Thursday, 11 March 2010

20 Years On: Scotland 13 England 7

While this fixture in recent years has been overshadowed by events in Cardiff and Dublin, there is still something about the Calcutta Cup match between Scotland V England.  Monday sees the 30th anniversary of Englands 18-30 win at Murrayfield which saw them win their first Grand Slam since 1957, having won their first Championship outright since 1963 four weeks earlier.

However the most famous Calcutta Cup match occurred 20 years ago on Wednesday when Scotland and England met with the Grand Slam at stake for both sides.  England were overwhelming favourites having swept aside Ireland 23-0, France 7-26 and Wales 34-6, scoring 10 tries in the process.  England had Gusscott & Carling in the centre while on the wing they had Rory Underwood.  The mostly English based press had England not so much as favourites, but more or less said that all England had to do was turn up and they would win.

Scotland on the other hand had crept though the contest unnoticed and without a great deal of fanfare.  Staring in the second week of the contest, Scotland beat Ireland 10-13.  This was followed up by a convincing 21-0 win over France.  Scotland’s game during England’s week of was a 9-13 win against Wales.  Once Scotland won at the Arms Park, it was game on for the championship decider.  If Scotland were looking for omens, the Calcutta Cup match would be held 6 years to the day since Scotland clinched their previous Grand Slam.  If the press were to be believed, it was all Scotland had to clutch at.

In Scotland there was an element of animosity towards the England Rugby team.  This was fanned partially by the English based media’s firm belief that England were certainties to win the Grand Slam.  This was also a very political time as well, with an unpopular Conservative Government, who had made themselves even more unpopular with the implementation of their new funding system for Local government.  The Community Charge had been unveiled and implemented in Scotland a full year ahead of the rest of the country, as a scheme to bring the voters back on board it was a disaster.  In the Tabloids, and in particular the Daily Retard, the England Rugby team were re-cast as Team Thatcher.  A further twist was that i think this was the first season that Flower Of Scotland was adopted as the national anthem played before Rugby matches.  After this game, “Flower…” grew in popularity and supplanted “Scotland The Brave” as the Scotland Football teams anthem of choice within a couple of years.

From memory, this was a tight game.  England only managed to break through once as Guscott went over for the only try of the first half, which Hodgkinson could not convert.  Scotland won and converted their 3 penalties (pictured, top) to eke out a 9-4 half time lead.  Scotland got their chance to score at the start of the second half.  from the first scrum of that half, the ball found it’s way to Scott Hastings out wide.  His kick on was chased by his brother Gavin and winger Stanger, ahead of a couple of England backs.  Stanger got to the ball first and touched down for the try. Scotland were now 13-4 ahead, the question was could they hold on?
England did lay siege on the Scotland back line in the latter stages of the game, but could only claw back 3 points, from the boot of Hodgkinson.  In the end it was a famous victory, and for those who had not seen Scotland over the course of this championship a huge upset, as Scotland claimed only their third, and to date their most recent, Grand Slam.

The team though that took the most out of the defeat was surprisingly England.  Hurt by the defeat and surprised at how overconfident they had become, England over the next year and a half withdrew and started playing what was dubbed “10 man rugby”.  Essentially this was rugby which used the power of the scrum to physically ground down your opponent, where kicking for position was paramount.  England used this tactic as the launchpad to dominate the 5 Nations Championship’s in the first half of the 1990’s.  The eventually won the Grand Slam the following year, and reached the World Cup final in the Autumn of 1991, gaining a sort of revenge by beating Scotland 9-6 at the semi final stage at the same venue.  They retained their Grand Slam in 1992, the first time this had been done by England since the 1920’s.  For England it was well and truly lesson learned.

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