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Scotland rip up George’s blueprint as England’s fast start fizzles out | Andy Bull
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Scotland rip up George’s blueprint as England’s fast start fizzles out | Andy Bull


Murrayfield is a difficult place for English players to experience defeat. Some of the senior members of the current England team have become all too familiar with this feeling, more often than they would like. This may be surprising to former players who never could have imagined such a streak against England. Scotland’s recent victory marks their fourth consecutive win against England, a feat that has not been achieved since the 1970s. While the previous three games were closely contested, this match was such a lopsided victory for Scotland that the audience resorted to laughing at England instead of jeering or whistling at them.

The situation hit its lowest point when Ollie Lawrence sprinted down the left side and made an errant pass towards Elliot Daly that sailed far off target and out of bounds. Steve Borthwick and his coaching staff were directly above him, watching from the glass coaching booth at the rear of the grandstand, with only a few thousand Scottish fans jeering between them and their team.

It was particularly difficult to watch as England dominated the first quarter. By the 20 minute mark, they were already ahead 10-0. They had just scored the first try with a strong push from their pack and skillful maneuvering from their backs. George Ford also made a successful penalty kick. The atmosphere at Murrayfield was relatively calm, except for the growing sound of the away fans in the west stand singing “Swing Low.”

Unfortunately for Scotland, their tighthead prop Zander Fagerson had to leave the game due to a head injury evaluation caused by a strong impact on his mouthguard (this angered coach Gregor Townsend later on). England’s front row was eager to face his inexperienced replacement, Elliot Millar-Mills.

During those moments, it was evident what England’s intentions were. Jamie George expressed his hope that the fans could see their performance in the first period as a guide for their future goals. However, they were completely dominated in the following hour, causing doubts about the effectiveness of their initial plan. The defeat felt like it would take months to overcome. The match was meant to be a test for England to elevate their game, but instead, they were pushed back down.

The strategies and tactics that England and their coaches have been working on during training over the past few weeks were completely destroyed by Scotland. This raises doubts about whether the players will have confidence in their ability to succeed against Ireland and France in the remaining matches of the championship. Once Scotland scored their first try and gained momentum, England seemed powerless to regain control of the game.

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Duhan van der Merwe was the one who achieved the feat. He completed a remarkable trio of goals in the extensive history of the championship, becoming the first Scottish player to do so in the history of the Calcutta Cup.

“I woke up this morning feeling motivated to score some tries,” he stated later. It must have been difficult for England to see that two of Van der Merwe’s three tries were a result of their own mistakes. One was when Huw Jones recovered a loose ball from a high pass by Ford that bounced off George Furbank’s hands, and the other was when Scotland gained possession from an inaccurate throw by England during a lineout.

During their Monday review, they will have plenty of weaknesses to analyze. “When you pass the ball to Duhan van der Merwe and Finn Russell, you know they are capable of creating some extraordinary plays and that’s exactly what they did,” stated George after the game. “We did a lot of things well and showed great effort, but we cannot afford to give the ball away to a skilled team like that.” The England head coach also expressed similar sentiments. Borthwick mentioned the high number of mistakes in ball handling and acknowledged that there were too many “basic errors” in their performance.

I felt a bit discouraged to hear discussions about England’s “lack of experience” and the team being seen as a “work in progress” after the game, which has been a common narrative since 2019. It’s even more frustrating when many of the current players were also on the team back then. England seems to devote a significant amount of time to building their team, only for Scotland to dismantle them once again.

Source: theguardian.com