The emblematic elephant and cobras of the Calcutta Cup, which Scotland recovered last year after a decade in English showcases, will continue for another year in Edinburgh after a historic reaction. England, who came from an immaculate tournament but for a bad quarter of an hour in Cardiff, was a steamroller in the first half and left all the doubts of the world in the second. Scotland signed the biggest comeback in Six Nations’ history on Saturday, turning 31-0, but lost their first victory in London since 1983 due to a salvage test of the hosts in the final action.
It took England just 67 seconds to open the scoring after the opposition’s rearguard was unsewn on their left and Jack Nowell’s zigzagging on the way to rehearsal. Tom Curry scored in the same spot after a maul that found no resistance and XV del Cardo was in need of a feat when ten minutes had not yet elapsed.
The bleeding did not stop. The heavy Sinckler ran unstoppable despite its tonnage and provided the mark of Launchbury to the edge of the quarter of an hour. So it was inevitable that Jonny May, the pichichi of the tournament, added his sixth mark after taking advantage of a scottish absent-mindedness to give ground after a punishment blow. Midfielder Ben Youngs got the tempo right, Henry Slade was a knife in the back and Owen Farrell was a metronome in the shots. The consequence: 31-0 in half an hour.
Scotland then reversed their nightmare into a Farrell kick blocked by the stout McInally, who picked up the rebound and had the energy to walk the pitch to rehearsal. With nothing to lose, the visiting team dared and regained their devilish fluidity with their opening Finn Russell setting the pace. Darcy Graham took advantage of an immaculate sequence to pose on the left side and Ali Price broke the last English curtain to assist Bradbury.
Scotland’s charge was not makeup. The English rear arrived late before a new Graham mark, released after another sequence brilliantly accelerated by Russell. A whole earthquake that Twickneham had no time to digest because the Scottish opening intercepted in the next play a neglected horizontal pass from Farrell and happily completed his highway under sticks. Five essays scored in London in less than 24 minutes.
The imposing English attack stayed in the dressing room and it was Scotland who assumed their duty with history. So, Sam Johnson became the protagonist with what for a few minutes was the most important rehearsal of the century for Scottish rugby. He cut the last English line, left Nowell on the ground with a beautiful counterfoil and maintained the balance to charge the last English players before posing under the sticks. He would save England’s furniture in the last action, culminating under sticks by George Ford after the infinite load of his strikers.
England finish second in a tournament in which they have scored 14 more rehearsals than Wales, surpassing them by 34 points on average. None of this hides his fragility in closed matches such as Cardiff’s or his volatility against rivals with nothing to lose. The World Cup in Japan, from September, will dictate sentence to the project of Eddie Jones.