Adam Hathaway, rugby correspondent of The People, reports back from Murrayfield on a fraught weekend for Eddie Jones and travelling fans but a glorious one for Gregor Townsend and applauds the French. Yes really…………
For every trip to Murrayfield, if you live in England or Wales, there is a list of stone-bonking certainties you can tick off. Murrayfield bingo would not be a difficult game to put together and market for the long-suffering travelling fans to keep themselves amused with.
This time around, when Eddie Jones’ England travelled up to Scotland for the Calcutta Cup on Saturday, there was one thing that ruined everyone’s chances of getting a full house.
Every other number came in apart from the result as Gregor Townsend’s new-look Scotland did a passable impression of the 1984 Wallabies, in the first half, and won the pot for the first time for a decade.
France beat Italy in Marseille on Friday and Ireland beat Wales in Dublin on Saturday so this was the real coupon buster loved so much by the bookies. A million and one trebles went down the gurgler for punters.
It was day of contrasts for the two coaches.
Some Scottish fans thought Townsend should not have got the job last year and some England fans, and you really are off your rocker if you really believe it, think Jones should be out of a job now after his second defeat in more than two years. Do us a favour.
But first, for all of you who were expecting to cop the jackpot, here are a few details. Scotland won 25-13 and blew England off the park and we didn’t even have that on the Murrayfield bingo card.
The rest were easy to get.
Train to Edinburgh at the crack of dawn on Saturday and your rattler is delayed, yep that one got ticked. Return train from Edinburgh, on Sunday, rammed so you spend five hours standing up and have to get through a pile of bodies to get to the loo and the ludicrously priced bar, yep ticked.
People on the choo-choo moaning about First World prices for Third World trains – yep that one came up. It was never in doubt.
And other punters getting on at Newcastle and wondering why it is so busy. Don’t they and the bosses at Virgin look at the fixture list? It was a Six Nations weekend, so there might be a few people fancying a weekend in Edinburgh you fools. Tick and double tick.
In between there are the pipers, the face painting, haggis pie in the press room and all the rest of it. Tick, tick, tick, tick and tick. If you haven’t been there before it is a bloody good weekend although the travelling England fans were pretty ticked off on the train back to King’s Cross.
But it is all about the rugby and the rugby served up by Townsend’s mob was ridiculous and caught England, who came into the game on the back of 24 wins out of 25 under Eddie Jones, on the hop.
But it shouldn’t have done. Eddie might not be a reader of RugbySpy’s weekly rantings but we will refer him to one we wrote back in November next time we see him. That was just after the Scots had run the All Blacks close and stuck 50 points on the Wallabies.
With our Nostradamus hat on we said: “For the record the Calcutta Cup match, against England, takes place at Murrayfield on 24 February 2018. Apparently, there might be a bit of a demand for tickets.”
And anyone who managed to get a ticket for Saturday, and there weren’t many touts knocking them out outside Haymarket Station, saw Scotland put on a show all right. Townsend’s team ticked every box – and why wouldn’t they have? We have already flagged up the fact that he could be as good a coach as he was a player.
Easy game rugby. Get dominance up front, boss the collisions, boss the breakdown, put faith in your on-field generals and playmakers, stretch defences, when you have done the business up front, and Bob’s your uncle. Scotland did that in spades, 22-6 up at half-time and job done.
They had the best three players on the pitch at the breakdown in John Barclay, Hamish Watson and the hooker Stuart McInally, Finn Russell delivered a massive game at fly-half after being taken off against France and Huw Jones in the centre played like Jerry Guscott in his pomp.
Townsend played his cards and they all came up trumps particularly the one with Russell who got slated earlier in the Six Nations.
The fly-half delivered one pass, to Jones, in his own 22, that defied belief and helped put the Scots on the way to Sean Maitland’s score. That took some balls, it took some balls to play like Russell did after the flak he had taken and it took some balls from Townsend to send him out with licence to play.
Easy with hindsight but Scotland have not been beaten at Murrayfield, apart from that cliff hanger against New Zealand last November, since the Wallabies beat them in 2016.
We might, if we had all been paying attention, have seen Saturday’s result coming but once it arrived Townsend is, all of a sudden, the greatest coach ever.
And according to some halfwits Jones is rubbish at his job. Both sets of keyboard warriors have got this one wrong.
Jones made some mistakes, for sure, but RugbySpy did not see him running around in a white shirt and boots on Saturday. That was the 23 blokes he picked and when some of them are still in snooze mood when they run on the pitch what can you do from the coaching box?
According to some sages he has trained the team too hard, can’t pick a back row, hasn’t got the back three sorted and doesn’t know who his best scrum-half is.
He can put his record on the table with anyone but he was man enough to admit he might have made a few ricks.
He even did that on the pitch at Murrayfield, whilst being given the bird by the Scottish crowd, classy, before coming to see us scribblers.
He told us he might have got England’s preparation wrong but that should not detract from Scotland’s performance. He held his hands up by saying some of the stuff he had done in the two weeks leading up to the game, including the scrum session with Georgia, had not paid dividends in the game.
It was a pretty humble display from a bloke who is still perceived by some to be a chippy Aussie.
“We were ready for it,” Jones said. “It is the Calcutta Cup it is 144 years of rugby history. We knew the significance of the game, we knew what we would get thrown at us at Murrayfield. 65,000 people all passionate about Scotland, you get off the bus and people are yelling abuse at you.
“We knew all of that but we weren’t good enough to handle it. You have got to be good enough to handle it and we weren’t today. I apologise for our performance. Scotland played better than us, they were too good for us – sometimes this happens.”
Nothing too chippy about that little lot.
Jones is still a good coach, and has nothing to apologise for to England fans or non-fans sitting spouting bile in front of their lap tops, and Townsend is a good coach. It just so happens that Townsend picked the right bingo card on Saturday and his numbers came up.
Stade Velodrome is one the greatest stadia in the world so a tip of the old chapeau to France for taking Friday’s game against Italy to Marseille.
The crowd, claimed to be about 50,000, was a bit below par for internationals in that part of the world but playing the 34-17 win to the French on a Friday night probably did not help. But it was the first time France had taken a Six Nations game outside of Paris and good on them.
Maybe some other countries should have a crack. I wonder who we are talking about?
Wales would be hard pushed to take a game outside of Cardiff, unless they went back to Wembley like they did at the end of the 1990s, but that is hardly spreading the gospel.
Scotland could take a Six Nations game to Ibrox, Hampden Park or Celtic Park but that is hardly spreading the gospel since they are only about an hour’s drive from Murrayfield.
Ireland had great success staging games at Croke Park, in Dublin, when Lansdowne Road was being transformed into the Aviva but that was hardly spreading the gospel.
England could take their team on the road though – and in a football-obsessed country that would really be spreading the gospel.
England have played two ‘home’ Test matches outside of Twickenham in the last decade. In 2009 they played Argentina at Old Trafford, although that was technically a Puma home game staged over here.
And in 2015 they played Uruguay at Manchester City’s home in the dead rubber game that put the tin lid on that year’s World Cup three weeks early.
Both were brilliant occasions.
St James’ Park in Newcastle is putting on the Champions Cup final next season and did a brilliant job in staging games at the Rugby World Cup.
RugbySpy’s mates spend a couple of hundred quid every time they come down to Twickenham from up north – on top of the ticket prices and gallons of sauce. That pair of rugby fanatics don’t need it but maybe the RFU should spread the gospel again and take the Test team on the road.
Won’t happen in a million years though.