Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe is tackled by England’s Elliot Daly during the Scots’ 20-17 win at Murrayfield.
Scotland have retained the Calcutta Cup with a knife-edge win over England after a crucial penalty try awarded by New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe.
The Scots eked out a 20-17 win over England at Murrayfield on Saturday (Sunday NZ time) to open their Six Nations campaign.
They levelled at 17-17 when O’Keeffe ruled that England hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie had deliberately batted a ball in touch to deny Scotland wing Darcy Graham an aerial collect and a certain try.
Cowan-Dickie was sinbinned and while he was off the field Scotland’s Finn Russell kicked the winning penalty goal.
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It was the first time since 1984 that the Scots had won the Calcutta Cup for a second consecutive year after Gregor Townsend’s team triumphed at Twickenham last year.
Townsend, in his 50th game as coach, admitted he was “so nervous for that set of scrums at the end’’.
“It was crossing my mind what England might do if they got a penalty, but fortunately it was decided on an error rather than a penalty,’’ he told BBC One.
“[Our self-belief] is excellent, as is our character. We were behind and came back. Some of our best rugby was in the last 15 minutes in tricky conditions.”
Townsend hailed flyhalf Russell, who was “superb all game’’ and said the victory “means so much to Scotland as a nation’’.
England coach Eddie Jones was gracious in defeat.
“Scotland were a bit better than us and took their chances”, the Australian told the BBC. “There wasn’t much in it, but congratulations to Scotland.
“We don’t apportion any blame to Luke [Cowan-Dickie] – the referee adjudged it was a yellow card and we have to get on with it. We had opportunities to kick on, but we just weren’t clinical enough.
“Given the quality of the competition, we just have to go to Italy and win.
Scotland scored the game’s first try to halfback Ben White (a temporary replacment in his first Six Nations match] after some brilliant approach play by fullback and captain Stuart Hogg and wing Darcy Graham.
The hosts led 10-6 at halftime, with England restricted to two Marcus Smith penalties despite dominating territory and possession.
Smith reduced the deficit to one point with a 48th minute and three minutes later he scooted for a try in his first Six Nations game after an initial break by veteran halfback Ben Youngs.
Another penalty by Smith extended England’s lead to 17-10 as Eddie Jones rang the changes for the final quarter.
Scotland suffered a blow when they lost hard-working flanker Jamie Ritchie to a second-half injury.
But England imploded with Cowan-Dickie’s brain fade after Russell’s clever crossfield kick for Graham.
O’Keeffe consulted the video replay before confirming his hunch that a penalty try was merited.
Russell’s 71st minute penalty gave Scotland the lead – and ultimately the victory.
Graham was a central figure again when the game’s smallest player pinched a turnover off the English at a last-second ruck, allowing Hogg to boot the ball dead at the final whistle.
AT A GLANCE
At Murrayfield (Edinburgh)
Scotland 20 (Ben White try; penalty try; Finn Russell con, 2 pen) England 17 (Marcus Smith try, 4 pen) HT: 10-6.