Guinness Six Nations Flashback 2019: England 38-38 Scotland

With Wales crowned champions two hours before and their Grand Slam party just beginning, the 2019 Guinness Six Nations looked set for a quiet finale at Twickenham.

With Wales crowned champions two hours before and their Grand Slam party just beginning, the 2019 Guinness Six Nations looked set for a quiet finale at Twickenham.

However, England and Scotland had other ideas.

Sam Johnson’s late try looked to have completed one of the greatest sporting comebacks, as Scotland surged from a 31-0 first-half deficit to a 38-31 lead with five minutes left.

George Ford rescued England with a last-gasp try and conversion to salvage a 38-38 draw but it did little save England’s blushes after building such a commanding lead.

They scored four first-half tries through Jack Nowell, Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May and seemingly had the game sewn up.

But Scotland produced something truly magical as Stuart McInally, Darcy Graham (2), Magnus Bradbury and Finn Russell all scored to level it up at 31-31.

Twickenham was stunned but there was still for another twist and it was Johnson who delivered it, latching onto a Russell pass to, incredibly, put Scotland ahead.

Ford’s late try completed an unbelievable match to deny Scotland victory, though they still left with the Calcutta Cup.

Here’s the story of one of the great Calcutta Cup matches.

“If we impose our game on Scotland it’ll be pretty tough for them. We’re not playing Mars or Pluto, we’re playing Scotland.” – Eddie Jones.

Jones had every right to be confident.

Although Scotland came to defend the Calcutta Cup they had so brilliantly claimed the year before, their record at Twickenham left much to be desired.

Not since 1983 had they been successful at the home of their biggest rivals, while their previous visit saw England tot up 61 points to match their largest winning margin in the fixture’s 140-year history.

England also woke up on Saturday with hope of winning the 2019 Guinness Six Nations. To do so, they needed Grand Slam-chasing Wales to fall at home to Ireland just a couple of hours before, and then see off Scotland to nip in and steal the crown.

England’s campaign had started to promisingly, too. A commanding win at defending champions Ireland sparked it into life before France were put to the sword at Twickenham a week later.

Wales ended England’s own Grand Slam dream with an awesome performance in Round 3, but the Red Rose still looked in full bloom when they beat Italy in Round 4.

For Scotland, injuries had taken their toll. Stuart Hogg, Huw Jones and Ryan Wilson all started in their Championship opener against Italy but failed to make it to Twickenham, while the likes of Duncan Taylor, John Barclay and Mark Bennett didn’t even get that far.

After Scotland beat Italy in Round 1, Ireland, France and Wales all secured relatively comfortable wins against Gregor Townsend’s men.

“Our first half was exceptional, we should have been ahead by a lot more.” – Eddie Jones.

England made a habit of starting fast in the 2019 Championship.

Against both Ireland and France, they scored tries within the first two minutes and so it was no surprise to see Jack Nowell do the same here.

Henry Slade put his Exeter Chiefs teammate in the clear and when Tom Curry dotted down from the back of a maul shortly after, it already looked like a long way back for Scotland.

Forward power continued to do the trick for England and lock Joe Launchbury was the next man to get in on the act by finishing off a superb move involving props Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler.

An Owen Farrell penalty and a bonus-point try from Jonny May completed the perfect half-hour from the hosts – a seemingly unassailable 31-0 lead.

Scotland got one back just before half-time as captain Stuart McInally charged down an Owen Farrell kick in midfield, scooped the ball into his arms and showed the pace of a loose forward to gas it 50 metres to the try line.

Still, England’s lead was 24 points at the break.

“I actually had an argument with Gregor. I said to him ‘you’re telling us to kick and when we kick, they just run it back and cut us open, and when we run it, they’re just hitting us behind the gain line and winning the ball back’.” – Finn Russell.

“We gave them exactly what they wanted in the first half. We allowed their dangerous runners all the space and we were chasing ourselves.” – Stuart McInally

Townsend adjusted his tactics at half-time, and it suited Russell down to a tee.

The fly-half thrives when given freedom and, with nothing to lose, Townsend loosened the shackles on his star No.10.

From the sound of referee Paul Williams’ whistle, there was a different feel to Scotland as they moved the ball quickly, broke tackles and gained ground.

In the 47th minute, they had their second try as Russell’s inside pass found Johnson, who burst through a gap and slipped his own pass inside to Ali Price.

England scrambled back to claw the scrum-half down five metres short but there was space on the left for Darcy Graham to step inside his man and slide over.

Three minutes later, the entire momentum of the match shifted and the sense something special was on the cards was unavoidable.

In midfield, scrum-half Price spotted space in behind England’s defence and deftly chipped over the top. He sprinted to collect it himself and then off-loaded to the supporting Magnus Bradbury, who darted in unopposed.

“I think when Scotland did come back, they got that momentum and it probably shocked us a bit too much.” – Owen Farrell

England were out of their comfort zone and struggled to react as Scotland grew in confidence.

A third try in ten second-half minutes followed shortly after as Russell’s beautiful left-hand looping pass released full-back Sean Maitland on the right and he then slipped in Graham for his second.

Three minutes later and the comeback was complete as a Farrell pass in midfield was intercepted by the alert Russell, who put his foot down and raced clear to score under the posts.

That brought the score to 31-31 and Scotland could have gone ahead with a Greig Laidlaw penalty, but the replacement No.9 narrowly missed.

“I am not believing what I am seeing. This is truly stunning.” – Andy Nicol

England stopped the rot and composed themselves, with George Ford coming on to replace Owen Farrell at fly-half.

But there was no doubting who was in the ascendancy and more likely to march on to victory, and Scotland delivered five minutes from time.

Russell again was the architect. Just inside England territory, he drifted from left to right to draw in England’s defence before slipping a perfectly-timed pass to Johnson, who galloped clear down the middle.

Nowell and Elliot Daly were charged with stopping the centre but he bounced off them both, shifted to the left, sprinted again and ricocheted his way through two more tackles to plant the ball down for the try.

From 31-0 down, Scotland were 38-31 up.

“I’m gutted to be honest. It shows the character the boys have and I’m just so disappointed and gutted we didn’t managed to finish it off at the end after Sammy’s try with a couple of minutes to go and seven points up.”- Finn Russell

Of course, this being the Guinness Six Nations, there was still time for a further twist.

With the final play of the game, in the 83rd minute, England broke Scottish hearts.

After a period of sustained pressure inside the Scotland 22, England eventually found a way through as George Ford weaved past a couple of tackles to slide under the posts.

“We got seduced by the scoreboard and the easiness of the game.” – Eddie Jones.

“When you think of the team we were up against it and what a team they have, it is the most unusual game I have ever been involved in.” – Gregor Townsend.

At the end of the Championship, the table showed England in second with three wins from their five matches.

Scotland ended up fifth with just the solitary win against Italy but they did take the Calcutta Cup back north of the border having regained it the previous year with another Finn Russell-inspired performance.

England learned their lesson in time for the World Cup later that year, where they beat Australia and New Zealand en route to the final, while Scotland fell in the pool stages as injuries again mounted up.

Of course, this was perhaps all too predictable. Because when Peter Murray goes to Twickenham, Scotland simply don’t lose.

Prior to the 2019 Guinness Six Nations finale, the then-73-year-old Scottish fan had a remarkable Calcutta Cup attendance record at Twickenham, visiting England’s fortress just three times and on each occasion seeing his side leave unbeaten.

Scotland had emerged unbeaten from Twickenham three times since the war, in 1971, 1983 and 1989 – while they added a famous 2021 victory to that list two years later. Murray was at all of them.

However, they surely don’t match 2019 for drama.