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Five of the best: England against Scotland

Five of the best: England against Scotland

What an occasion we have on Saturday as the 2019 Guinness Six Nations closes out with a clash between the Auld Enemies – England and Scotland.

These two opponents have been trying to best each other on the field since 1871, when Scotland beat England in the first ever rugby union international, with the upper hand switching over the decades.

Dozens of the fiercest encounters in rugby have followed and in anticipation of Saturday’s showdown, we’re taking a look at five of the best.

1990 – Scotland 13-7 England

Back when the Guinness Six Nations was just five, the Grand Slam decider between England and Scotland at BT Murrayfield in March 1990 had absolutely everything.

The Calcutta Cup, Triple Crown, Five Nations title and Grand Slam were all on the line, with England’s fans and even the players’ wives having ‘England – Grand Slam champions 1990’ – printed, or so folklore goes.

England sprinted onto the field but the Scots were in no great rush. Scotland’s team, led by David Sole, walked out, slowly and purposefully. A deafening roar rocked the crowd. Some believe the game was won right there.

The game itself was ferocious, no-holds-barred stuff, Finlay Calder, John Jeffrey and Sole going toe-to-toe with England and the likes of Will Carling, Brian Moore and Rory Underwood.

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Craig Chalmers booted the Scots into a 9-4 half-time lead and then after the interval 21-year-old Tony Stanger touched down for a magnificent try, cheered on by Bill McLaren’s momentous commentary.

White waves of English attackers hammered furiously at the Scottish line, only to be repelled by desperate and bone-crunching defence.

There was to be no way through, and a solitary Rob Andrew penalty was all that England could muster.

2000 – Scotland 19-13 England

This was the year where Italy joined the Championship and what a year it was – Scotland had lost all four games prior to facing England, including a historic 34-20 defeat to the Azzurri in Rome.

England came in to the final match of their Championship unbeaten and apart from a close victory over France, they were dominant against the other three nations.

Scotland had not beaten England since the 1990 Grand Slam and conditions on the day were treacherous – this was not a day for champagne rugby.

A 19-point haul by Scotland fly-half Duncan Hodge, including a try, conversion and four penalties was underpinned by a great team effort from the home side to deny Clive Woodward’s side a Grand Slam.

A converted Lawrence Dallaglio try and another two penalties by Jonny Wilkinson were not enough, England eventually going down 19-13.

After the match, then Scotland head coach Ian McGeechan commented: “We knew if we could just hang on we could do it. The guys were magnificent. They stood up and were counted.”

2003 – England 40-9 Scotland

Signs that England were on the way to a momentous year which would end in World Cup glory against Australia were clear during the 2003 Championship.

After defeating France, Wales and Italy, Martin Johnson’s men swept Scotland aside at Twickenham – Jason Robinson scored a memorable double, with Ben Cohen and Josh Lewsey also touching down.

Legendary fly-half Wilkinson kicked four penalties and three conversions, with Paul Grayson adding the fourth, in one of England’s most resounding Championship victories of recent times.

2017 – England 61-21 Scotland

England retained their title and equalled the record for consecutive Test wins (18) in style with a seven-try mauling of Scotland just two years ago.

Centre Jonathan Joseph scored a hat-trick of tries while scrum-half Danny Care scored a double and Anthony Watson and Billy Vunipola claimed one apiece as England claimed their highest score in a Calcutta Cup contest, also equalling their biggest winning margin against the Dark Blues.

Scotland scored three converted tries of their own but their hopes of a first Triple Crown since 1990 disappeared after England had flexed their muscles in a blitz of a first half.

2018 – Scotland 25-13 England

You only have to go back a year to find a superb match between Scotland and England and this one was long celebrated after the Scots hoisted the Calcutta Cup for the first time in ten years.

There was a talk of a bit of needle as the players warmed up for the BT Murrayfield clash and Scotland came out of the blocks at a million miles an hour, with electric ferocity at the breakdown.

Greig Laidlaw popped over an early penalty, responded to by Owen Farrell, before a quick lineout 15 minutes in saw Finn Russell grubber in behind and Huw Jones gather for the score.

The Red Rose got back to 10-6 but from there came one of the great passes of all time, Russell flinging one for 30 metres out to Jones before Sean Maitland was sent into the corner.

Back came Jones again, this time storming through midfield for his second try and England looked done as the hosts led 22-6.

England fought back as Farrell found a gap to narrow the deficit to 22-13 but no true rhythm was found, leaving BT Murrayfield a picture of utter delirium.