Late Duhan van der Merwe try dashes England’s hopes of winning start under Borthwick

©INPHO/Craig Watson

A late Duhan van der Merwe try at Twickenham saw England’s start to life under new head coach Steve Borthwick start with a loss as Gregor Townsend’s side retained the Calcutta Cup for a fifth time in six years.

In a hotly contested game between two of rugby’s oldest rugby playing nations, it was a real tussle as England got to grips with life under Borthwick and Scotland put a bonus point win on the board to start the Guinness Six Nations.

Within the opening 40 minutes, you just about saw everything good and bad from Steve Borthwick’s England. There were flurries of unforced errors for England and eventually led to Scotland’s opening try.

Scored by Huw Jones, the score came in the minutes after Ollie Hassell-Collins was blown up for holding on, Gregor Townsend’s side smartly throwing the ball long at the lineout and allowing their captain Jamie Ritchie to make a charge at the English defensive line.

Ultimately England were pulled into leaving too much space, Sione Tuipulotu grubber kicking the ball through to his midfield partner, Huw Jones, to score. Finn Russell added the conversion with little hesitation and creating some nerves around the ground.

Promising signs soon emerged for the home side, Max Malins showing that he was keen to have an impact with a hacked kick through from a loose ball. It was a move from nothing which formed the foundation for Malins’ opening score of the game after England won a penalty following the wing’s invention.

Malins was the beneficiary, although England’s decision to tap and go from five meters out initially seemed fruitless. Banging on the door again and again, it was Marcus Smith who saw the Saracen out wide, lifting the ball above the heads of Scottish defenders for the 26-year-old to dot down.

It took only five minutes for Scotland to retake the lead with a stunning piece of individual brilliance. Kyle Steyn fielded the ball. Fielding the ball on the flank he soon found Duhan van der Merwe, the South Africa-born wing skinning Joe Marchant and three other England defenders before Alex Dombrandt failed to bring down the Edinburgh man five meters out.

Met with rapturous applause, the sizable Scottish contingent were briefly quietened when Russell’s conversion cannoned off the post. It was an error which would seem all the more costly as England scored again through Malins.

Benefitting from the most coherent piece of play, as Ollie Chessum, Ellis Genge, Freddie Steward and Lewis Ludlam all combined to confound their opposite numbers prior to sending Malins over.

Although the conversion from Farrell was once more no good, England’s captain would not make the same mistake from the tee with a penalty which ended the half and put England in the lead for the first time in the contest.

The second half was a much more tight and uncompromising affair, England starving Scotland of the possession which they craved so badly, while making far less errors in the process.

Picking up good territory, England’s lineout was what launched their first try of the second period. Making carry after carry towards the line, it was Ellis Genge that was the beneficiary, the tighthead prop getting low to the ground to score.

Scotland would soon respond as Ben White took advantage of Ben Curry shooting out of the defensive line as the ball initially seemed to have gone loose, the scrum-half making his way past Freddie Steward to instil further belief into the travelling side.

The two sides would exchange a penalty each, Scotland’s choice to let Russell go for points in the closing minutes a piece of genius in the final minutes as Van der Merwe crossed the whitewash once again, Scotland finding their taliman on the left flank to power through Malins and hand his team victory.