Van der Merwe magic rocks Borthwick as Scots serve up a repeat dose of Six Nations

New coach, same result. Scotland met England again on the opening weekend of the Six Nations, as Steve Borthwick’s debut as Red Rose manager ended in a 29-23 defeat at Twickenham, where Duhan van der Merwe delivered a masterclass.

Borthwick, who replaced the sacked Eddie Jones in December, saw England suffer a fourth successive opening-weekend defeat in the Championship, the last three of those coming at the hands of Gregor Townsend’s Scots.

This was a fast-paced battle from the early stages. Scotland took a lead on 15 minutes after a clever lineout move set up the chance near the England line. Huw Jones was saved, but Scotland got the ball moving again, with Sione Tuipulotu playing a clever shot for Jones to score.

England scored their first try of the Borthwick era on 24 minutes when Max Malins dropped a clever shot into Marcus Smith’s right corner.

Then came a glorious moment of skill from Van der Merwe, who ran from inside his own half and through the heart of the England team, dancing past one white jersey after another before scoring just to the left of the posts. Pure magic on the big stage.

With Owen Farrell and Finn Russell missing back-to-back conversions, Scotland’s lead stood at 12-5, but that was cut when Malins dived in for his second try, receiving a pass from Lewis Ludlam.

Farrell squandered another eminently kickable conversion chance, but couldn’t miss when England were awarded a penalty in front of the posts before half-time, and made no mistake to give the hosts a 13-12 lead at the interval.

Ellis Genge was England’s point-blank finisher after pressure was applied to the Scotland line early in the second half, with Farrell bringing out the extras; however, the Scots struck back on 51 minutes through Ben White, and Russell’s kick made the game up to a point again.

Kyle Steyn dropped a high pass from Stuart Hogg as the Scots chased down what would have been their fourth try, before Farrell and Russell exchanged penalties.

The Scots inside the England home roared as Van der Merwe gave Scotland the lead on 74 minutes, leaping into the left corner, ensuring his earlier heroics had not come in a losing cause. Russell added the extras, and this time England finished.

Super Scots rock Twickenham

Scotland have now won five of their last seven Six Nations opening matches, with Townsend’s side losing just one of their last six Calcutta Cup matches. They have beaten England three times in a row in the competition for the first time since the successful run of 1970-72. It became Van der Merwe’s day, but teammate Jones has now scored five tries in five Six Nations games against England. Only former England midfielder Jason Robinson has managed more in this encounter, with six tries.

Van der Merwe tests one for the ages

These teams met behind closed doors at Twickenham two years ago, with Scotland winning 11-6 and Van der Merwe scoring the only try of the game. His sensational first try here would have been wasted in an empty stadium, with former Scotland captain John Barclay telling BBC Radio 5 Live: “That will go down as one of the greatest individual tries of all time.”

Whats Next?

Scotland will look to build on this next week when they host a Welsh side who were crushed by Ireland in their opening game. England should give Borthwick a first win next weekend when Italy visits London, but the Azzurri beat Australia in November so that cannot be underestimated.

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