England got the Eddie Jones era off to a victorious, if not quite glorious, start on Saturday as tries by George Kruis and Jack Nowell earned them a 15-9 victory over Scotland in a nervy Six Nations clash at Murrayfield.
Jones, who took over from Stuart Lancaster in the wake of England’s World Cup pool-stage exit, had made it clear he wanted a win at any cost and will have enjoyed seeing his forwards gradually wrestle control and finish in command of a scrappy but typically intense Calcutta Cup encounter.
Scotland went into the game on something of a high after their impressive World Cup campaign but, having lost all five Six Nations matches last year, will be hugely frustrated that, for all their effort, they never looked likely to fashion a try and had only three Greig Laidlaw penalties to their name.
“In all honesty I always thought we were going to win the game,” Jones told the BBC. “The only way we weren’t was if we did something silly, and in the second half I thought we showed composure under pressure
“We wanted to move the ball more… and we weren’t able to do it, so we had to play a different way and that is pragmatic football.”
Jones would have been delighted with the first 15 minutes as England totally dominated possession and territory and were deservedly ahead after lock Kruis forced his way over for his first international try.
However, the Australian would have been infuriated to see that England had not shaken the habit that cost them so dearly in the World Cup as they immediately presented the Scots with a simple penalty shot after a needless infringement at a ruck. The score lifted the crowd and their team responded, having the best of the remainder of the half. Laidlaw missed a simple penalty but then slotted a second to send the hosts in 7-6 down at the break.
England regained the initiative 10 minutes into the second half when man of the match No 8 Billy Vunipola smashed a hole in the Scottish defence and sharp passing set up wing Jack Nowell to dive over in the corner.
Flyhalf Finn Russell blew a great opportunity for a Scottish try when he snatched an interception deep in his own 22 but then inexplicably kicked it into touch with Stuart Hogg on his shoulder and eyeing 80 metres of unoccupied turf. England’s forwards then began to take control and a scrum penalty enabled Farrell to stretch the lead to 15-6 heading into the last quarter.
Laidlaw reduced the deficit with a penalty to set up a tense last 10 minutes but England’s impressive defence held the Scots at bay to extend their unbeaten run against their oldest rivals to nine matches.
England travel to play Italy next Sunday while Scotland visit Wales on Saturday.