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02 October 2023

New-look England see off Scotland


England made a winning start under new acting coach Stuart Lancaster as they began the defence of their Six Nations title with a 13-6 Calcutta Cup win away to Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.

England's first victory at Murrayfield since 2004 saw a side featuring three debutants and a new captain in Chris Robshaw score the only try of the match when recalled fly-half Charlie Hodgson charged down rival stand-off Dan Parks's attempted clearance kick early in the second half.

Owen Farrell, the 20-year-old Saracens centre, kicked the remainder of England's points on his Test debut, with both of Scotland's scores coming courtesy of two first half Parks penalties.

Scotland threatened from deep and had their chances but a side coached by former England flanker and boss Andy Robinson were undone by a series of handling errors.

"To get your first win away on the road is special, especially with a lot of new players," Robshaw, winning just his second cap, told the BBC.

"I can't speak highly enough of all the guys, it was a great team effort and a very proud day," the Harlequins flanker added.

Meanwhile Hodgson, one of five players from English Premiership champions Saracens in the England side, said: "One of the things we work on at Saracens is putting pressure on kickers and I got lucky with the try."

This was Scotland's fourth successive Test without a try and Robinson said: "It's very frustrating. We created some great opportunities and it's just that last pass. The game is about small margins and you have to be able to execute under pressure."

England, who in Lancaster were being coached by a former Scotland Under-21 international following the resignation of Martin Johnson, were looking to rebuild after a poor World Cup in New Zealand where they knocked Scotland out of the tournament with a 16-12 pool win in Auckland.

Farrell had the chance to give England a 12th minute lead when, after he'd run back a poorly directed punt from Australia born Parks, Scotland conceded a penalty but the centre was just off-target with a kick from halfway.

However, seven minutes later, Farrell - the son of England backs coach and former dual code international Andy - made it 3-0.

Scotland though were level minutes later when, after a strong burst by flanker Ross Rennie, Robshaw infringed and Parks kicked a penalty.

And in the 32nd minute Parks made it 6-3 after England wing Chris Ashton, harried by Scotland scrum-half Chris Cusiter, was penalised for not releasing in the tackle.

But within seconds of the start of the second half, England caught Scotland cold with a try from Hodgson, making his first Test start for four years.

Hodgson's kick-off was fielded by impressive Scotland No 8 David Denton and he in turn fed Parks.

But Parks' attempted clearance kick was charged down by Hodgson, playing in the absence of retired England great Jonny Wilkinson and the unfit Toby Flood.

Farrell kicked the tricky conversion from out on the left between the posts and England were 10-6 in front.

Hodgson's try was the first by either side in a Murrayfield Calcutta Cup clash since 2004.

Scotland lock Richie Gray burst into the 22 only for an ensuing knock-on to give England a scrum.

Robinson made a quadruple substitution heading into the final quarter with England still four points in front.

The changes revitalised Scotland and one of the replacements, Greig Laidlaw, chipped over the top of the England defence in the 63rd minute was involved in a race for the touchdown with visiting scrum-half Ben Youngs.

But Welsh replay official Nigel Whitehouse, after several minutes' study, denied Scotland a try to the audible disappointment of a capacity crowd.

With 10 minutes left, Farrell's long-range penalty fell under the crossbar.

Farrell, though, was given an easier chance in the 74th minute and this time he made no mistake.

That left Scotland needing to score a converted try just to draw level - a task that proved beyond them.