Five things we learned from England v Scotland

Scotland made it a hat-trick of Calcutta Cup successes over England as Duhan van der Merwe crossed twice in a sensational victory.

Scotland made it a hat-trick of Calcutta Cup successes over England as Duhan van der Merwe crossed twice in a sensational victory.

Gregor Townsend’s men followed up a first win at Twickenham in 38 years in 2021 with another, this time in front of 80,000 people, 29-23, earning a bonus point in the process.

That meant defeat for Steve Borthwick in his first game in charge of England, even if Max Malins scored twice and they ran in three good tries of their own.

Here are the main takeaways from the clash:

Duhan writes name into Twickenham folklore

There are times when Duhan van der Merwe seems like he was designed in a lab. Faster than pretty much anyone on the pitch, but also built bigger than most forwards, the winger’s first try was one of the greatest Twickenham has ever seen.

In terms of solo efforts in the Guinness Six Nations, Wesley Fofana might rival it, but even the French great did not beat five men on his way to the line, with Van der Merwe showing some handy footwork as well as his trademark pace and power.

What makes it all the more remarkable, is that this has been far from the ideal build-up for the 2021 top try-scorer.

His season started at Worcester, but after they folded, he returned to Edinburgh, where injury has made it tough to find his groove. He was surprisingly vulnerable when summing up how difficult it has been, and why a return to South Africa to get married was just the break he needed.

He explained: “I haven’t played in a while so coming into the game I was quite nervous. That was probably my second touch, being able to score a try like that filled me with confidence and I really enjoyed it.

“It’s been really tough for me personally. I’ve not played really well at Edinburgh, I’ve struggled. Coming into this game, not playing much, being injured, it was quite nerve-wracking. I didn’t have much confidence to take into the game.

“I came back and felt refreshed. I had a lot of things going on with Worcester, coming back to Edinburgh, not playing as well as I could so that pressure builds up. I’d never really experienced that in my life. It was quite a tough period in my life, trying to sort out wedding bits as well.

“I’ve spoken a lot to Mike through those couple of weeks and being able to see the family and getting married was just a really good week for me. It helped me a lot because I was struggling a bit.”

Tuipulotu comes of age

Gregor Townsend made a few big calls in his team selection for this clash, and they paid off handsomely with Ben White grabbing a try in his first Guinness Six Nations start, Huw Jones also crossing the whitewash and Kyle Steyn showing his good form for Glasgow could translate to the Test stage.

The decision to start Sione Tuipulotu at inside centre was not a bold one though, he has been the form centre in Scottish rugby for the best part of a year now and the only question was who would partner him.

An early bump-off by Freddie Steward might have troubled some, but Tuipulotu shrugged it off and proceeded to have a brilliant performance.

Townsend bemoaned the fact that he did not have more ball, but the centre made the most of it when he got his hands on the ball, with a delightful grubber for Jones’ opener.

That was only part of it though, with Tuipulotu seemingly on the same wavelength as Finn Russell throughout and always on hand to make the necessary big carry or deliver the ball further wide when it was on.

At 25, he is in the form of his life, and will be a problem for every defence Scotland face in this Championship.

Chessum breakthrough performance in defeat

On Friday night, Lewis Chessum looked like a man against boys for England Under-20s as they eventually saw off Scotland in a stunning encounter.

That his older brother Ollie, in only his second Test start, had periods where he looked similarly physically dominant, will be one of the main positives for England.

It was Chessum’s powerful burst that led to Max Malins’ first try, while he showed lovely hands in the build-up to his second, making it a hat-trick of involvements in England’s first-half scores with a break that led to Owen Farrell’s penalty before half-time.

Even on a day when the result eventually got away from England, Chessum was outstanding and may have settled the debate over whether he is a lock or back row for good.

The go-to man in the lineout as well, Chessum showed that he is very much ready for the big stage and will be a key figure for Borthwick going forwards.

Scotland now with the challenge of backing up opening success

More than 50 years have passed since Scotland last won three in a row against England, and even though this was a second successive win a Twickenham, it was the first they were able to enjoy in front of their fans.

And yet, within minutes of the final whistle, the focus of all the players had already turned to Wales. As great a win as this was, there was no euphoria and sense of revelling in the moment.

That is three straight wins against England in Round 1, and in each of the previous two, Scotland have been brought down to earth against Wales in their next match.

The sentiment is clear – a repeat of that will not be acceptable and Scotland will do everything in their power to avoid it.

Skipper Jamie Ritchie explained: “It’s a good win but it wasn’t the perfect performance and that’s good probably. There is so much more that we can do better.

“The first thing we spoke about in the huddle after was that we’ve been in this position before and not backed it up. For us, it’s the most important thing. A strong tournament for us is five good performances so we’re looking for another good one on Saturday.”

England need to find defensive answers for Italy

The new era for English rugby looked like it might get off to a winning start when Ellis Genge went over for their third try shortly after half-time to make it 20-12 in a game where they dominated territory throughout.

But the more the second half more on, the more it was clear that Scotland were in the ascendancy, with Kyle Steyn twice coming close – once on a brilliant counter-attack and the other from a Russell cross-kick.

In the end, it was a deserved victory, and Steve Borthwick knows his team cannot afford to be as lax in defence when the opposition do break through.

He said: “We’re clearly disappointed with the result as we discussed before the game, the Scotland team have controlled this fixture for the last few years.

“I think this is part of the growth of the team as you grow you go through some pain, you don’t want to but there was certainly enough there on that pitch there, I could see some aspects we are working on now and I see some that we need to improve on.

“We got ourselves into that position, we could have gone home with that game, but we didn’t, and we look to ensure we are better than that going forward.

England now have eight days to prepare for the visit of Italy, almost as long as Borthwick and his coaching team have had with the players to this point.

They were not a million miles away against a good Scotland team, but they also know that they need to find the answers quickly in a Championship where slow starts are often punished.