The matchup between England and Scotland produced one of the most absurd, yet thrilling, eighty minutes of rugby in the history of the Six Nations. The hosts had taken a seemingly-unassailable lead, the Scots appearing set for yet another fruitless trip to London. However, an astonishing second-half turnaround culminated in Finn Russell giving his team a late lead, only for England to snatch a draw in overtime.
The 38-all draw was a fitting way to end the 2019 edition of the tournament, which has itself been filled with unexpected twists and turns. But, which England players shone and which fizzled out during Saturday’s fireworks display?
Ben Moon – n/a
Injury ended Moon’s afternoon in the opening stages.
Jamie George – 7.5
With a total of 40 metres made and 11 tackles completed, this was another workman-like display from George. His accuracy at lineout time also provided a solid foundation from which his teammates could attack; this was a stellar all-round performance from the hooker.
Kyle Sinckler – 8 (MOTM)
England looked to be a different side once Sinckler was removed from the field of play. His power and tenacity had helped the forwards establish dominance over their Scottish compatriots, yet his teammates could not maintain their grip after the Harlequins man’s departure. He is fast becoming a vital component to the side.
Joe Launchbury – 5
It was a somewhat quiet game from the second row, who failed to reach his usual performance levels. Nevertheless, this was by no means a poor showing from Launchbury; he was reliable as a lineout catcher and showed reasonable energy around the park.
George Kruis – 6.5
Like his partner in the engine room, Kruis should not be at all disappointed by his performance, but may feel there are areas for improvement. 16 tackles and 14 carries stands testament to his commitment to the team and willingness to put in the hard graft. However, he and Launchbury lack the dynamism and athleticism of Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes.
Mark Wilson – 5.5
The areas of the game in which the Newcastle Falcons backrower excels were not tested whilst he was on the pitch. The combative, defensive role that Wilson typically plays was not required in the first-half as the Roses put their rivals to the sword. His skills would certainly have been useful when the Scots launched their remarkable comeback.
Tom Curry – 7.5
Arguably England’s player of the tournament, the young flanker looks to have nailed down his position in Eddie Jones’ starting XV. Saturday was a continuation of his immaculate form this year, with Curry showcasing an array of skills. His work at the breakdown, offloading capabilities, and linespeed were just a few of the impressive facets of his display.
Billy Vunipola – 6
It has been difficult to assess Vunipola this year. He has been given a heavily restrictive, yet vitally important, task by the coaches whereby he is expected to lead the ball-carrying duties for the team. It has evidently taken a lot out of the Number 8, who looked slightly jaded at Twickenham.
Ben Youngs – 5
For all of Youngs’ excellence in the first-half, he must shoulder much of the blame for England’s collapse after the break. Like in Cardiff, he lost control of the game and began to lose accuracy in his kicking game. That allowed Gregor Townsend’s recruits to establish a foothold, pressurise Youngs’ backline, and claw back the lead.
Owen Farrell – 3
Up until Stuart McInally’s opening score for the Scots, Farrell had been composed, precise and generally impressive. However, like Youngs, his game took a turn for the worse and Farrell soon became the villain for England fans. He was charged down by McInally to give the visitors a glimmer of hope before having a pass intercepted by Russell that completed their comeback. Without such mistakes, the turnaround would likely never have occurred.
Jonny May – 6
As he has done all tournament, May tirelessly chased his half-back’s kicks and was effective in aerial battles. His try before the break was his sixth of the competition and ensured he finished as top scorer, a just reward for how he has played in each match.
Manu Tuilagi – 6
The Leicester Tigers centre gave his opponents plenty to think about with his intelligent running lines, but ultimately was given too little of the ball. Still, the angles he cut created space for his fellow backs to exploit and helped England to build their lead.
Henry Slade – 7
Slade was an artist in the first period, linking beautifully with others in white to punish the Scotland defence. A stunning offload sent May over the whitewash and was just one of numerous sublime moments Slade. Unfortunately for him and England, he was unable to produce similar flashes once Scotland had wrestled momentum in their favour.
Jack Nowell – 6
He finished expertly in the opening minutes before demonstrating his adeptness in defence. His low tackles halted countless runners, preventing England from losing territory. Once more he added impetus to the pack as well, functioning as an auxiliary forward to great effect.
Elliot Daly – 7
Daly seems to have found his feet at full-back after struggling slightly with his positional sense. He looks the part now, consistently claiming high-balls and coming in to the line to supplement attacks. Daly was dangerous with swathes of open space in front of him.
Luke Cowan-Dickie – 5
He had little opportunity to leave his mark on the match, but came up good when his team needed him to. With huge pressure on a lineout at the death, the hooker delivered perfectly to help set up an ultimately successful attack for the hosts.
Ellis Genge – 7
Genge made an unexpectedly early introduction for the team after Moon’s injury and really seized the chance to impress. He was a bowling-ball with ball in hand, effortlessly bumping off would-be tacklers. He also proved his ability at scrum time, holding his own against the experienced Willem Nel.
Dan Cole – 4
England’s downfall began with Cole’s introduction in the second-half. Though the incredible turnaround was hardly his fault, Cole failed to maintain the momentum England had established, even allowing the Scots to turn the tide in the scrums.
Brad Shields – 5
Another who was not directly to blame for the events after half-time, but may feel he could have done more to prevent what occurred. Shields had a decidedly quiet game.
Nathan Hughes – 5
No tackles and a mere four carries captures how insignificant Hughes’ impact on proceedings was. He failed to prevent the Scots’ stellar second-half showing.
Ben Spencer – n/a
George Ford – 7
Despite only entering the contest with minutes left, Ford managed to do what Farrell could not. His distribution and calmness were important in giving England field position and setting up one last chance for Jones’ side. Fittingly, Ford was the one who took that chance, skipping under the posts after a deft sidestep.
Ben Te’o – 6
Whilst most of the substitutes were underwhelming, Te’o managed to have a genuine influence on the outcome. His carry and offload were necessary as England surged upfield in the closing stages of the encounter, ultimately crossing through Ford.
By Ed Alexander