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England v Scotland. Game of the tournament? How it went down.

Match report and reaction from the final round of the Six Nations on Saturday

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Scotland produced a remarkable second-half display to turn around a 31-7 deficit in the final game of the 2019 Six Nations at Twickenham.

England, who were confirmed runners-up following Wales’ crushing victory over Ireland, needed a last-gasp George Ford try to save their blushes.

A Sam Johnson try five minutes from time look to have secured Scotland a memorable 38-31 victory, but Ford scored under the posts in overtime and converted, leaving the final score 38-38.

After a blistering first half an hour, tries from Jack Nowell, Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May had put England on course for a comfortable win.

A Stuart McInally breakaway try just before half-time looked to be a mere consolation.

But after the interval England capitulated – with Scotland running in five unanswered tries.

Darcy Graham scored twice either side of a Magnus Bradbury try, and Finn Russell crossed before Johnson put Gregor Townsend’s side ahead.

Although Wales’ victory earlier in the day had secured the title, Eddie Jones will be furious his England side were unable to end the campaign on a win.

For Scotland, there are mixed emotions – they may have retained the Calcutta Cup, and produced one of the most remarkable comebacks international rugby has seen – but players and fans alike will be left wondering: ‘what if?’.

How it happened

The 137th installment of a 145-year rivalry kicked off in front of a slightly subdued Twickenham, following the Welsh victory over Ireland earlier in the day – and after 66 seconds it had it’s first try.

Jack Nowell stepped in off the right-wing and eluded the Scottish cover to score the first of the games 11 tries.

A smart line-out routine five metres from the line then allowed flanker Tom Curry his second try of the competition.

Then, before the game was even 15 minutes old, a barn-storming run from Ellis Genge set the platform for Kyle Sinckler, before the ball was worked out to second-row Joe Launchbury who dived over for England’s third.

Jonny May, the championships top try scorer, bagged his 6th of the competition just before the half hour mark after an audacious backhanded pass by Henry Slade.

There was a swagger about Eddie Jones’ side in the early stages, with some slick handling and flowing rugby.

Hooker McInally’s try for Scotland just before halftime proved to be the start of a mistake-ridden 45-minutes for England.

The usually unflappable Owen Farrell’s kick was charged down by McInally, who ran from halfway to score – a weak tackle from May on the 22-metre line did little to slow his progress.

After the break, Scotland’s backline sprang to life and produced some scintillating rugby to carve through England’s panicking defence.

Winger Graham scored six minutes into the half, courtesy of some clever offloading and feeble English tackling.

Back-rower Bradbury collected Ali Price’s clever chip to score, before Graham crossed again in the corner to put Scotland within a converted try of England with 25 minutes to go.

As head coach Eddie Jones watched on in horror, England then conceded again.

Finn Russell picked off a Farrell pass and raced away to score a third Scottish try in 10 minutes, before Greig Laidlaw slotted the conversion to level the scores at 31-31.

A stunned England began to regain a foothold in the game, but an intelligent Russell pass fed Johnson, who bullied his way over the line.

It seemed that try would end Scotland’s 36-year wait for a win at Twickenham in the most dramatic fashion.

But the last and arguably best game of the 2019 Six Nations had one more twist – England reached the Scotland five metre line three minutes into overtime, before Ford dummied and went over under the posts.

Ford then converted, levelling the scores once again at 38-38, and bringing a breathless contest to an end.

For Townsend’s Scotland, this game accentuated how brilliant – and how poor – they have been in spells of this competition.

For Jones’ England, there is a growing concern that his current squad struggle to deal with the mental demands of competing at the peak of international rugby.

Either way, it was fitting final bow for a fascinating 2019 Six Nations.

What they said

Scotland fly-half Finn Russell was devastated at the final whistle, but was quick to praise his sides second-half performance.

“I’m gutted to be honest,” he said. “At half-time, everyone would have written Scotland off, it was 31-7 and for us to come out and have a second half like that was outstanding.

“It shows the character the boys have and I’m just so disappointed and gutted we didn’t managed to finish it off at the end after Sammy’s try with a couple of minutes to go and seven points up.”

