Late drama has always been on the menu when it comes to whetting the appetite of Scottish rugby fans. For some time now they have been the bridesmaid but never the bride. However, a last-minute penalty transformed Murrayfield into a cauldron of noise and optimism. In what we could perhaps view as a watershed moment, it was a night that will live long in the memory for Scotland fans. But only if they can maintain the good form which ensured they retained the Calcutta Cup in the first match of the Six Nations.
Mediocrity had cast its shadow over Gregor Townsend’s side for far too long — a fourth place finish in last year’s competition the epitome of their inconsistent results, with two losses to Wales and Ireland giving them too much to do. This year however, the Scots have a chance to put things right, with Finn Russell’s penalty giving Scotland a 20-17 victory over the English for the second time in a row.
Henry Slade and Russell were worth their weight in gold on Saturday afternoon, but the performance wasn’t just down to a few individuals. Defensively, the side did their best to stop Marcus Smith, who was dragged off early by Eddie Jones to the frustration of many England fans, who believe their side were outclassed from the first whistle. As far as Townsend was concerned, it was a valiant effort from his side, who could easily go and win the Six Nations, according to skybet.com, but they have to kick on now after some good fortune fell into their lap.
“I was so nervous for that set of scrums at the end. 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.” He said.
“[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.”
Now it’s down to Scotland to replicate that form against Wales. Having dominated the majority of possession against Jones’ side, it will be interesting to see if they can grasp the game in the same way against the current holders, albeit a Welsh team that have been decimated by injuries.
They looked a far cry from their usual selves in defeat to Ireland, with the Dragons missing Alun Wyn Jones, Ken Owens, Justin Tipuric, Taulupe Faletau, and plenty of others as they were thrashed in Dublin. It provides Scotland with a real opportunity to build some momentum, and with England looking far off the pace, it looks like a three-way tie between the Scots, Ireland and France.
From an England point of view, as action packed as the game was it will surely put more pressure on Jones when it comes to keeping his job. Having been in charge since 2015, the 62-year-old was gracious in defeat, whilst urging his side to stick together before their next game away to Italy.
“Scotland were a bit better than us and took their chances. There wasn’t much in it, but congratulations to Scotland.” Jones said:“We don’t apportion any blame to Luke [Cowan-Dickie] – 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.
“Given the quality of the competition, we just have to go to Italy and win.”