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24 February 2024

England open Six Nations campaign in style

Courtney Lawes of England dives for the try line, but falls short during the RBS Six Nations match against Scotland at Twickenham Stadium on February 2, 2013 in London, England. (GETTY)

By Reuters

England produced a four-try performance full of energy, aggression and ambition to get their Six Nations campaign underway with an impressive and highly entertaining 38-18 win over Scotland at Twickenham on Saturday.

Tries for Chris Ashton, debutant centre Billy Twelvetrees, Geoff Parling and Danny Care and another superb all-round performance by flyhalf Owen Farrell contributed to England's supremacy against a Scotland side who battled well.

The visitors had their bright moments but never looked likely to end their 30-year winless streak in the stadium.

Any doubts about whether their oldest rivals would drag England back to earth after a stunning victory over New Zealand two months ago were dispelled early on as the hosts showed real aggression in an unusually open Calcutta Cup match.

Even though Scotland nabbed the opening try, England were always in command and coach Stuart Lancaster was delighted to have backed up the All Blacks win.

"That New Zealand game gave us a lot of confidence and what we'll do is continue to build on that," he told reporters.

"The intensity and willingness to play was pleasing. We felt if we kept the pressure on Scotland they would struggle to cope in the last 20 minutes and that's what's happened generally.

"Obviously not everything was great, and we've got a lot to work on before what his going to be a very tough game in Ireland next Sunday, but I would have taken that score before the game."

None of the England squad had been born the last time Scotland won at Twickenham and the 1983 victory was only their second in the last 75 years in west London.

They had won only two of their last 15 Six Nations games and their last outing was a home defeat by Tonga that led to the resignation of coach Andy Robinson.

England, by contrast, were coming off a remarkable 38-21 victory over New Zealand two months ago and brimming with confidence.

The Scots scored the opening try out of nowhere when fullback Stuart Hogg was allowed to run a deep kick back virtually unchallenged and New Zealand-born winger Sean Maitland marked his debut by squeezing over in the corner.


England remained on the front foot though and scored a try through Ashton after a Farrell charge-down caused mayhem in the Scottish defence.

Farrell, whose goalkicking has been superb all season, duly converted and also split the posts with all four first-half penalty attempts as England's pressure forced the visitors into desperate killing of the ball.

A Greig Laidlaw penalty kept the Scots in touch at 19-11 down at the break but within three minutes of the restart the game was effectively over.

Terrific England passing ended with debutant Twelvetrees arriving like a train to collect a popped-pass and cap an impressive all-round debut with a try.

A terrific wide pass by Farrell after a great Ben Youngs break then enabled second rower Parling to score his first international try and stretch the lead to 31-11.

Hogg scored a length-of-the field try 10 minutes from time after both teams ended the game flinging the ball around like Sevens players but England had the final say as replacement scrumhalf Care squirmed over.

While England travel to Dublin next Sunday to face an Ireland team who also got off to a winning start against Wales on Saturday, Scotland host Italy the day before in a match that already looks like a potential wooden spoon decider.

"We gave them too many easy yards and we're really disappointed. We let ourselves down," said Scotland interim coach Scott Johnson after his first game in charge.

"We have to forget the tries. The reality is we have to get this part of the game right, the technical basics. We're capable of doing it and if we get that right we'll have an attractive rugby team."