England 23-29 Scotland: Van der Merwe magic rocks Borthwick as Scots serve up Six Nations repeat dose
New coach, same outcome. Scotland had England's measure again on the opening weekend of the Six Nations as Steve Borthwick's debut as Red Rose boss ended in a 29-23 defeat at Twickenham, where Duhan van der Merwe put on a masterclass.
Borthwick, who took over from the sacked Eddie Jones in December, saw England suffer a fourth successive opening-weekend defeat in the championship, with the last three of those having come at the hands of Gregor Townsend's Scots.
This was a rip-roaring battle from the early stages. Scotland snatched a 15th-minute lead after a smart lineout move set up the chance near the England line. Huw Jones was halted, but Scotland got the ball moving again, with Sione Tuipulotu playing a clever kick through for Jones to dot down.
England banked their first try of the Borthwick era in the 24th minute when Max Malins dropped on a smart kick to the right corner by Marcus Smith.
Then came a glorious moment of skill from Van der Merwe, who ran from inside his own half and through the heart of England's team, dancing past one white shirt after another before scoring to the left of the posts. Pure magic on the big stage.
With Owen Farrell and Finn Russell missing consecutive conversions, Scotland's lead stood at 12-5, but that was trimmed when Malins dashed in for his second try, taking on a pass from Lewis Ludlam.
Farrell squandered another eminently kickable conversion chance, but he could hardly miss when England were awarded a penalty in front of the posts before the break, making no mistake to give the hosts a 13-12 interval lead.
Ellis Genge was England's close-range finisher after pressure was applied to the Scotland line early in the second half, with Farrell booting the extras; however, the Scots hit back in the 51st minute through Ben White, and Russell's kick made it a one-point game again.
Kyle Steyn dropped a high pass from Stuart Hogg as the Scots chased what would have been their fourth try, before Farrell and Russell exchanged penalties.
The Scots inside England's home roared as Van der Merwe gave Scotland the lead in the 74th minute, surging over in the left corner, ensuring his earlier heroics had not come in a losing cause. Russell added the extras, and this time England were done.
Super Scots rock Twickenham
Scotland have now won five of their last seven Six Nations openers, with Townsend's team losing only one of their last six Calcutta Cup games. They have beaten England three times in a row in the competition for the first time since a 1970-72 run of success. It turned into Van der Merwe's day, but team-mate Jones has now scored five tries in five Six Nations games against England. Only former England flyer Jason Robinson has managed more in this fixture, bagging six tries.
Van der Merwe try one for the ages
These teams met behind closed doors at Twickenham two years ago, with Scotland grabbing an 11-6 win and Van der Merwe scoring the game's only try. His sensational first try here would have been wasted on an empty stadium, with former Scotland captain John Barclay telling BBC Radio 5 Live: "That will go down as one of the best all-time individual tries."
Key Opta Facts
Scotland have won back-to-back away matches against England for the first time since 1899-1909 (W6) and for the first time ever at Twickenham; they are now unbeaten in their last three away games against England (W2 D1).
England have lost a Test match against Scotland after leading at half-time for the first time since April 2000 (13-19) and for the first time at Twickenham since March 1971 (15-16).
Ben Youngs has now made 53 appearances in the Six Nations, more than any other English player; in fact, only Jason Leonard (54) has more appearances for England in the Five or Six Nations.
Van der Merwe beat 10 opposition defenders, over double the amount of any other player on the pitch and has now beaten 46 defenders in total since the start of 2022, more than any other player in Tier 1 Test rugby.
Scotland will look to build on this next week when they host a Wales side who were crushed by Ireland in their opener. England should net Borthwick a first win next weekend when Italy visit London, but the Azzurri beat Australia in November so cannot be underestimated.