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THE BREAKDOWN, STEVE SCOTT: My 10 most memorable games in 30 years of rugby reporting

Duhan van der Merwe's winning try at Twickenham in February.
Duhan van der Merwe's winning try at Twickenham in February.

After nearly 30 years covering games for The Courier, this is my final week as the paper’s staff rugby correspondent.

Well, Italy in the Six Nations was actually the last game. That final, end-to-end try was a decent way to finish.

These games below are the ten most memorable of the hundreds I watched in in my time. But almost every game was a joy to do, really.

I loved club local derbies – Dundee and Kirkcaldy was always great fun. I verged to fanboy status watching the Caledonia Reds in the district era, and Glasgow under Gregor Townsend.

Scotland were a tough watch for years. But since 2014-ish they’ve been – mostly – exciting and entertaining. It has warmed even this cynical old heart.

Best game I ever saw? Probably Twickenham 2019.

Worst? The 2007 World Cup game in St-Etienne when Scotland beat Italy 18-16 on six Chris Paterson penalties. Miserable night, miserable game. And we missed dinner. Never a good thing in France.

France 47 Scotland 22, Paris, March 15, 1997

I’ve experienced so many great atmospheres in the Six Nations. Murrayfield often, Cardiff, old Lansdowne Road, Italy at the Stadio Flaminio.

But 26 years on, still nothing compares to this day at the Parc de Princes. France were going for a Grand Slam at home for the first time ever, and romped it.

The whole occasion, inside and outside the ground, before, during and after the game, was just spine-tingling. The Stade de France can be good at times, but it is anodyne compared to the Parc.

France 22 Scotland 35, Paris, April 10, 1999

Scotland’s first game at the Stade, in blazing spring sunshine. For 15 minutes in the first half they were in what Gregor Townsend later called ‘flow state’.

Every pass stuck, no matter how outlandish. The Scots scored five tries in that spell, two from Alan Tait, two from Martin Leslie, and one by Toonie himself. The next day, Wales beat England at Wembley and Scotland were the last Five Nations champions.

Scotland 100 Japan 8, Perth, November 13, 2004

The only international ever played on my patch was a complete farce.

Dundee HSFP played warm-up training opposition for the Japanese prior to the game. Their coach called me to say the visitors – mostly students – weren’t even Scottish club standard. It quickly showed.

It was one of only three games Scotland won when the hapless Matt Williams was head coach. Really, it shouldn’t even count.

Bell Baxter HS 20 Dollar Academy 8, Murrayfield, January 26, 2007

THE BREAKDOWN, STEVE SCOTT: We’ll never see the likes of that great Bell Baxter High/Howe of Fife team again

The last state school to win the Scottish Schools Cup. The Cupar boys beat Merchiston in the semis at Kirkcaldy and then Dollar in the final, both ‘superpowers’ of Scottish schools rugby.

BBHS – also the Howe of Fife youth team – were a brilliantly coached, well-drilled and skilful side able to score from anywhere. Truly a special team to watch.

Peter Horne and Chris Fusaro from this team went on to play for Scotland, many more for the national U-20s and 7s teams.

Edinburgh 48 Racing 92 47, Murrayfield, November 18 2011

Hands down the most bonkers game I ever covered. It was 17-3 to Edinburgh after 10 minutes, 31-20 to Racing at half-time, then 47-27 to the French with 11 minutes remaining. Defence was almost entirely absent.

Edinburgh scored three tries in a furious finish to somehow get ahead, but Racing missed a simple drop goal with the last kick that would have won it.

Scotland 34 Australia 35, Twickenham, October 18 2015

What might have been. Vern Cotter’s young team were heavy underdogs in the World Cup quarter-final. But they hung tough, stayed in the game and led thanks to Mark Bennett’s interception try with barely three minutes left.

Then there was a botched lineout, THAT referee’s call and Australia pinched it. But it was a great, great match, and for me the real end of Scotland’s dark ages from 1999 to 2014.

Panmure 24 Dundee University Medics 18, Forthill, March 3, 2018

Panmure 24 Dundee Uni Medics 18: A heroic day by all in the Forthill snow

Players, members and volunteers from the oldest and youngest clubs in Dundee cleared the Forthill pitch of snow twice in two days to play the Midlands Bowl final.

They had been threatened with a coin toss decision by the SRU if they didn’t fulfil the fixture. It was the only game of rugby played in Scotland on ‘Beast from the East’ weekend, in a wind chill of minus five.

But it was a great game of skill and invention that I’ll always remember, and the best possible illustration of the values of the club game.

England 38 Scotland 38, Twickenham, March 16, 2019

A close second in the Bonkers rankings, but much more significant. 31-0 down just before half-time, it just felt like another of this dispiriting Twickenham debacles dating back to 1983 for Scotland. But there followed five tries in 40 minutes, Finn Russell directing operations in inspired fashion.

Even though they conceded a last gasp ‘equaliser’ and we had a rare draw, the Scots’ demons in London were finally over. They’ve not lost there since.

Scotland 3 Ireland 27, Yokohama, September 22, 2019

The single most disappointing game in my 27 years covering Scotland. There’s been far worse capitulations – South Africa, France, New Zealand, England scoring half-centuries on us. But in ‘19 you had hope Scotland were going someplace heading to the World Cup in Japan.

Only they fluffed it utterly with a miserable performance on opening night. It was a great five-week adventure in Japan. Sadly the rugby never matched it.

England 23 Scotland 29, Twickenham, February 4, 2023

I made that long walk from ‘HQ’ to Richmond tube in disappointment so many times. Then I missed the historic first win in nearly 40 years, in 2021, for Covid reasons.

Thankfully on my very last trip, everything was made right. Scotland even scored two of the greatest tries I’ve ever seen from them. A fitting way to end.