditions.
“It counts for nothing if we don’t back it up with a performance next week. We know how tough it is to play Wales in their own stadium in the Six Nations.”
The last time Scotland enjoyed back-to-back wins over England was in 1983 — the previous win at Twickenham — and 1984.
But for all of Scotland’s talk during the week about delivering on promises, it didn’t look so good for more than an hour despite the advantages of a settled team, experience, and home fans.
England, culled by injuries and starting seven players with 10 caps or less, looked its usual self against Scotland by making all of the play and enjoying the majority of ball and territory.
Only a lack of cohesion held it back. Somehow, England trailed 10-6 at halftime.
Scotland got the only try of the first half after disrupting England’s defense with a short lineout in midfield. Stuart Hogg put Graham in a gap and he drew the last man to send over Ben White, who had been on for five minutes for his debut after scrumhalf Ali Price was taken off to check a head knock.
England blew two good try chances when an unmarked Henry Slade on the right wing wanted a crosskick from rookie flyhalf Marcus Smith, but it flew over his side, and a lineout maul to the tryline finished with Cowan-Dickie held up.
England wasn’t the well-oiled machine of old but it took its chance after halftime. Smith, playing a test away from Twickenham for the first time, slotted a penalty for 9-10 then put England ahead after a lineout maul rolled Scotland backwards for 10 meters and he ran a great line down the short side.
Smith’s fourth penalty put England ahead a deserved 17-10 in the 63rd, at which point Smith, in great nick, was replaced along with the props. Fatefully, Cowan-Dickie wasn’t swapped out.
“We don’t apportion any blame to Luke,” Jones said. “The referee adjudged it was a yellow card and we have to get on with it. We had opportunities to kick on, but we just weren’t clinical enough.”
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