Ireland v Scotland: How the balance of power shifted to the Irish

Of all the intertwining rivalries that make rugby’s Six Nations such a unique and compelling event, the one between Celtic cousins Scotland and Ireland has always been marked by a mix of friendliness and bonhomie off the pitch and fierce competition on it.

New Scotland captain Stuart Hogg will be hoping there is no repeat in Dublin today of the Yokohama hammering by Ireland. Picture: Getty Images
New Scotland captain Stuart Hogg will be hoping there is no repeat in Dublin today of the Yokohama hammering by Ireland. Picture: Getty Images

The overall record between the two nations since the first meeting in Belfast 1877 (a six goals to nil win for the Scots) is: Played 135, Scotland won 66, Ireland won 64 and five draws. The Scots may hold the winning record but Ireland edge it on points by 1,574 to 1,431. As the two nations prepare to lock horns for the 136th time in Dublin tomorrow on the opening weekend of the 2020 Guinness Six Nations we look back on the past three decades, which marked a dramatic shift of power from a decade of dark blue dominance to two of emerald green ascendancy, and some of the classic games between the two countries along the way.

3 February 1990 (Lansdowne Road): IRELAND 10-13 SCOTLAND

1990 stands totem-like as the most famous year in Scottish rugby due to the iconic Grand Slam-sealing win over England at Murrayfield. That eventual legendary triumph got off to a precarious start in the first round of the Five Nations, however, as the Scots trailed 7-0 at half-time before a brace of tries from Derek White and Craig Chalmers' boot scraped a hard-fought win. The rest is history.

Gary Armstrong runs the Irish ragged at the 1991 World Cup. Picture: Getty Images

4 October 1991 (Murrayfield): SCOTLAND 24-15 IRELAND

The final match of Pool 2 in the second ever World Cup of 1991 was a pulsating and physical encounter in which the Scots finally emerged victorious. A famous try on debut as an injury replacement by centre Graham Shiel and a typical terrior-like touchdown by legendary scrum-half Gary Armstrong sent the Scots on their way to a landmark semi-finalist and fourth-place finish in the tournament. It remains the only time Scotland have won every game in World Cup pool stage, though having them all at Murrayfield was an advantage.

1 March 1997 (Murrayfield): SCOTLAND 38-10 IRELAND

Alan Victor Tait made his comeback to the union code from rugby league for what was only his ninth Scotland cap and masterminded a thumping win, scoring the first try of five, that rescued a championship which had got off to a bad start with defeats by England and Wales. “It won the Famous Grouse 'Try of the Season' award and I got £1,000 for it,” recalled Tait, who would go on to star in the legendary British and Irish Lions series win in South Africa. “I said I'd share the money with the forwards but I never did give them any!”

Alan Tait made a point when he returned from rugby league in 1997. Picture: Getty Images

19 February 2000 (Lansdowne Road): IRELAND 44-22 SCOTLAND

The Brian O’Driscoll-led golden generation of Irish rugby was born at the dawn of the Six Nations era as the home side blew away the reigning Five Nations champions, who had already lost to newcomers Italy in Rome, with a record win and their first over the Scots since 1988. It seemed like business as usual when Kenny Logan went over for an early score, but the rejuvenated Irish, coached at the time by Warren Gatland, lashed back, with the youthful Brian O’Driscoll, Ronan O’Gara and Shane Horgan on fire, to rack up what remains a record points total in the fixture.

22 September 2001 (Murrayfield): SCOTLAND 32-10 IRELAND

A bit of a collectors’ piece anomaly this one. The Six Nations of that year was halted due to the Foot and Mouth outbreak earlier in the year. Two rounds remained and had to be rescheduled. The Irish were three from three and contemplating the prospect of their first Grand Slam since 1948, with England at home last up. But a Gregor Townsend-inspired Scotland left them flat-footed and mouths-closed. Tom Smith, Budge Pountney, John Leslie and Andy Henderson were the tryscorers in the rout.

Current boss Gregor Townsend ran the show in the 'Foot and Mouth' game of 2001. Picture: Getty Images

12 February 2005 (Murrayfield): SCOTLAND 13-40 IRELAND

The deflating Matt Williams era was dealt a fatal blow by this absolute hiding by a rampant Irish team. Hugo Southwell's try had actually helped the Scots to an early 8-0 lead but scores from locks Malcolm O'Kelly and Paul O'Connell put the visitors in command by half-time and the wheels fell of as a third try from wing Denis Hickie and a third penalty from Ronan O'Gara, who kicked 13 points, put the game to bed.

20 March 2010 (Croke Park): IRELAND 20-23 SCOTLAND

The Scots last win in the Irish capital was at the home of Gaelic games, where Ireland made their home for a couple of years as Lansdowne Road was being transformed into the Aviva Stadium. Johnnie Beattie scored a cracking try and remains the last Scot to touch down in a No 8 jersey but the day belonged to Dan Parks, who enjoyed his finest hour in a Scotland jersey. The often criticised stand-off played a blinder, pulled the strings and engineered a last-kick penalty which he slotted from the touchline with ice-cool brilliance, raising his hands aloft long before the ball went through the sticks.

Brian O'Drscoll's breakout 2000 supershow was the catalyst for a power shift between the two nations. Picture: Getty Images

21 March 2015 (Murrayfield): SCOTLAND 10-40 IRELAND

Another 40-point shocker which condemned the Scots to a Wooden Spoon in Vern Cotter’s first Six Nations as coach. The Kiwi felt some heat but managed to revive the team into the World Cup in England that year and beyond. The Irish got the result they needed to retain their Six Nations title and their fans, who waited and turned Murrayfield into a corner Temple Bar as England’s 55-35 win over France fell short of surpassing them on a crazy final Saturday. Finn Russell scored Scotland’s only try that day.

22 September 2019 (Yokohama): IRELAND 27-3 SCOTLAND

The Irish battered Scotland into a humbling defeat which punctured their Japan World Cup hopes from the get-go in this one-sided Pool A opener. James Ryan and Rory Best put the cruise-control Irish 12-0 ahead after 15 minutes. Greig Laidlaw got the Scots on the board with a penalty but that was as good as it got for a chastened Scotland team, who leaked more tries from Tadhg Furlong and Andrew Conway.