The last time the English had set foot on the lawn of Twickenham was in November. They were still coached by Eddie Jones. Opposite were the South Africans. They had lost (27-13), and had come out under the whistles. On Saturday, for the premiere of Steve Borthwick, Jones’ successor, they did no better.
But Twickenham, who had an incredible game of rugby, did not whistle. While leading 23-22 in the 75th minute, Owen Farrell and his partners ended up falling against Scotland, which therefore retained the Calcutta Cup for the third consecutive year and also took the offensive bonus thanks in particular to the exceptional performance of Duhan Van der Merwe, his winger, elected man of the match, and executioner of the premises, with his two tries.
Already the most beautiful test of 2023?
We must see and review the first, a marvel, which will certainly be nominated for the most beautiful test of the year 2023. We are at the 28th minute of the meeting. Scotland leads 7-5, thanks to a try from Huw Jones… At this point in the game, the English who started timidly are doing better. But Van der Merwe is a phenomenon, a powerful winger who is fearless.
When he receives the ball, he is in his camp. Stuart Hogg just passed it on to him. He starts, accelerates, sows a first defender, then a second. He is swaying. And move forward again and again. The third and fourth English are taken. Alex Dombrandt, the third line of the XV de la Rose, will tackle him, that’s for sure. But the Scot resists. One last snort, and he flattens.
His second try is less spectacular, of course, but it will count in his memories. He is the one who offers victory to his country, and deprives England of a beautiful reconciliation with his public. But Steve Borthwick will have to build on this first game to continue shaping the team he wants to see. The XV de la Rose was not so far from a magnificent success. Tense during the first minutes, England managed to get rid of this terrible pressure which weighs since the tests of November.
The English left too much space defensively
Lewis Ludlam, Ellis Genge and Max Malins (author of a double) showed the way. Quickly led to the score, the English advanced, played, most often standing, multiplying and doubling the passes, stretching the opposing block. It was beautiful to see. And quite effective as they managed to turn the tide to lead 13-12 at the break. And as soon as they returned from the locker room, they continued on this rhythm, and this score, with Ellis Genge at the conclusion, the pillar who touched around twenty balls (20-12).
Attacking is fine. But you also have to know how to defend, and over 80 minutes. In this sector, the players of Borthwick were feverish, leaving too many spaces. Finn Russell took the opportunity to distribute as he pleased, Ben White (52nd) to sneak in and reduce the score (20-19), and Van der Merwe to spoil Steve Borthwick’s first. Next Sunday (4 p.m.), his team will play again at home, against Italy, this time, which like Scotland has a playful soul… Scotland, which will absolutely have to improve in touch to see more great will receive Wales.
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