Man-of-the-match Russell also revealed that there was an “argument” between himself and head coach Gregor Townsend during the half time break, as Scotland trailed 31-7.

“I actually had an argument with Gregor [at half-time],” Russell told ITV.

“I said to him ‘you’re telling us to kick and when we kick, they just run it back and cut us open, and when we run it, they’re just hitting us behind the gain line and winning the ball back’.

“Second half, we just came out with nothing to lose, played our rugby, kicked out of our half and scored some great tries. We played good Scottish rugby.”

His teammate Darcy Graham, who scored two tries in the incredible second-half display, was also keen to praise his sides fightback.

“We had a good look at ourselves at half-time,” Graham told BBC Scotland.

“We just said, ‘let’s see what we can get out this game’. We spoke about putting pride back into our badge because it was an embarrassing first half.

“I think we’ve shown that, we’ve put pride into that Scotland badge and it’s just outstanding from the boys.”

England head coach Eddie Jones bemoaned his teams inability to see out games, and called for his players to “put teams like Scotland away”.

“It is a recurring thing. It is not a one off,” Jones told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“When you want to be the best side in the world you have to put sides like Scotland away. We had the opportunity to do it and we didn’t.”

Jones also pointed to ill-discipline as an explanation for England slipping up against a side that finished second-bottom of the Six Nations.

“We just lacked discipline to keep doing the simple things well,” he added.

“We failed to get control and discipline back into the game when it gets loose, and we think we are on top and get a bit ‘free-wheely’.

“It’s 100% mental – there was no physical difference. It’s going to take some digging deep into the team psyche.”

Match Highlights:

6 Nations

Scotland Suffer Major Six Nations Blow

Scotland have been dealt a huge blow ahead of their Six Nations opener against Ireland in just over a week

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(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Scotland could be without fly-half Finn Russell for the entire Six Nations campaign according to reports after he left the team camp of his own accord.

BBC Sport are reporting that the 27-year-old Racing 92 star has breached “team protocol” and it has been confirmed by Scottish Rugby that he will not feature during the team’s opening game against Ireland on February 1st. 

“Finn Russell will play no further part in preparations for Scotland’s Six Nations opener,” a statement read.

Some believed that the player was injured during last weekend’s Champions Cup defeat to Saracens while on club duty, but there are growing concerns that there may be tension between Russell and head coach Gregor Townsend. 

Russell has had problems before with the coaches tactics and didn’t hide anything following last year’s Six Nations draw with England, when the Scots came back from 31-7 at half-time to draw 38-all in the end. 

“I actually had an argument with Gregor [at half-time]. I said to him ‘you’re telling us to kick and when we kick, they just run it back and cut us open, and when we run it, they’re just hitting us behind the gain line and winning the ball back’. Second half, we just came out with nothing to lose, played our rugby, kicked out of our half and scored some great tries. We played good Scottish rugby,” he said after the game last March.

However, there is no certainty as to what is the actual reason behind the scenario, but Russell will in fact head back to Racing for now. 

It is a huge blow for Scotland with Russell being one of the more experienced players among a young group, but it appears as though Adam Hastings would be most likely to take his place. However, fans will be worried with it being unknown whether or not their skillful playmaker will be involved at all during this year’s competition. 

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6 Nations

Smith Defends Parisse “Send-Off” Decision

Italian head coach Franco Smith has defended the decision to allow Sergio Parisse play only one game in the Six Nations this year in order to give him a send-off

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(Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

New Italy head coach Franco Smith has come out to defend the decision to allow Sergio Parisse have a send-off in the team’s final home match in the upcoming Six Nations campaign.

It has been confirmed that former captain Parisse, who has a total of 142-caps to his name for the side will not be involved at any other point of the competition other than their game against England in Rome on March 14th. 

The 36-year-old had planned to make his final appearance against New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup pool stages last year, only for the game to be cancelled due to Typhoon Hagibis. Smith believes that it is only right to give Parisse one last chance to play in blue. 

