Scotland’s historic, dominant victory over England in Six Nations opener was no upset – ESPN

TWICKENHAM, England — Scotland’s celebrations reverberated around the empty Twickenham. Having earned their first win against England at Twickenham since 1983, a handful did this involuntary jig into their own 22. Those in blue hugged their nearest teammate. While those in white looked stunned and left wondering how exactly they’d played 80 minutes in a Calcutta Cup clash and barely landed a shot. Scotland were completely dominant and were far better than the eventual five-point win.

This was no upset; Gregor Townsend’s side made history in their own right and outplayed Eddie Jones’ England in every area to win 11-6. During the week England told Scotland they could expect a wave of white; Finn Russell would end up playing in a straight-jacket such was the ferocity awaiting him.

Scotland surfed the wave, in a dinner jacket. Two of England’s backs only touched the ball after an hour, and that is in part due to some woeful passing, but also testament to the Scottish pack.

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Both teams had a player sin-binned in the first half but Scotland managed their spell with 14 men infinitely better than England. Hamish Watson was outstanding, Jonny Gray was omnipresent while further back captain Stuart Hogg judged each situation — both as skipper and from fullback — with precise perfection.

Cameron Redpath, on his debut and all in front of the watching British & Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland. His notebook will have a few names written down now — all from Scotland.

There was something bubbling during the week north of the border. Finn Russell was juggling tennis balls on his Instagram. Was he feeling the pressure in his first Six Nations match since 2019 after his short-term exile last year? Was he heck. And that was how Scotland approached the Test — they stuck unwaveringly to their game plan, stopped England at source and then landed their knockout punches.

Stats sometimes tell a disingenuous picture, but this time they ring true. Scotland had 78% possession in the first half and dominated territory, while England conceded 10 penalties. They should have had a healthier half time lead, more than the two points they had on the scoreboard. Jones told his England team to find a way into the match, but Scotland never let them.

In the end, England’s tally of failing to make a gainline break was again testament to Scotland. Scotland even left points on the drenched Twickenham pitch — opting against points from the tee, and then missing three of their five kicks.

Whichever way you look at it, Scotland dominated.

Their heroes will now stand alongside the 1983 group, the last to win at England’s ground. This was the 150th year anniversary of that first England-Scotland match back in 1871 — the first game of rugby union, and Scotland won that day in front of just 4,000 supporters. There were only a smattering of stewards and security inside the eerie Twickenham to witness this victory, but in years to come we’ll know whether this was the start of Scotland’s rebirth, or a brief highlight.

But looking through the team you sense they can build on this. Duhan van der Merwe has just six caps and looked like a settled Test pro, but that young man Redpath has the potential to be a true international great. He was outstanding throughout, having this wonderful pre-orientating vision where he can pick out the right option even under great rugby stress. Aged just 21, he has a clear path to greatness in that Scottish No. 12 shirt.

But anchoring this were Hogg and Watson. England were completely starved of quick ball — or ball at all in stages — and that was down to Scotland’s ruck speed and organisation, with Watson at the forefront. Then there was the battle in the air — which Hogg bossed, while the selection of Sean Maitland was a masterstroke with his counter-attacking ability.

Ali Price at scrum-half managed to weather the on-rushing Maro Itoje after two early charge downs and played himself into the game, but wherever you looked — even the beautifully timed offload from hooker George Turner to Van der Merwe for his try was spot on — there was accuracy, intensity and perfectly measured passion.

For England they’ll hope for reinforcements next week with Italy lying in wait. They’ve been without a few of their pack protagonists, but this was a performance where they never got a foothold. Owen Farrell, who last played on Dec. 6, struggled to get into the game, while Anthony Watson, Jonny May, Ollie Lawrence and Henry Slade barely saw any ball.

Jones blames himself for the performance, but needs to find a fix for their limp performance. Italy — who lost by 40 points — offer the perfect tonic to get a commanding win under their belt next weekend at Twickenham, but for Scotland, they can now take this momentum into the rest of the championship.

England’s Grand Slam hopes and 38-year record now lies in tatters. Only a handful of people witnessed it, but this will be a result that reverberates through every Scot and will be remembered for the generations. But their challenge is to make this sort of result the normal, rather than the remarkable.

They have four games to go, but this was the perfect start for Townsend’s men. They’ll enjoy tonight, but this team must have the hunger to make further history. Having last won a championship in 1999, that’s next weight to get off their shoulders.

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