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Home ยป England 23-29 Scotland: Borthwick Era Starts With Painful Defeat But Signs Better Days Will Come

England 23-29 Scotland: Borthwick Era Starts With Painful Defeat But Signs Better Days Will Come

Six Nations highlights: England 23-29 ScotlandSaturday’s sensational loss to Scotland was England’s fourth in their last six appearances at Twickenham but bizarrely, this time, the crowd might not mind too much.

They booed their side on their last outing in London, when they were dismal in defeat by South Africa.

That meant expectation levels were not particularly high going into the Six Nations. As captain Owen Farrell pointed out after their 29-23 defeat, the side had just 11 days in camp with their new head coach Steve Borthwick.

Borthwick himself was measured beforehand too, saying mistakes would be made but that his team would fight.

And fight they did. Huw Jones went over first and Max Malins timed his dive to perfection to get England back in it.

Watch: Van der Merwe’s ‘sensational’ try Duhan van der Merwe stunned anyone with the privilege of witnessing his individual effort, and those strolling back towards Twickenham’s pubs afterwards surely felt he alone made the visit worthwhile.

England again clawed their way back through Malins. Then they hit the front. Ellis Genge went over and it was Scotland holding on through Ben White this time.

With 10 minutes remaining, England were one point up through sheer effort in the face of Scottish belief.

So often it has been the hope that has killed Scotland fans, this time it was their side’s refusal to lose hope that gave them yet another Twickenham thrill.

In 2021, Gregor Townsend’s team claimed a first win at the venue in 38 years. From the outset on Saturday they looked convinced they could do it again.

In the closing stages, that conviction became another Van der Merwe try and Scotland claimed back-to-back wins at Twickenham for the first time.

Steve Borthwick and Kevin Sinfield worked together at Leicester TigersEngland have to go through pain to grow – BorthwickRugby Union Daily: Scotland’s Calcutta Cup hat-trickMore to come from Scotland, says emotional TownsendThere were no jeers from home fans at full-time, though.

Their side still could not show a clear attacking gameplan, but they did show glimpses of the excitement that attack coach Nick Evans has brought to Harlequins in the past.

Marcus Smith’s cross-field kick led to Malins’ opening try. Jack van Poortvliet’s quick change of direction helped Genge over.

New defence coach Kevin Sinfield will not be happy to have conceded four tries, but there was plenty of endeavour too.

England’s desperate desire to never hear the disappointment of their fans again was evident in the way Sione Tuipulotu rebounded off a charging Freddie Steward, and in Farrell’s persistent hounding of Finn Russell.

England may not yet be a winning side under Borthwick but they are immediately more likeable.

They tried hard and were well beaten – and only by a single late try.

Obviously, effort will not keep the fans on side forever if it does not lead to results. Japan are the only team England have beaten at Twickenham in their last six matches there.

Thankfully for Borthwick his side has a very good chance of getting back on track given they face Italy next weekend – although even that could be a banana skin given the success the Azzurri enjoyed in 2022.

It might also give the head coach an opportunity to experiment further with his selection.

There was some confusion among fans at Twickenham pre-match as to why Borthwick had stuck with a Marcus Smith and Farrell combination that did not fire in late 2022.

The partnership was outshone by Scotland’s superb Russell and Huw Jones, but they did play with more freedom than they had previously.

Number eight Alex Dombrandt was able to reignite with Smith the attacking link that the pair have finessed at Harlequins.

The back row had his moments but made his errors too. Balls were spilled, a restart was dropped and Borthwick may now put a question mark over his name.

Others cemented their place in the XV. Lock Ollie Chessum yanked the spotlight away from his second-row partner Maro Itoje with a barrelling performance.

Malins was equal parts solid and savvy on the wing.

Max Malins scored his first international triesBorthwick says all the right things. In contrast to former head coach Eddie Jones’ combative post-match style, Borthwick repeated several times that his side were disappointed by defeat.

A promise that they will be better against Italy. Recognition that the set-piece needs work.

“England hasn’t had a strong maul for a few years now,” he said. “What we are going to do is make sure we get better so we have better weapons in our game.”

Borthwick believes the England team that turned up at Twickenham in the autumn would not have bounced back after going down early against Scotland.

He is right and the encouraging cheers of England’s fans in the early changes suggested they sense a change too.

And to be sure he had the crowd on side, Borthwick threw in a sweetener: “I am disappointed for the supporters, who I thought were incredible for us today.”

But he was realistic too, adding that his side would have to go through some pain to grow.

Given England fans endured a poor run of five wins in 12 Tests in 2022, they seem willing to stick out some teething niggles in the hope that better days are to come.