“Sergio will be involved in the last game with England and he has a lot to contribute. I said to Sergio two days ago not to worry and he doesn’t want to let the team down. I said we would stick to the plan and I will help him settle in and give him the best opportunity to play as well as he can. There was a misinterpretation that it will be a goodbye game and that is not the case and the agreement we have is that he is going to contribute one last time. We have turned the page, but he (Parisse) is a player of stature and deserves a send-off, but it is not just a send-off game and we hope he can make a difference and contribute from a leadership point of view and also be the icon we can follow,” he said. 

Smith thinks that the other players in the squad may gain motivation by seeing Parisse get a send-off as they will see what could happen to them if they reach the high-levels he has. 

“If other players see the send-off that Sergio gets then that will inspire them to be as good as they can be in an Italian jersey as well. He will come into camp when he can but we have also made an agreement with his club in France. He was a leader for Italian rugby for so long that very few leaders were developed and now it is time for a new leadership group and we have identified seven players of which Luca Bigi is the captain. Sergio will come and contribute for old time’s sake,” he added. 

The news has got a mixed reception from some fans, but maybe it will be something to motivate younger players in the squads as Smith believes. 

Meanwhile, the new head coach, who took over from Conor O’Shea following the World Cup, is looking to Japan for inspiration with his new side. 

“I want to help the team get to the next level and the game is going to change. Japan helped with the way they went about it ( at the World Cup) saying they couldn’t beat other teams with the way they play and we have to find our own way. I think that will be a point of reference (for us). For a long time Italy played in a way to beat teams not necessarily with their own game. The pressure game has been a feature of the last six or seven years and attack is the most difficult area to coach,” he finished up on. 

Italy face a tough task heading into the campaign with current Grand Slam holders Wales up first on February 1st, with the Azzurri looking to end a run of 22 defeats in a row in the tournament.

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6 Nations

Former Scotland Star Fearing Tough Six Nations Campaign

Former Scotland star Scott Hastings is fearing the worst for his country as they head into the Six Nations

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(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Former Scotland centre Scott Hastings has predicted a tough Six Nations campaign for the national side as they go through a period of transition.

The 65-cap Scot believes that last year was expected to be the year where Scotland produced their best, but they failed and they are now trying to figure things out with a younger squad. 

Some of those youngsters have starred for club and country including the likes of Jamie Ritchie, Darcy Graham and Magnus Bradbury, but Hastings is worried that they will lack the guidance of experienced players with veterans such as Greig Laidlaw, John Barclay and Tommy Seymour retiring after last year’s Rugby World Cup

“I think Scotland are in for a tough season. There is a new era ahead. The team needs to try to put the World Cup to bed but they have lost three experienced heads in Laidlaw, Barclay and Seymour. There needs to be a new energy coming into the team and you can see Gregor is trying to do that with the six uncapped players he has included in his Six Nations squad. But has Gregor learned from the failure of last year? There was a lot of expectancy on the team but they imploded on numerous occasions,” he said while speaking to PA news agency. 

With that in mind Hastings believes that other players in the squad need to step up including Finn Russell, who is now one of the most experienced players in the squad. 

“The things we need to see is how does George Horne become that experienced player, how does Finn Russell strike that balance between exuberance, mercurial brilliance with also the need to be pinpoint accurate so he can deliver a winning performance for Scotland. In the forwards, how does Zander Fagerson turn himself into the number one tighthead in the Six Nations, how does Jonny Gray become the Alun Wyn Jones of Scottish rugby?” he added. 

However, he doesn’t believe that Scotland will be the only side in transition this year with Ireland and Wales in a similar boat in his eyes. While he is backing the title to head to either England or France this season. 

“I think Ireland and Wales are going through something a bit of a transitional period, similar to Scotland. England and France undoubtedly look like the teams to beat but I’m afraid Scotland are looking at fourth, fifth and sixth. I know that sounds harsh and when I played I certainly never went into a season thinking like that. But while I’m still a passionate Scotland supporter this time I’ve got to lead my head rule my heart. They have shown in glimpses that they can play well but you need more than that to compete for a Six Nations title,” he finished up with. 

Scotland will want an improvement from last season, where they only managed a win against Italy and a draw with England in the Six Nations as well as exiting the World Cup in the pool stages. 

However, they face a tough task this time around with their opening game against an Ireland side under new management and eager to impress their new coaches.

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