Five famous victories to lift Scottish Hearts

BEATING England and hoisting the Calcutta Cup high in the Edinburgh sky might seem a distant hope for Scots at times, but it is not an impossible dream, writes David Ferguson.

The recent records don't look good from a Scottish perspective, just five wins in the past 25 years reflecting English domination in this the oldest of rugby fixtures.

It follows then that those occasions when the underdogs have triumphed hold some of the sweetest memories in Scottish rugby history. These include Peter Dods kicking half the points during the last win on English soil 23 years ago; David Johnston dribbling his way to score in a Grand Slam year; John Beattie famously roughing up the English pack en route to a record win two years later; Gary Armstrong launching the iconic try-scoring move of 1990; and Duncan Hodge scoring all the points to secure the 2000 victory.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Here, they remind us of how those last five victories over the Auld Enemy were achieved.


5 March 1983, Twickenham

England 12 Scotland 22

"PURE passion and determination - that was the secret. We had lost the first three games of the championship and headed to London with nobody giving us any chance of winning, so we just gave it everything we had.

The expectation of everyone outside the team seemed to be that we already had the wooden spoon, it was just a matter of collecting it at RFU headquarters. But we'd only lost by two points at home to Ireland, and 19-15 to both France and Wales, so we knew we were close to winning a game.

Big Tom Smith, my team-mate at Gala, was in for his international debut and he scored a try late on, but he epitomised the effort of the forward pack that day. They were incredible and he upset the English at the lineout, particularly. I remember when he dived over the line for the try which wrapped it up, David Leslie, another Gala player, was over with him and tried to claim the try, but Tom was having none of it!

That just showed the hunger that was there right through the team to score.

It was my first visit to Twickenham as a player, although I'd been there as a kid with Gala Wanderers on tours, but I never appreciated how big a win it was because we'd been close the year before and we then beat them in 1984, 1986 and drew in 1989.

But to think we've only won five times since 1976 is incredible. It just takes that one victory sometimes to get a good run and that game in 1983 proved it, because we then went into 1984 with confidence growing with every game and won the Grand Slam, and, barring a glitch in 1985, that continued through the 1980s.

The 1983 win at Twickenham was a big part of the Grand Slam.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Winning the Calcutta Cup is above anything for a Scot. When you're younger you look up at that cup with awe I suppose, so to win it and get a drink out of it meant something you can't put into words. We had it at the Gala club dinner that year and the people at that dinner won't forget that either."

David Johnstone

4 February 1984, Murrayfiled

Scotland 18 England 6

"THERE is nothing like the feeling of beating England and when I look back now, on the victories in 1984 and 1986, I was obviously quite lucky to have experienced it twice.

A lot of people remember the try I scored in 1984, I think as much because of Bill McLaren's famous commentary where he talked of my skills as a footballer, having been on the books of Hearts as I kicked the ball through.

I actually had a good rapport with England players, especially the Leicester players, because I played quite a lot with guys like Les Cusworth, Paul Dodge, Clive Woodward and Dusty Hare in sevens, on tours and with the Barbarians. They were good and we respected them, but what got into our minds sometimes was the English media, whose arrogant attitude was often the best psychological spur to play as best we could.

I also recall the Calcutta Cup in 1996 as vividly. I was coaching alongside Richie Dixon.

We had a fantastic year where we threw the ball around and ran the French off their feet and had a similar bravado display in Cardiff, which led to the Grand Slam decider at Murrayfield.

We hear a lot of the English being complacent, but this was one occasion where we got caught out. There was almost a presumption that we would win and I remember Rob Wainwright posed as William Wallace in Daily Record. Not his best idea.

As I look forward to this weekend's game, I fear England will try to do the same, but, of course, my hope is that our guys will be as fired up as we were and we will again defy the predictions."

John Beattie

15 February 1986

Scotland 33 England 6

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"I HAD read Dave Loveridge's book about beating the British and Irish Lions, and he spoke of how the only place to really speed up the game was at lineout time and that was something we targeted. We were a very fit team - Dave McLean had us on daily weights schedules at that point - and we knew we had a very fit hooker in Colin Deans who could get to the ball quickly at lineout time.

