Steve Borthwick voices regrets as England blow lead in Scotland defeat
Steve Borthwick admitted England should not have let the Calcutta Cup slip from their grasp in their 29-23 Six Nations defeat by Scotland.
The new England boss lamented blowing an eight-point lead at Twickenham, as Scotland claimed their third-straight win over the Auld Enemy for the first time in 51 years.
Borthwick hailed England for showing new levels of resilience compared to the end of the Eddie Jones era, but was still left to rue late mistakes that cost the hosts the result.
Max Malins claimed a brace and Ellis Genge crossed too, as England’s attack fired in fine style.
The defence folded far too frequently however, with Duhan Van Der Merwe racing in for a double, to add to tries from Huw Jones and Ben White.
Scotland’s third Calcutta Cup win on the bounce for the first time since 1972 scuppered boss Borthwick’s ideas of a major momentum boost to launch his new regime.
The new head coach has only been in the hot seat for 48 days however, with just 11 of those available for meaningful training work.
“I’m clearly disappointed with the result – we were 20-12 up and in control of the game,” said Borthwick. “We shouldn’t have let the game get away from us and we did. But that is part of the growth of this team.
“Sometimes you have to go through some pain. You don’t want to but there’s certainly enough there on that pitch to see some aspects we can work with.”
Even in defeat, England were a far cry from the shadow of a dominant Test team that slipped to three losses in four November matches that cost Eddie Jones his job.
Jones’ England were booed off after the 27-13 loss to South Africa that proved his final Test at the Twickenham helm.
In contrast the west London crowd immediately warmed to Borthwick’s England, and understandably thanks to an attacking elan and speed that was glaring by its sinful omission in the autumn.
Malins’ tries were the product of razor-sharp attack, which in itself represents a huge jump forward from the muddled end to Jones’ seven-year reign.
Saracens man Malins’ first score came from a Marcus Smith crossfield chip off the back of a fine Kyle Sinckler pass, and the other courtesy of smart interplay between Jack Van Poortvliet, Owen Farrell and Joe Marchant.
Ragged and brittle defence cost England this match, and also the inability to press home their territorial advantage.
“I thought Scotland were very good, they didn’t get an awful lot of chances but the ones they got they took ruthlessly,” said Borthwick. “We saw some growth, particularly in the attacking side of the game, this team started to look like they had points in them and an attacking edge.”
Gregor Townsend was left to revel in a 51-year first for the jubilant Scots, with the visiting boss hailing Van Der Merwe’s 50-metre score.
Asked about the Lions wing’s first try, Townsend replied: “It was incredible, wasn’t it? It reminded me of when you played Jonah Lomu Rugby and suddenly one person can go quicker than everyone else.
“To play like he did today on the back of an injury and not playing for Edinburgh is a real testament to how he’s got himself in this position both mentally and physically.
“The finish for his second try was excellent, but the first was amazing. I came here so many times as a player and never won, and when we won here two years ago there was no crowd because of Covid.
“So this is very special for us, but it’s important that we don’t let this opportunity slip now. We’ve had good results like this before and not built on them, so that is the absolute focus.”