Sportsnight #27: 1990, Rugby Union, Scotland v England, Five Nations Grand Slam Decider

by Charlie_East_West on November 27, 2013

Good evening and welcome to Sportsnight. Tonight’s action comes from Murrayfield and the 1990 Five Nations Grand Slam decider between Scotland and England.

Yesterday saw the publication of the Scottish Independence White Paper and so tonight we go back to 1990 and a time where Scotland was sick to the back teeth of seemingly endless Thatcher rule. It was a time of no devolution and the Scottish public was apoplectic at seeing their industrial heartlands being dismantled and Scotland being used as the testing ground for the hated poll tax.

It is within this tense political backdrop that tonight’s action took on the mantle of being more than just a rugby match. It all got very personal. I was there. I will never forget it.

The 1990 Five Nations Grand Slam decider became the biggest match in Scottish rugby history. Scotland went into the game as huge underdogs. England had beaten Ireland 23-0, France 26-7 in Paris, and Wales 34-6. England seemed like the complete team – with huge forwards like Wade Dooley, Jeff Probyn and Paul Ackford, combined with speed and guile in the backs from the likes of Jeremy Guscott, Will Carling and Rory Underwood. The team was controlled by fly-half Rob Andrew’s touch kicking game and backed up by Simon Hodgkinson’s relentless goal kicking. Meanwhile, Scotland had beaten the same three teams but, although they had thumped France 21-0, their wins over Ireland and Wales were by a single score.

But on 17th March 1990, something rather special happened (if you happened to be a Scottish rugby fan). Scotland were up for it. They played like men possessed. Scotland meant business even before the start. When captain David Sole led them out against England, they walked. Teams normally run out of the tunnel, but Scotland walked. This tactic succeeded in whipping up the Scottish crowd into a frenzy.

Then came the anthems. Flower of Scotland was played for the first ever time at a Scotland rugby match – rather than Scotland having to stand there and endure God Save the Queen. Again, this succeeded in getting the crowd really worked up and right behind the team.

As for the game itself – from that first thunderous ruck led by one of the hardest men ever to walk the face of the planet – Finlay Calder, Scotland imposed themselves on England and led 9-4 at half-time. And then it happened. In the immortal words of Bill McClaren: “fed in by Armstrong, picked up by Jeffrey, Jeffrey to Armstrong, Armstrong passes it to Hastings, Hasting kicks, Stanger runs on, a try for Stanger. They will be celebrating in the pubs of Hawick tonight.” – Bloody marvellous.

England then threw the kitchen sink at Scotland. But, Scotland held firm to win 13-7 and achieve their third Grand Slam. It took England a long time to get this defeat out of their system, and Scotland still celebrates the famous victory to this day.

It was the match where, in the words of Flower of Scotland, Scotland “sent them homeward tae think again.”

I was standing in the terraces of Murrayfield that day. I was with family, friends and my local rugby club teammates. It is something that none of us present will ever forget.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Ray_North November 27, 2013 at 8:07 pm

David Sole with his ripped shirt sleeves, Tony Stanger’s acne, big Jim Jeffrey’s barnet and little Gary Armstrong a wonderful scrum half – legend.


Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm

That was the golden era of Scottish rugby / 1984-1991. Two Grand Slams, two triple crowns, one championship and a Rugby World Cup Semi Final (which we should have won but for Gavin Hastings missing a late kick right in front of the posts at 6-6 v England).

Our whole team was packed full of great players and great human beings. Rugby seemed closer to the people in the amateur era.

As for David Sole…He ripped the sleeves off his shirt to stop Jeff Probyn from getting a hold on him in the scrum.


Charlie_East_West November 27, 2013 at 8:58 pm

That was the best sporting moment that I have ever attended.

Here are my top 5 (at the event)
1. Scotland Grand Slam 1990
2. Scotland Grand Slam 1984
3. Manchester United 4 v Real Madrid 3 2003
4. Seve Ballesteros wins The Open at St Andrews 1984
5. Scotland 33 v England 6 1986

Here are my top 5 (watching on TV)
1. Andy Murray wins Wimbledon 2013
2. Aberdeen win the European Cup Winners Cup 1983
3. Manchester United win the Treble 1999
4. Manchester United win the Champions League 2008
5. Andy Murray wins the US Open 2012


Ray_North November 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Ok, mine (at the event)

1. Wales win Grand Slam v Ireland 2005
2. Wales win Grand Slam v France 2008
3. Wales win Championship and hammer England in process 2013
4. England v Australia Cricket 2nd test Lords 2013
5. Wales 4 v England 1 Racecourse Ground Wrexham (old Home Internationals) 1980

On TV:
1. Liverpool v AC Milan European Cup 2005 (miracle in Istanbul)
2. Mo Farrah wins the 10,000m at the Olympics 2012
3. Liverpool v Borussia Monchengadbach European Cup 1977
4. Wrexham v Arsenal FA Cup 3rd Round 1992
5. British and Irish Lions v Australia 3rd Test 2013


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