We also had extra ball boys on for that game so we could ensure we could take lineouts quickly, and the plan really was to unsettle England as much as we could. We were confident. We should have beaten them in 1981, we did in 1983 and 1984, should have in 1985, but at the same time they had this massive pack which we knew could humiliate us if we let them dominate the game.

People seem to remember the fight I had with Wade Dooley where I clattered him at the kick-off. No-one believes me, but I was genuinely going for a ball that was dropping beyond him then. But when it all kicked off we were not disappointed shall we say because our intention was always to rile them and unsettle them. It's just that particular bit was accidental - honest! It was great that we went on to win by a record score, but my abiding memory is of Bill McLaren, our great commentator, saying 'John Beattie - what a game he's played today'. I thought 'that's it. I don't have to do anything else with my life.'

Back then, the English were not fit. They had fat forwards and wimpy backs who could run but didn't fancy the physical side, and those were elements we played on. It's different now.

In saying that, I think we have a good chance It is special. It is unique this fixture. It's an honour to have played in it. In my view this is still the greatest fixture in world rugby."

Gary Armstrong

7 March 1990, Murrayfield

Scotland 13 England 7

"I CAN remember very clearly the sight as we arrived at Murrayfield and walked, as a team, out on to the pitch an hour or so before kick-off.

There were the England players with their wives all having a big laugh, arms round each other taking photographs of themselves with the stands behind. They thought they just had to turn up to lift the Calcutta Cup, Five Nations trophy and Grand Slam. That was all the motivation we needed by then.

It's an old saying that games are won and lost up front, but it was certainly true that day. I remember how we had several scrums on our line - I lost count of how many - and England stubbornly refused to kick the penalty. They wanted to win with some glory and so believed they were going to rattle up a big score. We kept them out and it was a massive lift. That was when that all the hours of practise the forwards put in scrummaging training paid off.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The move which brought Tony Stanger's famous try, which really stunned them, was straight off the training ground.

We had tried the same move in the first half and I got a bollocking for it from Gav [Hastings]. I chipped it instead of passing it I think and he went berserk, so when we went for it again I thought I'd better pass it!

Gav's kick ahead was off the cuff but if Tony hadn't got it Finlay [Calder] would have - I remember seeing him there and thinking 'Jesus, how could Fin keep up with a backs move like that? Not bad for an old bugger'.

The crowd was also a massive factor that day - they were right behind us from the moment we marched out of the tunnel behind David Sole and they never seemed to let the atmosphere die. That lifted us. I worry these days that there are too many corporate fans at Murrayfield, who are just there for a free lunch, and so we don't get the same passion when, for example, we're scrummaging on our own line and need that extra boost.

Duncan Hodge

2 April 2000, Murrayfield

Scotland 19 England 13

"TEN years on and I still get stick from mates about that picture (you're not printing it again are you?)

It was just so out of character for me, I think, to celebrate like that with my mouth wide open screaming. It was just an unbelievable feeling and what that picture shows really was the sudden belief that we were going to beat England and lift the Calcutta Cup.

I've got a picture at home where my face seems to be pleading with the ref to give the try, because the ball splashed down and skidded from my hand - after I'd touched it down though. But as soon as I realised it was scored, I knew the game was in our hands. The conversion - I've never kicked a ball with so much adrenalin rushing through me - put us six points up with five minutes to go and being a miserable day there were not a lot of points on offer.

When I look back now, the real secret to beating England was probably the same as it always is - the forward effort. Like now, England came up here with a big pack, intent on steamrollering us, and the Scottish forwards matched them physically up front. That surprised England in 2000 because they started quite well, but when we gave as good as we got all of a sudden there was pressure on them; the crowd started getting into the game, which lifted us and pressured them more.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The turning point was before half-time where England got a few scrums on our line and they pounded away at us but our defence was brilliant. Then we got a penalty and ran at them, and got to halfway. We got another penalty and I kicked it and it was a virtual ten-point turnaround. We played well in the second half and hardly noticed the weather worsening, but we knew we had nothing to lose really, having lost every game of the championship before that.

In terms of a whole game, it is probably my greatest memory, but what struck me most in 2000 perhaps was what it meant to other people. I was in Montpeliers in Bruntsfield with my family and friends late on that Sunday night and supporters were coming up to our table and putting down bottles of champagne. I asked what it was for! That was just gob-smacking for me."