Even Honours- Scotland v New Zealand 1964 and 1983

To defeat the New Zealand All Blacks in an international match has always been a major goal for the four home union countries.  While the English have a comparatively strong record with eight victories in 42 matches, Ireland have won only twice in 32 matches with their first victory coming after more than 110 years so memorably in Chicago in November 2016.  Wales had a distinguished record against the All Blacks up until December 1953 with three victories in four historic encounters, but it has been famine since then with 31 straight defeats over almost 70 years.

Scotland v New Zealand, 1964

For Scotland, that victory over the All Blacks has proved completely elusive in 31 matches, but there have been two matches in which the sides were so evenly matched that they could not be separated.

In January 1964, the All Blacks came to Murrayfield near the end of their long tour of the UK and France.  They had won their internationals against Ireland narrowly 6-5 in Dublin, Wales more impressively 6-0 at Cardiff Arms Park, and England convincingly 14-0 at Twickenham.  The Grand Slam of victories against the four home nations was within the All Blacks’ grasp, but Scotland had had a valuable “warm-up” 10-0 victory against France in the first international of the 1964 International Championship and were expected to be competitive.

The All Blacks side under the captaincy of prop Wilson Whineray was based on a fearsome pack of forwards supported by the formidable place kicking of their giant 17-stone full back Don Clarke.  Ken Gray and Dennis Young in the front row, Colin Meads in the second row and a back row of John Graham, Brian Lochore and Kelvin Tremain provided weight and pace unequalled in world rugby at the time.  If their backs were less individually impressive, they were nevertheless strong defensively and capable of flashes of inspiration.

The Scottish side under the captaincy of prop Brian Neill was initially unchanged for its second match of the season but the selectors were forced to make a late change when Jim Shackleton was brought in to replace Brian Henderson in the centre.  The team contained four players who had made their debut against France but Stuart Wilson at full back, Peter Brown in the second row and Jim Telfer in the back row would become among the finest Scottish players of their generation.  For ballast, Ian Laughland in the centre, Norman Bruce at hooker with David Rollo as his other prop, and Pringle Fisher at wing forward provided essential quality in this relatively inexperienced side.

The 1964 clash in front of 70,000 spectators was the last major international match to end in a 0-0 draw, but the score line does not do justice to the excitement of the game itself.  It was a frosty day and handling was difficult.  The lighter Scottish pack matched the All Blacks in the loose and, perhaps fortunately for Scotland, Don Clarke had a rare off-day with his boot.  He missed five penalty attempts and neither side was able to take advantage of the other’s mistakes.  The final whistle went after a surge upfield by Don Clarke came to nothing when his kick ahead was caught by his opposite number, Wilson, who calmly kicked the ball into touch.  The whistle went and Scotland had denied the All Blacks their desired Grand Slam.

Twenty nine years later, the All Blacks came to Scotland as part of their short 8-match tour of Scotland and England in the autumn of 1983.  The All Blacks had convincingly defeated the touring British Lions 4-0 in the tests, but a number of their stars had elected not to be available for this tour.  In the intervening years since 1964, Scotland had faced the All Blacks on seven further occasions but had never managed to secure that elusive victory despite coming close in 1978 and 1981.

The Scottish side under the captaincy of prop, Jim Aitken, was well balanced with a strong mobile pack of forwards supported by one of the best half back pairs in Scottish rugby history, John Rutherford and Roy Laidlaw.  Eight players, including the complete back row of Jim Calder, John Beattie and Iain Paxton, had toured New Zealand with the Lions that summer.

The New Zealand side contained six new caps including both props and the second row pair, but the back row of Mark Shaw, Murray Mexted and Jock Hobbs and the three-quarter line under the captaincy of the great try-scoring winger Stuart Wilson were highly experienced.

The match began with an exchange of drop goals from Rutherford and penalties from new All Black full back Robbie Deans.  Tries by Jock Hobbs and Bernie Fraser gave New Zealand the lead, but Scotland’s doughty full back Peter Dods kicked three penalty goals before half-time to keep Scotland in the game.  Fraser scored a second kick and chase try after half-time to extend the lead but Dods kept Scotland in the match with two further penalties before Deans kicked his third penalty to give the All Blacks a four-point lead with seven minutes to go.

