Six Nations 2023: England 23-29 Scotland – Superb Scots retain Calcutta Cup at Twickenham

England: (13) 23
Tries: Malins 2, Genge; Pens: Farrell 2; Con: Farrell
Scotland: (12) 29
Tries: Jones, Van der Merwe 2, White; Pen: Russell; Cons: Russell 3

Duhan van der Merwe’s late try gave Scotland back-to-back wins at Twickenham for the first time, turning Calcutta Cup history on its head with a stunning Six Nations victory against a spirited England.

After Huw Jones and Max Malins traded scores, Duhan van der Merwe scored an individual try that will go down in Six Nations history to take Scotland ahead again.

England stayed patient and were rewarded as Malins finished off a well-worked team try before Owen Farrell’s penalty put them one point up at half-time.

Ben White kept Scotland within one after Ellis Genge’s try, before Farrell and Scotland fly-half Finn Russell traded penalties to leave the score at 23-22 with 10 minutes left.

A sensational Scottish attack followed, allowing Van der Merwe to score another and make Scottish wins at Twickenham almost as regular as Glastonbury after claiming the first in 38 years in 2021.

Steve Borthwick’s England showed fight and contributed to an electrifying match, but they could not give their head coach victory in his first game in charge as Scotland won the Calcutta Cup for the third time in a row.

Twickenham thrilled in first half

For so long the Calcutta Cup had been a predictable fixture thanks to England’s dominance, but with Scotland winning the past two and given Borthwick’s lack of time with his side there was a sense of the unknown at Twickenham.

The stage was set and all 46 players involved duly delivered one of the most entertaining matches Twickenham has seen in some time.

England had been booed by some supporters after losing to South Africa here in November and looked desperate to never hear that noise again.

Their desire was personified in a physical performance and Scotland responded with a cunning and fleet-footed backline.

After a period of dull kicking – long forgotten in the breathless closing minutes – it was the latter that worked first as the risky inclusion of Jones in place of Chris Harris at 13 paid off early.

Jones went through a gap and later sprinted on to a kick from Sione Tuipulotu to claim his fifth try in five Six Nations fixtures against England.

Borthwick’s England regime already looked on the precipice, but Malins’ sensational take of Marcus Smith’s kick to score was the sigh of relief the hosts needed.

They did not always look to have the clarity Borthwick has promised, but at times England did play with freedom.

That freedom was nothing in the face of Scotland’s belief.

In one for the history books, Van der Merwe sliced through England’s defence as if it were butter, flying around five tacklers to cover half the pitch and score.

Malins scored a second thanks to an overlap created by smart work from his team-mates, and Farrell landed his penalty on the half-time whistle to take England 13-12 up at the break.

Van der Merwe provides late twist

Duhan van der Merwe scores the winning try
Duhan van der Merwe scores the winning try at Twickenham

The fans at Twickenham got their money’s worth from the first half alone and few would have predicted what was to follow in the next 40.

England continued to fight for everything, dominating an early scrum after having the worst-performing pack in tier one in 2022.

The forwards were to thank for Genge’s try too, as the hosts went back to basics and battered their way over the tryline after a line-out.

Another moment of individual Scotland magic turned things around once more. White sniped around Ben Curry off a ruck and found England’s defence again wanting to get over.

White was another selection risk taken by Townsend as he left the more experienced Ali Price on the bench – another one that paid off.

Russell’s conversion cut England’s lead to one point once more, but the home fans were calmed as the hosts seemed in the ascendancy.

Farrell’s penalty put his side four points up and Scotland looked more hesitant until Russell’s boot cut the lead again to reignite his team.

Scotland must find the consistency they have lacked in previous tournaments if they are to compete for the title, but one thing is for certain: Twickenham holds no fear for them.

Everything suddenly clicked in the visitors’ attack and they flowed closer and closer to the tryline before Van der Merwe eventually found enough space on the wing to give voice to the travelling fans.

Man of the match

Duhan van der Merwe fends off England number eight Alex Dombrandt
Duhan van der Merwe fends off England number eight Alex Dombrandt on his way to scoring his second try

Duhan van der Merwe’s first try might have been enough to earn him man of the match, but the second definitely sealed it.

‘A monstrous win for Scotland’ – what they said

Former Scotland captain John Barclay on Radio 5 Live: “That was some game. I cannot wait to watch it back. There is so much to admire in how both teams have played.

“In the build-up we knew it was going to be tight. I didn’t see that on week one with the players throwing the kitchen sink at that. That is a monstrous win for Scotland.”

Former England scrum-half Matt Dawson on 5 Live: “There are positives to take away with the England performance.

“However, there were opportunities that I would expect senior international players to be making in the last knockings of the game. Whether that’s drop goals, discipline, territory. If you are going to win a Test match you have to do that.”

Former Scotland prop Peter Wright on BBC Radio Scotland: “Scotland’s attack functioned at the right times. Van der Merwe’s two scores were outstanding.

“Defensively, having so little possession, they were solid. It was a great steal to win it at the end.”

Scotland dominate England in recent years

Scotland have won four and drawn one of the last six encounters with England. They have not lost at Twickenham since a 61-21 defeat in 2017.

Murrayfield 2018 – Scotland 25-13 England
Twickenham 2019 – England 38-38 Scotland
Murrayfield 2020 – Scotland 6-13 England
Twickenham 2021 – England 6-11 Scotland
Murrayfield 2022 – Scotland 20-17 England
Twickenham 2023 – England 23-29 Scotland


England: Steward; Malins, Marchant, Farrell (capt), Hassell-Collins; Smith, Van Poortvliet; Genge, George, Sinckler, Itoje, Chessum, Ludlam, B Curry, Dombrandt.

Replacements: Walker, M Vunipola, Cole, Isiekwe, Earl, Youngs, Lawrence, Watson.

Scotland: Hogg; Steyn, Jones, Tuipulotu, Van der Merwe; Russell, White; Schoeman, Turner, Nel; R Gray, Gilchrist; Ritchie (capt), Crosbie, M Fagerson.

Replacements: Brown, Bhatti, Berghan, J Gray, Dempsey, Horne, Kinghorn, Harris.

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