Steve Borthwick admitted England “should have won” their high-octane Calcutta Cup encounter as his side threw away an eight-point lead and conceded back-to-back defeats to Scotland at Twickenham for the first time in their history .
Scotland had a bright first half through a Huw Jones try and a superb 60-metre effort from South African-born winner Duhan van der Merwe, who guillotined England’s porous defense in scintillating style, brushing aside five defenders in the process.
England hit back through a Max Malins try and an Owen Farrell penalty and looked to be marking a fresh start under their new coach when Ellis Genge struck early in the second half to go 20-12 up.
But Borthwick was left reeling from the ruthlessness of his side as a determined Scotland outfit pushed forward in a flurry of combinations that ended with the superb Van der Merwe sliding over in the 74th minute for his second as Scotland continued their dominance on home soil . rugby.
“We were able to go on and win that test match,” Borthwick said. “Although I was very pleased with the response in the first half to a couple of setbacks – very pleased – because it hasn’t always been the answer before. We managed to win the final in the second half.
“That’s what we want to do, we want to be a really good team and really good teams go on and [would] win that. At 20-12 up, we shouldn’t have let the opposition back in, but we did.”
Borthwick bristled at questions about whether he was out of his depth since it was 47 days since he took the top job in English rugby and was instead at pains to point out his side’s resilience in missing out bravely during their dreadful campaign last autumn.
“Have I seen signs of improvement? Yes,” he said. “People like Max came in and did really well. Ollie Hassell-Collins did very well on his debut. There were very strong performances across the team, which is positive because if you look back, I was looking for those performances and I couldn’t see them.
“I think it’s clear to say now that England’s set piece has not been strong for a while. You always want to have a strong set piece and a strong blunt. They will take time to build. We are going to persevere with those. Those things don’t happen quickly.”
When asked if taking the top job in English rugby was harder than expected – especially given his success at Leicester Tigers after leading the club to its first domestic title in nine years last summer – he replied: “I didn’t. compared to that,” he said.
“I know it’s a challenge. I know it’s a big challenge. I watched those games in the autumn, but what I’ve seen today, again, the team in the autumn that conceded a few scores early, they didn’t come back for that.
“These boys did and showed great resolve in that first half, considering the situation they were in. I thought they came out in the first part of the second half and were strong, unfortunately we let the opposition back in and we shouldn’t have done that. that and we will make sure we don’t do that in the future.”
Despite missing England’s first two conversions, Farrell remained optimistic about his side’s prospects for the rest of the championship and assured his group of players will take the learning into their home clash with Italy next week.
“The result is disappointing, of course, but we are at the start of our journey at the moment,” said the England captain. “In the last 11 days when we were together, we feel that there is some growth. And we feel that there has been some growth in performance today.
“Ultimately, we said that we want to look at ourselves after this game and we want to get better, regardless of the result. I guess there were always going to be some errors coming from our first game together in new systems. I know the boys will make sure to solve them.”