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Scotland A 16 England Saxons 16: Generation game as Scots battle back to stun Saxons

SCOTLAND remain undefeated at A team level for three seasons, but it took a magnificent fightback, superbly led by Jonny Gray, the teenage captain, and Allister Hogg, the 48-cap No.8 at the opposite end of the age scale, to rescue a game that had looked dead and buried after a collapse late in the first half handed England the lead.

Byron McGuigan beats England's Rob Miller and Charlie Sharples to score. Picture: SNS Group/SRU Craig Williamson
Byron McGuigan beats England's Rob Miller and Charlie Sharples to score. Picture: SNS Group/SRU Craig Williamson

What would have happened had Greig Tonks not knocked-on near his own line just before the break and had the French referee not decided that Jon Welsh, the Scots tighthead, was not binding properly and awarded a penalty try, nobody can say. What is certain is that it handed England an undeserved lead and, when they extended it with a penalty goal early in the second half, they looked on course to claim their first win in the fixture since 2011.

That they failed owed a great deal to the power and intensity of the Scots pack, with Gray and Hogg to the fore, players - as Shade Munro, the Scotland A coach mischievously pointed out - so far apart in the experience stakes that when Hogg first played at this level, Gray was aged only seven.

His double frustration was that this team will not have the chance to play together again, while he knows that - with a bit more self-belief and the confidence to play the kind of rugby that earned their comeback try, scored by the wing Byron McGuigan - they could, and probably should, have crept over the finish line.

"Given that England have played a game already, this was a good result for us," Munro said. "It would be brilliant to get another game. In terms of representing your country the more games you play at this level the better; it gives players experience.

"If there was a slight frustration, it was that we could have played a bit more. We had done the analysis of them and conditions were meant to be awful so a lot of our gameplan was to kick out of our half, kick chase, turn them and pressure them. The messages were going on for us to play but maybe we didn't back ourselves enough."

Scotland had actually edged in front despite England having taken an early lead, when Freddy Burns, the unsettled Gloucester fly-half, landed a penalty. It was quickly cancelled out with Henry Pyrgos dropping a long-range goal and then, with the help of a sinbin handed out to the scrum-half Dan Robson when a touch judge spotted a stamp, adding a penalty of their own.

By and large it had been the Scots who were winning the set-piece battle, but, when it really mattered, they messed it up. An attack through Adam Thompstone, the England wing, ended with a kick though and when Greig Tonks knocked on, the Saxons got the chance to scrum on Scotland's line. Three penalties followed as Laurent Cardona, the French referee, started to worry about the Scottish binding, and eventually awarded the penalty try. Burns converted and added his second penalty just after half time to hand his side a seven point lead, only for that to spark the Scots comeback.

With both sides emptying their benches and England suffering a second sin bin when Henry Slade, who had replaced Burns, being ordered off, it was the side in blue to took control, driving through on the right and in the middle before releasing the ball to the left where Mark Bennett timed his pass perfectly to put McGuigan in for the try that, with the touchline conversion from Tom Heathcote, Tonks' replacement, levelled the scores. Elliot Daly added a penalty for England and Heathcote replied for Scotland, but in reality, the draw was probably a fair result.

"It was a great experience, something I will never forget," said Gray. "When you look at the quality of the England team, to get the draw was a fantastic result. Some of their scores were our errors. We had some great guys out there and we knew we just had to believe in ourselves."

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