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England 38 Scotland 38: Scots make a comeback for the ages in the greatest Calcutta Cup game ever played

Captain Stuart McInally breaks away from Jonny May to launch Scotland's incredible comeback.
Captain Stuart McInally breaks away from Jonny May to launch Scotland's incredible comeback.

Scotland retained the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham in without question the most incredible game in the 150-year history of rugby’s oldest contest, coming from 31-0 down to lead 38-31 before an England try with the last play of the game denied them their first win in London for 36 years.

The Six Nations has never seen a game like this, England scoring four tries and a penalty, registering a point a minute on their way to what seemed an overwhelming lead in the first-half.

Captain Stuart McInally’s try just before half-time seemed to be bare resistance, but it launched an amazing comeback for the Scots.

Just as they seemed to be heading for the abyss of total humiliation, Scotland rallied with Finn Russell pulling the strings magnificently, scoring six tries in thrilling fashion to completely overturn the contest and lead going into added time.

George Ford’s late try and conversion denied them the win, but this performance might be the making of a Scots team crippled by injury during this 6 Nations but showing enormous resilience and courage to fight back from what appeared to be impending disaster.

Certainly the championship has never witnessed this before, a contender for the greatest rugby game ever played.

Scotland’s plan of a strong start to take the wind out of England’s sails backfired in spectacular fashion, the white jerseys pouring through almost at will in the opening minutes.

England had scored in the opening few minutes in three of their four matches, and had a score with barely 60 seconds played.

A deep kick-off was well exited by Scotland and they seemed to have stopped Billy Vunipola’s first rumble, but Sam Johnson raced out of the line to snare Farrell and England were in, spreading the ball to Nowell who stepped inside Sean Maitland for the try.

Farrell converted and Scotland’s first foray into England’s 22 came from a neat Russell touchfinder, but McGuigan was caught holding on as England exited and Scotland were defending a lineout in their own 22.

They repelled the first one but the second was a quick move at the front that caught the Scots sleeping, Tim Curry comin in behind Vunipola to score from the drive.

In 13 minutes England were in a again, good hands from Ellis Genge releasing Kyle Sinckler, and while Scotland got back to haul him down, Joe Launchbury had two men unmarked outside him when he rumbled over.

Scotland were fortunate to escape when Ben Youngs knocked on chasing a Nowell kick in the in-goal area after a TMO check, although Farrell kicked a penalty to stretch his side out to 24-0 moments later.

When Scotland finally won a lineout throw in the English 22 through a penalty, they botched it, England cleared and were up the other end in a flash, Youngs took a quick tap penalty to Henry Slade, and the centre delivered a super inside pass for Jonny May to score the bonus point try, and Farrell’s conversion had England 31-0 ahead.

That was already a record score in a first half in the Calcutta Cup, and were swarming for more when Farrell’s kick was charged down by McInally, the captain regathering the ball and haring away on a 65-metre sprint, stepping out of May’s tackle to score under the posts.

Russell converted and missed touch with an easy clearance, but Scotland somehow got to the break without any further damage.

But while the feeling at half-time that Scotland had actually got off lightly, the incredible third quarter of the game turned everything on its head.

The Scots started the second half the brighter, there was even a rare English mistake and a concerted attack took the Scots into 22 with ball in hand for the first time.

Johnson nearly squeezed through, but Price, Russell and Skinner got the ball out to Dracy Graham, who jinked away from three defenders for the try.

Russell couldn’t make the conversion, but three minutes later a smart chip and re-gather from Price got Scotland in behind the English defence and just as it seemed he’d run out of support the scrum-half found Bradbury running a brilliant support line to race 25 yards and score under the posts.

Russell converted and it got even more incredible seven minutes later, as Russell’s huge miss pass found Maitland to put Graham in at the corner, and although the conversion was missed, Scotland were within a converted try.

And it came amazingly right on the hour as Scotland threw on four replacements, Russell reading Farrell’s short pass to intercept on halfway and race away from the cover to score under the posts, Greig Laidlaw converting.

The biggest comeback in championship history now complete, England looked shell-shocked and a shadow of the side they’d been in that dominant first half.

The Scots had all the momentum, and with five minutes left they attacked again, Russell’s brilliant pass springing Johnson for a run into the 22, weaving his way past four defenders to score under ths posts.

Laidlaw’s conversion put them ahead for the first time, but Scotland just couldn’t close it out.

A penalty as time expired gave England territory in the 22 for the first time in the half, and they hammered at the Scottish line relentlessly before replacement George Ford jinked through under the posts, converting himself to secure the draw in possibly the most remarkable Calcutta Cup game ever played.

England: E Daly; J Nowell, H Slade, M Tuilagi, J May; O Farrell (capt), B Youngs; B Moon, J George, K Sinckler; J Launchbury, G Kruis; M Wilson, T Curry, B Vunipola.

Replacements: L Cowan-Dickie for George 66, E Genge for Moon 5, D Cole for Sinckler 51, B Shields for Wilson 62, N Hughes for Curry 70, B Spencer for Youngs 70, G Ford for Farrell 70, B Te’o.

Scotland: S Maitland; D Graham, N Grigg, S Johnson, B McGuigan; F Russell, A Price; A Dell, S McInally, WP Nel; B Toolis, G Gilchrist; S Skinner, H Watson, M Bradbury.

Replacements: F Brown for McInally 57, G Reid for Dell 45, S Berghan for Nel 62, J Gray for Gilchrist 57, J Strauss for Skinner 57, G Laidlaw for Price 57, A Hastings for Maitland 68, C Harris for Grigg 57.

Ref: P Williams (NZRU)