At a sodden, wind-swept Murrayfield, it was England who weathered the storm. For 80 minutes, Scotland and England battled it out in the midst of Storm Ciara – a night of driving rain and sudden gusts, where fast, free-flowing rugby was made nigh-on impossible by the conditions.
The score remained 3-3 up until the 70th minute, when replacement Ellis Genge bundled the ball over the line to set up an important win for England – the match ending in a 13-6 win for Eddie Jones’ side.
After a disappointing opening day defeat to France in Paris, Jones will simply be relieved that his side managed to get the win in such trying conditions. England gave a weak performance in the France match, blown away by a side more energetic and up for the occasion. It seemed as though Jones’ side were still suffering something of a hangover from the Rugby World Cup Final defeat to South Africa in November, as they never truly got going in Paris.
But the scrappiness of the victory over Scotland is perhaps just what England needed to steady themselves heading into the rest of the Six Nations campaign. Their next opponents are Ireland, who are riding the crest of a wave after successive victories over Scotland and Wales, although England still hold the edge according to the latest Six Nations odds from Betfair.
Winning against Scotland in such a hard-fought manner could have the power to bring the team closer together. While high-scoring, dominant victories are mightily impressive and pleasing for supporters, scrappier, more difficult wins can be much more satisfying. The conditions during the Scotland match required England to dig deep and stretch every sinew to come out on top.
“It was an old fashioned Calcutta Cup game,” Jones remarked afterwards, “swirling wind and an aggressive crowd without manners. There was a lot of growth for us, I under-prepared the side for the first game but we’ll get stronger as the weeks go on.”
That will be the hope heading into England’s first home game of this Six Nations campaign – that the momentum gained by beating Scotland will build over the remaining weeks of the tournament. Ireland are a team in good form having comfortably beaten Wales at the Aviva Stadium in their second game, and defeated England at Twickenham to win the Grand Slam two years ago.
But Jones is an experienced campaigner, and without doubt he’ll have a plan up his sleeve to thwart Andy Farrell’s side. The Ireland head coach will be wary of the threat England pose. After all, the form they showed at the World Cup to reach the final, beating New Zealand along the way, still lies somewhere under the surface. The hard-fought, scrappy win over Scotland could be just what was needed to kick-start this England team once again.
After the stormy climes of Murrayfield, England will be hoping that they can produce their fluent best under more clement weather conditions at Twickenham. Should England overcome Ireland, then the Championship will remain very much up for grabs. It could be that we look back on the blustery Scotland match as the beginning of England’s road to Six Nations glory.