England lose their heads as well as Grand Slam hopes in Murrayfield mauling

Jonny May and Chris Robshaw look dejected after England's defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield, their first reversal in a Calcutta Cup match in 10 years. David Rogers - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- England's aim under Eddie Jones is to become the No. 1 side in the world but as Scotland celebrated a famous Calcutta Cup victory, their visitors were left to pick the bones from an uncharacteristically sloppy performance. Much work remains to be done if they are ever to usurp the All Blacks.

Scotland had warned their cousins from south of the border that they could expect a hot reception at Murrayfield. England had insisted they train for such eventualities.

They had claimed that their preparation was the best of Eddie Jones' reign, but somewhere between leaving Pennyhill Park on Thursday afternoon and taking the field on Saturday afternoon, the wheels came off for the Grand Slam favourites. Any hopes of a clean sweep disappeared following a truly insipid first-half display.

Even before kick-off, England were rattled. As the two teams jogged off following their warm-ups, a scuffle broke out in the tunnel area. Eddie Jones would dismiss it as "one of those things" post-match, but if either side had more to lose by losing their cool, it was England.

Scotland, powered by an invigorated Finn Russell at fly-half, were simply superb in the first 40 minutes as they channelled the energy of their vocal support in the stands as well as, perhaps, the pre-match set-to. England for their part were in disarray. Eddie Jones and his players had spoken all week about how well that had prepared for this contest, and the unique circumstances the Calcutta Cup at Murrayfield throws up.

But it was always going to be difficult to summon up the same physicality and intensity that had been required to beat Wales a fortnight ago. So it proved. Defensively, this performance was night and day from what took place at Twickenham last time out.

England missed 14 tackles in the first 50 minutes alone, and they only attempted 58. It is unusual to see England look so vulnerable under Jones but there are few other words to describe how easily they were carved open for Scotland's third try on the stroke of half-time.

Neither Nathan Hughes nor Owen Farrell got close enough to lay a glove on Huw Jones as he sprinted through. His namesake in the England coaching box might have expected either Mike Brown or Anthony Watson to catch the centre before the line, but they failed to halt his progress despite appearing to have him crowded out when he crossed the 22.

The sword of Damocles that defence coach Paul Gustard said would be hanging over his head lowered significantly as the teams departed at the break. England took longer to leave the field, with the players having a brief gathering in the middle of the pitch before having to face their headmaster of a coach.

As many would have expected, England rallied for a spell after half-time. Farrell, who was highlighted on BBC TV coverage of the game as a key player in the pre-match scuffle, scored his side's first -- and only -- try within four minutes of the restart.

Danny Care was clean through for a second England try only to have referee Nigel Owens call back play for an earlier infringement, while Farrell was denied in similar fashion as a TMO review showed an earlier accidental knock-on by Courtney Lawes in a bone-jarring tackle on John Barclay.

You need the close calls to go your way in Test match rugby. England had had those against Wales a fortnight ago, with a controversial TMO decision still being debated long after the final whistle. But at Murrayfield, all the breaks were going the way of the hosts. Scotland benefitted, rightly, from both calls and were able to see out a first Calcutta Cup win since 2008 with relative ease.

Central to it was the play of Russell. The fly-half had taken a bit of a kicking for his performances in the opening two weekends of the championship, with praise of Greig Laidlaw's switch to 10 in the latter stages of the win over France tinged with the tacit suggestion that the incumbent fly-half couldn't do that job himself. But this time out at Murrayfield, the Glasgow playmaker was on a mission to prove that he can in fact take these kinds of fixtures by the scruff of the neck.

Laidlaw had already booted Scotland into a 3-0 lead when Russell dealt with a high ball to the delight of the majority of the Murrayfield crowd. His ensuing kick and chase put pressure on Mike Brown, the huge roar that greeted it adding wind to his sails.

His next involvement was to place a grubber through that Huw Jones gathered in front of the dawdling England defence for the game's opening try. It was also Scotland's first against the Auld Enemy at Murrayfield since 2004, and only their third in that particular fixture at home since the Five Nations became Six.

Russell, like much of a buoyant Murrayfield, was having the time of his life. An intercept attempt didn't quite go to hand but moments later he floated out a risky missed pass that fell perfectly into Huw Jones' grasp. The centre sprinted almost the length of the field, and after Stuart McInally had added some biff to the attack, Laidlaw found John Barclay who in turn played Sean Maitland to score in the left corner.

For all that Scotland played with verve in the first half, they held their nerve in the second. Only three points were added to their total, fittingly from Russell's boot after Sam Underhill was yellow-carded with 14 minutes left for a no-arms tackle. That mental error summed England's day up, and left them a man short with a 12-point deficit to overturn.

England ended the match with ball in hand, and pummelling away at the hosts' 22 but the game had long gone. Following the ignominy of their opening weekend day defeat to Wales, Scotland are now remarkably back in the championship hunt, though they must go to Dublin on March 10 before facing Italy back at Murrayfield on the final weekend.

England are in the chasing pack, too, but they will carry the scars of this defeat through the next two weeks and into their clash with France in Paris next time out. Coach Jones will expect them to bounce back: there is no room for failure in his squad.