Guinness Six Nations
England 38-38 Scotland
After all the drama of Wales’ Grand Slam – everyone thought this final Saturday of the 2019 Six Nations could not get any more Super. How wrong we were.
Scotland produced arguably the individual performance of the Championship at Twickenham to come back from 31-0 down and almost claim the most famous win in their history.
Sam Johnson’s late score looked to have won it for the visitors, ending a 36-year wait for a Scottish victory at Twickenham, but George Ford went over in the final play and added the extras and the spoils were shared.
Scotland didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the final whistle, but they can console themselves with the fact that the Calcutta Cup will be staying north of Hadrian’s Wall.
That had not looked likely after England ran in four tries in the first half – Jack Nowell, Tom Curry, Joe Launchbury and Jonny May all going over.
What proceeded to unfold thereafter was almost beyond belief.
Scotland – on a three-match losing run and riddled with injuries all Championship – came roaring back in quite ridiculous style.
Stuart McInally’s stunning solo score lit the touchpaper before the break, and then in the third quarter Darcy Graham wriggled over for a double, Magnus Bradbury went charging through the middle and Finn Russell picked off Owen Farrell.
The Twickenham faithful were stunned, Scotland were rampant and from a 31-0 hole after half an hour, the scores were level again at 31-31.
The stage was set for one last twist of this unbelievable 2019 Championship, and it was Johnson who struck, bursting onto a Russell pass and holding off the cover to get under the posts.
Scotland were 38-31 to the good as the clock went red, but England mounted one last attack and despite valiant Scottish defence, Ford went over and converted to claim a draw in this 11-try thriller.
England have made a habit of starting fast in his Championship, and Round Five was no exception as Nowell went over inside the first two minutes.
The Exeter Chiefs winger justified his recall to the starting XV, dotting down after his clubmate Henry Slade put him clear down the right.
Farrell added the extras and while England were unlucky to lose Ben Moon to injury, nothing was going to put them off their stride.
The Scots were powerless to prevent Curry from dotting down at the back of a lineout maul for his second Test try soon after.
Everyone wearing white wanted a piece of the action and next it was the turn of Launchbury, sliding over after Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler combined beautifully in the build-up.
Ben Youngs was then denied a score by the TMO after a clever Jack Nowell chip, Owen Farrell added a penalty and the bonus point was wrapped up inside half an hour when May went over.
This score was the best of the bunch, Youngs’ quick tap catching Scotland cold before Slade produced a delightful offload and May did the rest – his sixth try of this Championship.
Few anticipated what would come next, but Scotland began the fightback after McInally’s superb solo sprint to the line from halfway after the hooker charged down Farrell’s kick.
That trimmed the lead to 31-7, and when Graham spun over for his second try in two Championship starts, the visitors sniffed a comeback.
That threat grew still further when Bradbury picked a great line after Ali Price’s chip and chase to go charging through for their third and with Russell adding the extras England were no longer out of sight with the score 31-19.
And still Scotland kept coming, the momentum all theirs with England now all at sea and when Russell’s pass put Sean Maitland on the outside of May, Graham turned on the afterburners to race in for his second.
Scotland emptied their bench soon after and when Russell intercepted Farrell’s pass to coast under the posts, the conversion made it a scarcely believable 31-31 scoreline with 20 minutes left.
Greig Laidlaw then missed with a penalty that would have put the Scots in front – Farrell penalised for a late hit on Graham and soon afterwards Ford came on the for England skipper.
Still, it was Johnson who put Scotland ahead, Laidlaw’s conversion making it 38 unanswered points.
But it was Ford who rescued England at the death, diving over under the posts to deny Johnson and Scotland the greatest win in their history.