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Scotland’s Grand Slams

While Scotland and England are the international game’s oldest rivals, it was not long before the other home countries joined the fray.

Scotland’s first match against Ireland took place in 1877 and Wales followed in 1883.  The Auld Alliance was given rugby substance with the first game against France in 1910 and thus what became the Five Nations Championship was established.

Five became Six when Italy were welcomed in 2000.

To defeat all opponents in a Championship campaign earned the name, the Grand Slam, while emerging victorious against all home countries saw another mythical trophy created: the Triple Crown.

Scotland have won the Grand Slam on three occasions: 1925, 1984 and 1990, in addition capturing a further seven Triple Crowns.

The first such Grand Slam was a true red letter day as it also marked the opening of Scottish Rugby’s new home ground, Murrayfield.

On 21 March, 1925, a crowd of around 70,000 congregated at the ground that had been developed by the SRU on land it had acquired from the Edinburgh Polo Club, its previous international ground, Inverleith in Edinburgh, being deemed too small for the growing demand to watch international rugby.

Scotland Team

Scotland came from behind on three occasions to win the match 14-11. Trailing to an early penalty, Scotland hit back through a try by scrum-half Jimmy Nelson, which was converted by full-back Dan Drysdale.

England led 8-5 at half-time (a try being worth three points in those days), and early in the second-half England added their second try for an 11-5 advantage.
Scotland fought back and Johnnie Wallace became the first Scot to score a try in all Championship matches in the one season.  Sandy Gillies’ touchline conversion narrowed the gap to 11-10 in England’s favour.

Defences were tested in a frantic finale but with five minutes to go, stand-off Herbert Waddell dropped a goal (then worth four points) and secured the spoils for Scotland.

The 1984 Grand Slam was also delivered at Murrayfield, with France this time the visitors.

After the Triple Crown had been wrapped up in swash-buckling fashion with a 32-9 victory over Ireland in Dublin, captain Jim Aitken led out his charges to an expectant Murrayfield.

It was France who led at half-time, however, scrum-half Jerome Gallion – aka Le Petit General – scoring their converted try in response to an early penalty by Scotland’s full-back Peter Dods.

Dods, who ended the game with one eye all but closed, landed a further three penalties in the second-half to tie the scores at 12-12, French stand-off Jean-Patrick Lescarboura having popped over a penalty and drop-goal.

Scotland’s forwards had taken charge in that second period with tight-head prop Iain Milne, singled out for praise by head coach Jim Telfer for his refusal to yield, and openside David Leslie quite magnificent.

With the clock ticking towards no-side, it was blindside flanker Jim Calder who seized on possession at a lineout close to the French line to score the decisive try.  Dods converted and added a penalty for good measure as Scotland celebrated after a 59-year hiatus!

Jim Calder

To 1990 then and a winner-takes-all Grand Slam decider against England at Murrayfield.

The visitors had played some grand rugby during that Championship but from the moment, led by captain David Sole, that Scotland chose to walk on to the pitch – their pitch – there was a steel in their every action.

This was a Titanic clash.  Scotland led through two penalties by stand-off Craig Chalmers.  England replied with a classy try from Jeremy Guscott and a third Chalmers penalty stretched the home advantage to 9-4 at the break.

Scotland scored a peach of a try early in the second-half, Gary Armstrong unleashing Gavin Hastings on the narrow side of a scrum and Tony Stanger latching on to his full-back’s kick ahead for the touchdown.

Tony Stanger

England, who had been thwarted in a series of close-range scrums in the first-half, could only add a penalty by full-back Simon Hodgkinson in the second period, but they came perilously close to a second try, only to be denied by a cracking tackle from home centre Scott Hastings.

The final whistle sparked joyous scenes amid the realisation that Scotland had secured their third Grand Slam.

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