'Monkey off our back', says Townsend as Scotland end Twickenham wait

Julian Guyer
·3-min read

Scotland coach Gregor Townsend said his side had got a "monkey off our backs" after ending their 38-year wait for a win at Twickenham with an 11-6 victory over reigning champions England in the teams' Six Nations opener on Saturday.

None of the current squad were born when Scotland triumphed 22-12 at Twickenham in 1983, with Townsend himself then only nine years old at a time when Margaret Thatcher was British Prime Minister and Michael Jackson was No 1 in the UK charts with 'Billie Jean'.

But all that history was put to one side in a rainswept match where Scotland dominated the set-piece, besting England at the scrum and line-out, while fly-half Finn Russell and skipper Stuart Hogg expertly directed play behind their pack.

Scotland wing Duhan van der Merwe struck in the 30th minute to score the only try of the match, with both Russell and England captain Owen Farrell landing two penalties apiece in a match where the final scoreline did not reflect the visitors' superiority.

"I came down here a number of times as a player and then as a coach and hadn't come away with anything," former Scotland fly-half Townsend told reporters.

"So this result is definitely up there with the best ever results in our history, and certainly myself in my coaching career.

"Today the players were outstanding in really tricky conditions."

The match marked the 150th anniversary of rugby's oldest international fixture.

Scotland have shown signs of progress since their group-stage exit at the 2019 World Cup in Japan, with October seeing them win in Wales for the first time in 18 years -- a match, like Saturday's fixture, played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus.

"We had moments before and after the World Cup, and that's how we've been shaped as a group of players and coaches," said Townsend.

And not even the sin-binning of Russell shortly before half-time disrupted Scotland's game on Saturday.

"It was so good to see the players play so well in the period of Finn Russell's yellow card, and we won that 10 minutes 3-0," said Townsend, with a home clash against Wales next up for his developing team.

"It (beating England at Twickenham) is definitely a monkey off our backs."

Meanwhile, an elated Hogg said: "During the week we said that if we got everything right on both sides of the ball we'd give ourselves a chance.

"And we did exactly that."

- 'Off the pace' -

England coach Eddie Jones admitted: "We just couldn't find a way to get into the game... We just seemed to be off the pace and I have to blame myself, we didn't prepare the team well enough."

One consolation for England is that next week they are at home to perennial strugglers Italy.

The Azzurri, thrashed 50-10 by France in Rome earlier on Saturday, their 28th consecutive Six Nations defeat, have yet to beat England.

Jones, however, said: "You never atone for a game like this. This stays with you for a long time.

"But the most important thing is that we get together and we find a way to improve our performance and play like England do against Italy next week."

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