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Six Nations Wrap: van der Merwe double ruins Borthwick's England debut, Gatland's false start in return as Wales trounced

4th February, 2023
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4th February, 2023
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Duhan van der Merwe has scored an early challenger for try of the tournament and also went over for the match-clincher as Scotland beat England 29-23 in the Six Nations to continue their recent Calcutta Cup dominance.

The winger’s 75th-minute try in the left corner sealed a fourth victory in Scotland’s last six matches against its ‘auld enemy’, ruining the first game in charge of England for new coach Steve Borthwick.

It proved an historic day for the Scots, marked the first time they’ve secured back-to-back wins at Twickenham in rugby’s oldest international fixture that dates to 1871.

But it was Van der Merwe’s first try — scored in the 29th minute after setting off from inside his own half — that illuminated an error-riddled and often chaotic match at Twickenham between teams who mixed flashes of brilliance with enough failings to explain their status as outsiders for the title.

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Van der Merwe burst through England’s defensive line and shrugged off five would-be tacklers — including two weak efforts near the tryline — to go over for a sensational try.

“As a winger you don’t get a lot of opportunities to score so I needed to take them,” he said. “I was quite surprised how I got my first but I will take that one all day long.”

Huw Jones set Scotland on their way with a 15th-minute try from Australian-born Sione Tuipulotu’s grubber kick, only for England to reply with two tries by winger Max Malins in the first half and another from prop Ellis Genge after halftime.

England were their own worst enemies in their first game of the post-Eddie Jones era as they sought to eke out victory in the second half.

A dropped restart after Genge’s try in the 49th minute gave Scotland the platform to reply through a try from Ben White — via a missed tackle by England flanker Ben Curry — to leave the boys in blue only 20-19 behind.

Owen Farrell’s penalty made it 23-19 but, again, England’s errors allowed Finn Russell to boot his own penalty to trail 23-22 and give Scotland hope.

Van der Merwe made the English pay with a winning try as he cut in off the left wing and through two challengers to score.

Duhan van der Merwe makes a break before scoring a try

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

There remains plenty to fix for Borthwick, who has taken charge after England’s seven years under Jones and with eight months to go until the World Cup.

“This is the first game of a new coach and campaign,” England lock Maro Itoje said. “We wanted a win and fell short. We have to stay positive.

“We are ultimately disappointed — we just weren’t good enough. Fair play to Scotland. There were a few things we got wrong as a team but we can fix them.”

Gatland’s unhappy return as Wales hammered by Ireland in Cardiff

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Clinical Ireland have cruised to a 34-10 bonus-point victory over Wales to spoil coach Warren Gatland’s welcome home party in the Six Nations opener at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium.

Ireland bulldozed the Welsh, amassing three tries in the first 20 minutes on Saturday, as they dominated the collisions and set-piece, allowing No.8 Caelan Doris, lock James Ryan and wing James Lowe to cross for scores. 

Flanker Josh van der Flier got the fourth try late on as the world’s No.1-ranked side lived up to their billing.

Wales, who lost nine of their 12 Tests in 2022, improved in the second half and managed their lone try through fullback Liam Williams, but were largely kept at bay by the efficiency of the Irish defence and have much work to do in all facets of play.

Ireland host France in their second match on February 11 in a clash between the top two teams in the world rankings, while Wales travel to Scotland hoping more time on the training field with the recently restored Gatland will help them find more cohesion.

“We came out and started really well which was important having not won here for 10 years,” Ireland fullback Hugo Keenan told the BBC.

“We probably slipped off a bit in the second half so there’s still plenty to work on, but we’re delighted to get a bonus point and start the Six Nations with a win.”

Under the closed roof, the visitors’ early dominance was rewarded with two tries inside nine minutes that were almost identical in their execution. 

They battered the Wales try line with forward runners and Doris barged over from close range for the first before Ryan added another.

The home side had rare forays to the Ireland 22 in the first half and from one of those they conceded the third try.

Lowe intercepted a Dan Biggar pass and sprinted clear to score unopposed as the visitors built a huge 27-3 lead by half-time.

Williams crossed early in the second period with a well-worked backline move from a lineout but was later sent to the sin-bin after his shoulder struck the head of Ireland flyhalf Johnny Sexton in a tackle.

Wales had plenty of ball in the second half as they kicked it away less, but Ireland’s organisation on defence kept them at bay and the bonus point was secured when van der Flier crossed in the final 10 minutes.

“We lacked a lot of discipline and accuracy in the first half and put ourselves under pressure,” Wales captain Ken Owens said.

“We left a couple of scores out there which could have tightened up the game. But I think we showed character in the second half. We were up against the best team in the world and they punished our errors.”

© AAP

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