England and Scotland’s rollercoaster 38-38 draw at Twickenham was one of the most remarkable rugby union matches ever seen.
England surrendered a 31-point advantage as Scotland produced a stirring second-half comeback to take the lead, before George Ford salvaged a point for the hosts in the highest-scoring draw in international history with a converted try in the 83rd minute.
Former internationals Paul Grayson and Andy Nicol, who were commentating on the match for BBC Radio 5 live, tried to make sense of what happened.
Does Farrell have too much responsibility?
The responsibility of being sole captain and chief playmaker is a “massive ask” for England’s Owen Farrell, said former England fly-half Grayson.
Farrell was replaced by Ford in the second half at Twickenham, moments after he was fortunate to avoid a yellow card for what appeared to be a late tackle on Darcy Graham.
“I feel Owen Farrell’s job spec is so big that the full captaincy on his own is a massive ask,” said Grayson.
“He got himself into another messy collision which maybe happens when he is under stress and trying to fix things on his own.”
Farrell, the sole captain in the absence of injured joint-leader Dylan Hartley, also made two mistakes that resulted in Scotland tries as England lost control of the match.
The Saracens fly-half had a kick charged down by hooker Stuart McInally, who collected the loose ball to score Scotland’s opening try five minutes from half-time.
The 27-year-old also had a pass intercepted by opposite number Finn Russell, who raced clear to score a converted try under the posts as Scotland stunned Twickenham with five second-half tries.
“He has got so much on his plate as fly-half that when England got into trouble against Wales and Scotland, maybe he tries to do it all and he loses himself,” said Grayson.
“Maybe having finishers like Dylan Hartley coming off the bench in the final quarter with a calm head, is something Eddie Jones looks at.”
‘Should I feel elated or gutted?’
Former Scotland scrum-half Nicol went through a “rollercoaster of emotions” during the match. Here’s how he reacted to the key moments:
- 31mins – England 31-0 Scotland: “I am watching this game through my fingers it is so bad. Every time England get the ball it looks like they are going to score.”
- 40mins – England 31-7 Scotland: “That was a brutal 40 minutes for Scotland. Gregor Townsend will have the hardest 10 minutes of his coaching career.”
- 77mins – England 31-38 Scotland: “I am not believing what I am seeing. This is truly stunning.”
- 80mins – England 38-38 Scotland: “I don’t know how to feel – am I elated we got back in the game or am I gutted we got into a winning position and didn’t make it?”
‘Incredible to be disappointed with a draw’
The visitors were just seconds from securing a first victory at Twickenham in 36 years, and Nicol said “a little moment amongst all the madness” prevented Gregor Townsend’s men from securing a historic win.
“George Ford scored a good try but it’s devastating for Scotland who have done so much to get back into contention. It’s incredible to even be disappointed with a draw after being 31-0 down.
“They dug themselves out of a massive hole with proper rugby but they had a little moment in amongst all the madness. Had Hamish Watson put Jonny May into touch it would have been game over, but England went down the other end and scored the try.
“There were clearly system errors in the first half and the body language wasn’t great but they turned it around and the positives definitely outweighed the negatives.
“Finn Russell pulled the strings in the second half beautifully, he had a no look pass for Sam Johnson’s try and you probably saw the best attacking stand-off in world rugby bring it all out.”
‘Do England have time to fix their problems?’
BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones at Twickenham
Scotland were 31-0 down at a place where they haven’t won since 1983. They were injury ravaged and players were embarrassed, having a go at each other under the posts. To then lead 38-31 was ridiculous and that is why we love sport.
It was an amazing achievement by Scotland and they will be gutted because they could have seen that game out and were in control. England had to go 80 metres but there was so much pride salvaged by Scotland, who needed it after a poor tournament.
There are so many questions that remain about England. However brilliant they look when they are good, when they are off it they can look like the wheels are falling off.
Before today, England, Ireland and Wales looked very evenly matched. That still looks the case, however, Wales showed a hard-edged ability to win tight Test matches and live up to the pressure, England can still fall off the cliff in the second half and Ireland have possibly peaked a year too early.
I think Eddie Jones was candid enough to acknowledge there are massive things to fix, but then he said there was still time to do it. This was the last competitive game before the World Cup. They have four warm-up matches, with one against Italy, so is that going to be enough to solve it?
Or are we going to go to another World Cup where you still worry about England when the chips are down and the momentum is swinging?