Greetings from iainthepict. This blog of mine is meant to be like a 'Book of Days' or a kind of 'Scottish Year Book' if you will. The idea was to present an event for each day of the year. Somewhere in here, you can find out what happened, affecting Scotland and the Scots, on any given day of the year. Your comments and observations are very welcome.
The photograph is by Sam Perkins (check him out on Facebook at Sam Perkins Photography) and was taken near Oban.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

First international rugby match at Murrayfield

In 1925, Murrayfield Stadium became the home of Scottish Rugby and in its first ever match, on the 21st of March, 1925, Scotland defeated England, to clinch its first ever Grand Slam.

If this blog post was written about the glories of Scottish rugby at any time in the last twenty years, apart from 1999, it would be a short entry, such has been the paucity of success, any prolonged, continuous period of success that is, since Scotland's last Grand Slam, in 1990. There have been only three Grand Slams to celebrate and very few, truly memorable seasons in the intervening years since that last.

However, it wasn't always so and
the 1924-1925 season certainly proved to be a memorable one for Scottish Rugby. It ended up as a season in which the fans and the team had two things to celebrate. The start of the season saw a significant name change for the sport's governing body, which went from being known as the Scottish Football Union (SFU) to become the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU). Scottish rugby also saw the beginning of a new era in another sense, with the final game of the season, the home game against England, the Auld Enemy, being played at the new Murrayfield ground. The grand opening of Murrayfield was the first cause for celebration.

Three wins in each of the 1923 and 1924 seasons gave folks an excuse for thinking of Scotland as contenders for the championship in the new season. A seven try rout of France, including four by Ian Smith, the 'Flying Scotsman', in front of 20,000 at Inverleith, got the Scots off to a wonderful start, winning 25-4. Six more tries followed as Wales were beaten 24-14 in Swansea. The Scots had blitzed the Welsh in the first three-quarters, but the score was made reasonably respectable by a late Welsh flourish when the Scots had ran out of steam; they simply couldn't keep up the pace for a full 80 minutes. Then the Irish were overcome 14-8 in a tough match at Lansdowne Road and a first Grand Slam beckoned. Italy weren't involved then as it was the Five Nations – as it was in Scotland's last great season, the last ever Five Nations, when the championship was won in grand style, with a lone defeat coming against England at Twickenham.

Back in 1925, on a spring afternoon that began clear and sunny, a truly memorable game of rugby unfolded on the brand new Murrayfield ground, watched by a record crowd of over 70,000. England, the first ever visitor to Murrayfield, was the dominant force in the 1920s, being Champion for the previous two seasons. What transpired on the 21st of March, 1925, was a closely contested game between two wonderfully talented sides, which saw the lead change hands three times. High drama and a wee bit of controversy added to the potent mixture.

England grabbed an early lead, putting points on the board by virtue of a Luddington penalty goal, but Scotland stormed back quickly, with J. B. Nelson, of Glasgow Accies, scoring a try, which was converted by full back Drysdale, of Heriots FP. England didn't stay behind for long, however, and scored two tries, by Hamilton-Wickes and Wakefield; the first converted by Luddington.

With 25 minutes remaining, the atmosphere was, proverbially, at fever pitch. Then, the Scots scored a magnificent, but highly controversial try, following a superb passing move which involved Smith, MacPherson and Johnny Wallace, who touched down, right next to the right-hand corner flag. The English team, its officials and fans, those at the game and those listening on the radio, even unborn babies destined to become English rugby fans of the future, were furiously adamant that Smith had a foot in touch before Wallace grounded the ball to finish the move. They were adamant and understandably furious, but that's a far cry from being convinced and the one man who needed to be convinced was the Welsh referee. Mr Freethy was happily satisfied that the try was good and he duly awarded the three points to Scotland.

A. C. Gillies kicked a magnificent touchline conversion to bring the score to 10-11 (a converted try was worth 5 points back then as opposed to seven these days). With just a point in it, Scotland turned on the style, but couldn’t manage another try. However, Scotland did manage to grab the lead, through a four-point drop goal from fly half, Herbert Waddell, with five minutes remaining. England spent the remaining time attacking furiously in response, but the battling, defensive spirit of the home side saw it hold out against severe pressure until until no side.

The stars of the Scottish team were mainly amongst its back division, which showed a collective combination of pace, style and superb tackling, operating behind a workmanlike and solid pack, which, on the day, coupled with excellent discipline and defence in the final minutes, proved to be superior. The end of the game saw scenes of celebration and sheer joy, the likes of which had never before been seen on a Scottish rugby field and which would not be repeated for another 59 years. A cause for celebration, indeed, to christen the new ground in fine style.

The BBC reported, after the game, that perhaps the omens for the sensational season, which Scotland had, may have been visible ‘in the stars’, as the clinching game was “marked by a partial eclipse of the sun which reached its maximum during the second half without interrupting play.”

Today, Murrayfield Stadium is recognised as one of the most prestigious stadia in Europe, playing host to not just Rugby Union matches involving Scotland and Edinburgh Rugby, but to a whole host of key sporting events, Rugby League Challenge Finals, Highland Games, and sell-out music concerts, including ‘Live 8’, which was held in the ground in 2005.

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