World Rugby

Scotland Retains Calcutta Cup With Win Over Faltering England

Scotland Retains Calcutta Cup With Win Over Faltering England

Scotland defeats England to secure the Calcutta Cup for the fifth year in a row, picking up a victory at Scottish Gas Murrayfield in Edinburgh.

Feb 24, 2024
Scotland Retains Calcutta Cup With Win Over Faltering England

Scotland secured a fourth successive win in the Calcutta Cup with a thrilling 30-21 victory over England at Murrayfield.

The match was far from perfect, with the moist conditions leading to uneven flow and a litany of errors, but the hosts won’t mind, as they maintained bragging rights over the Auld Enemy.

England looked to be in control early but fell behind as a result of a Duhan van der Merwe hat-trick, which ultimately decided the game and put Scotland right back in the hunt for a first Six Nations title.

It didn’t take long for the Scottish barricades to breach, as George Ford set in motion a smooth back move within the opening 10 minutes, sending Elliot Daly through a hole. The winger then tipped possession to George Furbank, who crossed over, featuring in his first England game in over two years.

Ford converted, and then minutes later, he slotted a penalty to give England breathing room, but that buffer evaporated when Scotland set up for a scrum near the halfway line.

From the base, Ben White flung a miss-pass to Sione Tuipulotu, who drew in the blitz defense, before tipping to Huw Jones, who sprinted into space. He was taken down close to the try-line but offloaded to Van Der Merwe, the winger stepping inside to put Scotland on the board.

The greasy conditions made it difficult to sustain attacks, and it came back to bite England 29 minutes in, when Furbank dropped a pass, putting possession into Scottish hands. 

The ball was distributed to Van Der Merwe, who stormed around the outside, sprinted down the touchline and dove over in the left corner to put Scotland ahead for the first time.

With the tide turning, English heads began to boil over, and a penalty was conceded, giving Russell another shot at the posts.

His effort was successful, but England hit back moments later through the trusted boot of Ford, who slotted a trademark drop goal from distance, closing out a frantic first half with Scotland leading 17-13.

The hosts picked up where they left off, as Van Der Merwe crossed over to claim his hat-trick five minutes into the second half.

The try originated from a Cam Redpath break but was orchestrated by Russell, who released a daring cross-field kick into the hands of his winger.

England fired back with some much-needed territory and earned a penalty for their troubles, Ford slotting the points.

Handling errors and inaccuracy continued to plague England, which struggled to take hold of the game. 

The slowed pace of the contest suited Scotland, which got its reward when Russell slotted another penalty, but England once again responded, scoring a try through newcomer Immanuel Feyi-Waboso, who ran a hidden line to break through a gap and score.

Fin Smith missed the conversion, and from then on, England was scrambling for a score that wouldn’t come.

Tale Of The Tape

Much has been made of England’s new blitz defence, and throughout the first half, it largely paid off. Scotland looked rushed in open play and only picked up tries from a set-piece and a handling error.

However, while the blitz created chaos, it seemed that fed into the way England attacked, as the English succumbed to uncharacteristic handling errors and slow buildup play, always looking flustered when possession fell in their hands.

It’s hard to analyze the Scottish performance in Totem - they weren’t able to string together consistent phase play in the face of the blitz but took their chances in clinical fashion and showed the ability to rise when all was not working in their favor.

While England made too many mistakes, Gregor Townsend’s men looked poised, dominated the tackle area and made crucial turnovers through Andy Christie and Elliot Millar Mills, stifling English momentum.

Key Moment

With Scotland carrying a four-point lead into the break, the game was still very much in the balance. That was until Van Der Merwe’s early score five minutes into the second half sent Murrayfield berserk and put the hosts out of reach.

England never managed to make up the difference, which that try opened up, and looked rushed in their attempts to score a retort.

Had the winger not touched down so early after the break, you feel England would have played with more confidence in the latter stages.

Man Of The Match

He didn’t have a lot to do throughout the match, but when he was called to action, Duhan van der Merwe made it count, scoring a hat-trick to lift his tally to 26 tries scored in Scotland colors.

His first was a fine finish, stemming from a smart dummy, his second was an exercise in his pure pace and his third was a classic winger’s finish in the corner, benefitting from an bit of Russell magic.

While most players succumbed to the chaos of the contest, Van Der Merwe stood above the rest and delivered when it counted most.

A Look Ahead To Next Week

After losing its unbeaten record, England has to win at home against Ireland if it is to stand any chance of winning the Six Nations. It’s a huge ask, given the wonky form of Steve Borthwick’s side and the comparative brilliance of the men in green.

Ireland thrives off the organization and will make England pay if it can’t fix its erratic form in attack.

For Scotland, the win provides redemption following the heartbreak of the previous round and puts the Scots right back in the hunt for a Six Nations title. They’ll be heavily favored to beat Italy in the next round, and if they can achieve that, their subsequent matchup with Ireland could be a winner-take-all showdown.

Join The Rugby Conversation On FloRugby Social