Dee Bradbury: When Magnus scored a try, Princess Anne gave me a hug

No Scot who witnessed the extraordinary events at Twickenham on Saturday, in the stadium, at home, or in the pubs and clubs, will ever forget it but for one it was particularly special.
Magnus Bradbury goes over the line for Scotlands third try at Twickenham. Picture: SNS.Magnus Bradbury goes over the line for Scotlands third try at Twickenham. Picture: SNS.
Magnus Bradbury goes over the line for Scotlands third try at Twickenham. Picture: SNS.

Not only did Scottish Rugby Union president Dee Bradbury become the first holder of the office for 36 years to bring home the Calcutta Cup, she also witnessed her son Magnus Bradbury score a magnificent try, the one which really started to make dazzled onlookers think something truly amazing might be on the cards. The Scots fought back from 31-0 down to lead then eventually draw 38-38 in one of the most incredible games of international rugby of all time.

His mum, who became the first female president of a major rugby nation’s union or federation last August, was off her seat in celebration before the moment became even more surreal.

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Princess Anne got so excited that she turned around and gave me a hug!” revealed Bradbury, who admitted she went on the same journey of despair to elation then, ultimately, pride as any Scotland fan even from the rarefied environs of Twickenham’s Royal Box.

It was, of course, a fellow fan providing that hug and the president went on to reveal that HRH The Princess Royal, a long-time patron of the SRU and Scotland rugby supporter, didn’t waste much time after presenting the famous old trophy to Scotland skipper Stuart McInally in being accompanied by her husband, Timothy Laurence, down to the away changing room to congratulate the players and coaches for keeping their grip on the oldest prize in the international game. For the first time since 1984 it stays at Murrayfield for a second year in a row.

But back to that try by her boy, who was winning a seventh cap after what has been a character-testing couple of years for the now 23-year-old. His Edinburgh club-mate Darcy Graham, inset, had already scored six minutes after the break to add to skipper McInally’s charge down and sensational 60-metre surge, outpacing one of Europe’s quickest players Jonny May.

Graham finished well after some sharp play but the game still looked well lost after a brutal opening 34 minutes. Then, three minutes later, scrum-half Ali Price gathered his own smart chip ahead and, while struggling to keep on his feet, found No 8 Bradbury thundering through on a perfect line for a score that visibly rocked the complacent English side. Suddenly, Scotland were within just two scores.

“To be honest I’m Magnus’s biggest supporter but I’m also his biggest critic. To see him cross the whitewash in such spectacular fashion was just great,” said the president.

“It did,” she admitted when asked if that specific moment put the icing on the cake for what was the most thrilling day since her historic elevation to the role last summer.

“I was somewhat despondent at half-time, I must say, even though that great try by Rambo [McInally] had given us a lift.

“The atmosphere went a bit flat but, when the tries started coming, it just grew and grew. It’s just a bit disappointing they couldn’t quite hold out for the win.”

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Then followed the post-match dinner, events which are not quite as long and well-lubricated as they were in the days when the Calcutta Cup might be in danger of a kickaround, but speeches are made and it is on these occasions that Bradbury gets to enjoy what she calls “undoubtedly, the best part of the job” – the ceremonial awarding of a player’s first cap.

“We didn’t have any this weekend, three after the first game against Italy [Sam Johnson, Jake Kerr and Gary Graham] and D’arcy Rae against Ireland but I had the pleasure of congratulating Tommy Seymour and Jonny Gray on their 50th caps the week before [after the Wales game].”

The main formal dinner now takes place without the players on the eve of the match, which Bradbury enjoyed in what she described the “salubrious” new hospitality area of Twickenham’s East Stand redevelopment, before a pre-match lunch the next day.

Scotland hadn’t managed to arrive and leave Twickenham with the Calcutta Cup since 1971 and we all know that 1983 remains the last occasion victory was tasted at the home of English rugby.

The late George Thomson, who Jim Telfer hailed as “the father of Scotland rugby coaching” when he passed away in 2005, was president on that day 36 years ago. Since then 31 men have held the SRU presidency, including legendary figures like Andy Irvine and Ian McLauchlan, but none got to experience anything quite like what Bradbury described as “an unbelievable day”.

It is straight back to business this week, however, as she prepares for tomorrow night’s Special General Meeting as the latest chapter in the Super Six/domestic club rugby debate unfolds. As the adrenaline rush of Twickenham subsides, Bradbury will be fully focused on the job she was elected to do when the former Oban Lorne president was voted in for a two-year term as union vice-president before stepping up to lead the union. The former police officer took up playing rugby in her late 30s and has launched herself into the sport ever since, from her local club, SRU and international rugby committees.

“I’m not going to stand up like Germaine Greer,” she said back in August. “That’s not the reason why I’m here. I’m here because I hope I’ve got the qualities to bring to the role and it’s incidental that I’m female.” Bradbury leads the union at a time of much off-field disquiet but days like Twickenham provide respite from that and she has much to look forward to before she hands the reins to Ian Barr after next season, not least the grand adventure that will be the Rugby World Cup in Japan this autumn. Before that extravaganza kicks off, the president is looking forward to another historic first with the trip to face Georgia in Tbilisi as the up-and-coming east Europeans host a tier-one rugby nation in a Test for the first time in an August World Cup warm-up game. “I’ve been to Georgia before in my role with Rugby Europe and I’m really looking forward to going back there,” she said. “They are very hospitable people and I’m sure they will make a great of occasion of it as it is a big thing for them.”

From Twickenham to Tbilisi, there’s never a dull moment for Scotland’s trailblazing rugby president.