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Scotland edge England in Calcutta Cup thriller

Scotland launched their Six Nations campaign with a dramatic 20-17 win over England at Murrayfield on Saturday as they recorded consecutive Calcutta Cup victories over their arch-rivals for the first time since 1984.

England were 17-10 ahead, with fly-half Marcus Smith having scored all of their points, when Scotland were awarded a penalty try 15 minutes from time after Luke Cowan-Dickie was ruled to have deliberately knocked on a Finn Russell cross-kick heading towards wing Darcy Graham.

While the act of foul play that earned Cowan-Dickie a yellow card seemed clear enough, referee Ben O’Keeffe also had to decide if a try would probably have been scored but for the hooker’s intervention. 

Russell then added a penalty before England opted to set-up a line-out rather than go for an equalising kick from long-range.

Scotland, however, stole possession at the set-piece and then survived a series of scrums to see the game out and spark joyous scenes among a 67,000 capacity crowd savouring Six Nations rugby again after last season’s campaign was played behind closed doors.

‘So nervous’

“I was so nervous for that set of scrums at the end,” Scotland coach Gregor Townsend told the BBC.

“(Our self-belief) is excellent, as is our character. We were behind and came back. Some of our best rugby was in the last 15 minutes in tricky conditions.”

England counterpart Eddie Jones refused to hold Cowan-Dickie responsible for the loss.

“We don’t apportion any blame to Luke—the referee adjudged it was a yellow card and we have to get on with it,” he said.

“We had opportunities to kick on, but we just weren’t clinical enough.”

Defeat was hard on the 22-year-old Smith who, in his first away international and just the sixth Test of his career, scored a well-taken try and kicked four penalties.

England, in the latest edition of rugby’s oldest international fixture, dominated territory and possession in the first half.

But they turned round 10-6 behind after Scotland replacement Ben White marked his Test debut with a converted try.

Rising star

Rising star Smith cut Scotland’s lead to 10-9 early in the second half with a close-range penalty.

After a strong drive by England’s pack, Smith went in on the blindside for a 53rd-minute try that saw England lead at 14-10.

Smith missed the ensuing conversion but kicked England further ahead with a 63rd-minute penalty before Jones replaced him with the experienced George Ford.

It had seemed England would make their forward power count before they lost their discipline late on. 

England were missing several first-choice players due to injury, including captain Owen Farrell and Courtney Lawes, their stand-in skipper in November.

The visitors were also without Jonny May, Anthony Watson, Manu Tuilagi, Sam Underhill, Jonny Hill, and the Vunipola brothers.

At the age of 23, flanker Tom Curry, 23, became England’s youngest captain since Will Carling in 1988.

After the pre-match rain and wind at Murrayfield had eased, England played the better rugby early on and threatened a try through Freddie Steward before he was bundled into touch by Scotland captain and opposing full-back Stuart Hogg five metres short of the try-line.

England eventually went ahead with Smith’s 17th-minute penalty but it proved a short-lived lead as, moments later, Scotland went ahead from their first real attack.

Sam Johnson carried hard from a line-out before finding Hogg.

The full-back released Darcy Graham, who stepped inside Joe Marchant before finding White, on as a head injury replacement for scrum-half Ali Price, who finished an excellent move.

Russell kicked the conversion and Scotland led 7-3.

Smith cut Scotland’s lead to 7-6 before Russell edged the hosts four points in front with the last kick of the first half.

Smith reduced the gap with his third penalty and then, after good work by the England pack, stepped sharply off his right foot to evade the defence for a well-taken try.

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