England win annual Calcutta Cup
Eddie Jones wins first match as England coach
Captain Dylan Hartley dominates on defense
Newly appointed England manager Eddie Jones is no stranger to attention, and it shows.
Under the spotlight of the Calcutta Cup – an annual Six Nations fixture between England and Scotland – the former Australia manager notched a 15-9 win at Murrayfield in his very first match in charge.
George Kruis opened up the scoring for England with a try in the first half, and Owen Farrell successfully converted to give England an early 7-0 lead.
Scottish captain Greig Laidlaw scored three penalties, though he also missed a crucial attempt in the first half.
Scotland, however, were never a serious threat to score against the stingy England defense led by Dylan Hartley.
The oft-disciplined 29-year-old – who was surprisingly awarded the England captaincy by Jones – was a model of levelheadedness throughout the day, surely aware of the intense focus on his behavior.
“It’s huge, I’m more happy that we won as a team,” a visibly winded Hartley said after the match. “Put the personal stuff aside and I’m just chuffed to be out there with the team.”
Before the match, Harltey had admitted being surprised by the nomination from Jones – understanding that there are those waiting for the decision to blow up on his manager.
“Of course I am (surprised). There’s plenty to talk about isn’t there?” Hartley told the BBC before the match, referring to his long history of infractions – starting with a 26-week suspension in 2007 for making contact with the eye of a Wasps player.
He went on to validate his coach’s decision before taking the field.
“I have experience in the job at club level and I know how to lead a team,” he said. “I have no regrets, my career is my career, it’s my life, and all these things that happened, they are life lessons. They made me the person and the player that I am. I like to say I’m pretty resilient.
“I’m trying not to get caught up in this whole captaincy, I’m just trying to be the best player I can be.
After the match, Jones expressed content with his star player’s performance.
“It was a difficult game for him as captain and I think he did really well,” he told the BBC after the match.
“In all honesty I always thought we would win the game,” Jones added. “The only way we weren’t going to win the game is if we did something silly. We just had to play a different way, and that’s pragmatic football.”
Tension between the sides was high; a scuffle nearly broke out with 10 minutes to play, as Farrell shoved Laidlaw off the pitch when the Scotsman attempted to block his path to the ball.
“I thought we created opportunities, but we just didn’t finish them off,” Scotland coach Vern Cotter said to the BBC after the match. “There’s a lot more to come from this team.”
Scotland, it appeared, were still reeling from their controversial loss to Australia in the quarterfinal of last year’s Rugby World Cup, when South African referee Craig Joubert awarded a questionable penalty to Australia, who went on to win by one point.
In the early match France nipped Italy 23-21 on a late score, despite trailing for most of the match.