A week ago I watched the most remarkable game of rugby, the final 6 Nations game between England and Scotland. I often go to 3 or 4 6 Nations matches but this was my only one for 2019. Courtesy of my brothers, it was a birthday trip en famille, we had lunch in Richmond before heading to the stadium to see Wales confirmed as deserved Grand Slam winners. There was a well respected moment of silence for the victims of the evil terrorist in New Zealand before things got underway.
And so the final game of this series was for the Calcutta Cup and pride, which team would come out on top? Our seats were on the Upper Tier, thank goodness for the escalators, they meant I didn’t quite need oxygen!
England started in much the same way they had against the All Blacks in the Autumn and against Ireland in this competition, with Jack Nowell going over for their first try with a minute on the clock, Tom Curry, who at just 20 years old has been a revelation, scored another on 8 minutes, Joe Launchbury, England’s third after just 12 minutes. With Owen Farrell converting all 3 tries England were ahead 21 nil with just 14 minutes on the clock.
That was an incredible start to a game of rugby, England were literally blowing Scotland away We were sitting amongst Scotland fans and they were in some despair, whereas we were delighted! Our joy was added to when Jonny May, another England man who’s shone in this series scored England’s 4th try, Farrell had scored a penalty and converted this try to see England on 31 points.
Stuart McInally gave the Scotland fans something to cheer about when he charged down an Owen Farrell kick on the halfway line, the hooker ran half the length of the pitch to touch down under the posts. I must confess I was cheering him on as he ran to our end of the pitch! The teams went in with the score on England 31 Scotland 7.
That first half had been quite remarkable for England, pretty much everything apart from that one pass went right.
Then, half time happened, I have no idea what happened, but, something did in both dressing rooms. My thoughts after the fact were that Scotland got a dose of Will to Win in their half time oranges and England? A dose of Arrogance and Complacency?
The first round of this 6 Nations had a game which saw greatly contrasted performances in each half when France played Wales in the first round. Both teams had one shocking half of rugby apiece, with Wales coming back to win after being behind in the first half. I wouldn’t say Scotland were awful in this first half, but they weren’t really at the races.
England scored 31 unanswered points in the first half, amazingly Scotland did the same in the second. This team who seemed to be down and out scored 5 tries in the space of 30 minutes, with Darcy Graham scoring 2, Magnus Bradbury, Finn Russell (scoring after another interception) and Sam Johnson scoring 1 each. it was another exciting half, and again I confess to yelling lots The photographers almost to a man had moved behind the posts where England would have been heading, they missed out on 5 tries! A historic occurrence as Scotland hadn’t scored 5 tries for 81 years!
While Scotland weren’t awful in the first half, England certainly were in the second, in common with the match against Wales they weren’t able to go to a Plan B when their kicking game just wasn’t working. Owen Farrell was lucky not to see a yellow card when he appeared to put his shoulder into a Scot, we saw just a penalty awarded and Farrell being substituted not long after. England missed 35 tackles in this match and made 12 handling errors, it was quite frankly no surprise that on 76 minutes they found themselves trailing by 7 points! I have to add that Scotland were superb in the second 40.
In over time England were battering the Scotland line and Scottish hearts were broken when George Ford went in under the posts, his conversion sneaked England a draw with the score finishing on England 38 Scotland 38. A totally mad 80 minutes of rugby, which amazingly Scotland will have been disappointed to lose.
Big concerns for the England camp, they were a team who looked rudderless and hopeless in the second half, something has to change if they’re to make a challenge in the World Cup later in the year. Eddie Jones hasn’t picked the right man to captain this team, Dylan Hartley’s leadership is badly missed, but he surely can’t take the starting place at 2 over Jamie George.
England seem to have only one nailed on scrum half in Ben Youngs who is one of the keys to that kicking game not being altered when it isn’ t working. I can see Richard Wigglesworth at 36 being England’s back up 9, which is slightly crazy. The ‘Finishers’ as Eddie likes to call them added very little in this game with the exception of Ford. There are players to come back into the team, and they are key, with the likes of Maro Itoje and Mako Vunipola missing for the most part. And Sam Underhill, Zach Mercer and Sam Simmonds ready to make their marks in the back row at some stage. In common with 2015 I have no idea how England will fare on the big stage.