VDM hat-trick pic
Calcutta Cups are not about how you start, but how you finish. And in Duhan van der Merwe, Scotland have one of the best finishers around.

Fifteen minutes in to the 142nd renewal of rugby’s oldest rivalry, Scotland looked at risk of letting the occasion get to them.

Passes went astray, high balls were claimed by unchallenged white shirts and a determined England moved 10 points in front, George Furbank marking his return to the starting XV with a well-worked early try.

Scotland needed a spark, a moment of inspiration to bring a flat crowd back to life. They got two in quick succession, with their unstoppable wing at the heart of both.

His first try owed much to Huw Jones, the centre making the hard yards and keeping his composure after being tackled to locate Van der Merwe, who did the rest.

Jones also provided the assist for his second 10 minutes later but on this occasion, it was a one-man show.

Receiving possession on the halfway line, Van der Merwe began with a deft piece of footwork to get around Ben Earl and slammed on the afterburners. Much is made of his size and strength but this was an exhibition of pure speed.

“His second was the big momentum swinger,” said Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.

“I was just hoping he wouldn’t go into touch and he was teasing us, even when he finished it.

“He showed an ability to back himself. He could easily have tried to slow down, step someone and use his power. But he backed his pace and that was great to see.”

Having scored once against England in 2021 and twice in 2023, perhaps it was only natural he would go on to complete his treble in the second period.

He did so with the most routine finish of the three, Finn Russell’s kick bouncing perfectly into his path, to become the first Scotland player to score a Calcutta Cup hat-trick. Townsend was keen to stress this win was about more than one man but such a trailblazing feat meant Van der Merwe’s display was a hard topic to avoid.

“It’s a team sport and two of Duhan’s tries were created by others,” he said.

“It is a great achievement and Duhan is very humble. Scoring three tries is an amazing achievement but I’m not sure it will beat last year. He thrives in this fixture.

“The threat we have out wide puts teams under pressure, it means they can’t just focus on our midfield and there will be space elsewhere. I’m glad Duhan found it.”

Van der Merwe becoming Scotland’s all-time leading try-scorer is surely now a matter of when not if, with Stuart Hogg now just one clear at the summit, and the wing is among a clutch of players who must wonder what all the fuss is about when it comes to playing England.

The 28-year-old has only known the winning side of this rivalry and plays as if free of the psychological baggage which has held Scotland back in the past.

Co-captain Rory Darge is now one from one himself but appeared to quash any whispers that the regularity of Scotland’s successes may dampen what were once wild celebrations.

“We are delighted to get the win,” he said. “It’s the first Calcutta Cup I’ve played in and the atmosphere was outstanding.

“I’m just going to enjoy it tonight, we have to, before we put it to bed and get after the Italy game.”

For England, this follows 2018 and 2022 in becoming another chastening experience in Edinburgh.

Consecutive wins to begin their Championship, combined with an electric start, raised visiting hopes but they were unable to last the pace once Van der Merwe and Russell, who also contributed 15 points, turned the screw.

Life gets no easier, with an Ireland side scenting a second straight Grand Slam next up at Twickenham in a fortnight.

“We knew it would be difficult coming here but we weren’t good enough,” said captain Jamie George.

“The first 20 minutes was a blueprint of how we want to play and what we want English rugby to be about, but after that we needed more composure off the back of our turnovers.

“Test rugby can be cruel, and we’ve learned that again here. We need to learn fast going into Ireland.”