Three minutes later the Watsonians centre David Johnston received the ball in midfield and shrewdly kicked diagonally to his right for the winger Jim Pollock to chase.  A thrilling race led to Pollock outpacing Deans and scoring in the right-hand corner.  The score was now 25-25 and all that was left for a Scottish victory was for Dods to kick the touchline conversion.  He just missed his kick, and in the final minutes the All Blacks were given the opportunity to win the match but were denied a kickable penalty due to a punch thrown by their fiery winger Bernie Fraser and spotted by the touch-judge.  The final whistle went very shortly afterwards with the score 25 all, a world record highest score for a drawn match.

Scotland went on to win an historic second Grand Slam in the 1984 International Championship and the All Blacks, although they lost to England a week later, quickly re-built their team and moved on to win the first Rugby World Cup in 1987.  Scotland have still not beaten the All Blacks so these two draws remained treasured memories in their rugby history.


A Century of the All Blacks in Britain and Ireland – Fox, Bogle & Hoskins (Tempus Publishing 2006)

The History of Scottish Rugby – Sandy Thorburn (Johnston & Bacon 1980)

Men in Black (Commem 20th Century Edition) – Chester, Palenski & McMillan (Hodder Moa Beckett 2000)

Scottish Rugby Game by Game – Kenneth R Bogle (Luath Press Limited 2013)

Newspapers: Glasgow Herald – Scotsman – Sportsman – Times

About the Author – A professional musician and arts administrator, Richard Steele has had a life-long love of sport.  He has been on the committee of the World Rugby Museum at Twickenham since 2005.

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Denzil Batchelor’s All-Star XV

Denzil Batchelor was a sports and war correspondent, poet and playwright. He played rugby at Oxford University in the 1920s and was a lifelong fan of cricket and rugby. This All-Star XV is an extract from his book ‘Babbled of Green Fields’ published in 1961.

You will want me to pick a side to play Mars.  I shall confine my candidates to those I have seen in action and thus give myself the excuse of well-meaning ignorance for having the bad manners to omit certain past-masters.

I begin with George Nepia (New Zealand) at full-back; next in order being Bob Scott, Dan Drysdale, and K. Geddes, who only got four caps for Scotland but who never forgot the full-backs’ second most important duty—the first is to tackle—which is to make a fifth three-quarter when needed.

George Nepia
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A Sunderland Discovery!

We’re starting 2021 off with an exciting discovery for Sunderland FC and the wider rugby community…

1881 Sunderland rugby team. 15 players seated and standing. Trophy in the middle.

This photograph shows the Sunderland team which won the inaugural Durham County Cup in March 1881. Seated on a reversed chair in the middle row, second from left, is Alfred George Milbanke Hudson (1855-1908), who scored two of the three tries which secured the challenge cup. In September 2020, a complete rugby kit belonging to Alfred resurfaced in the home of his direct descendants. It is in pristine condition, and it is tempting to speculate that this kit could be the very one seen in this 140-year-old photograph.

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#FromTheVaults – RFU Christmas Card, ‘Fougasse’

Merry Christmas from everyone at the World Rugby Museum!

This month’s featured object from our collection is a Christmas card designed for the Rugby Football Union by one of Britain’s best loved cartoonists, Cyril Kenneth Bird CBE (1887-1965).

RFU Christmas card, of unknown date, shows Father Christmas diving over the try line with a sack of gifts, his red overcoat flying behind him to reveal rugby shorts and striped socks. He crosses the line between the posts – two festive fir trees.

Cyril Bird, the son of cricketer Arthur Bird, was born in London in 1887. Although he graduated from Kings College with a BSc in Engineering, he also showed promise as an artist, and had attended art classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic and the School of Photo-Engraving.

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Rugby Raptors: The History of Birds of Prey at Twickenham Stadium

Twickenham has had a long history of welcoming birds of prey through its gates for various reasons. Initially, they were a necessity, employed to deal with the stadium’s serious pigeon problem, but now they come of their own accord.

Until 2012, Harris Hawks were brought in on a weekly basis from local pest control firm Hawkforce. Pigeons had become a nuisance, gathering in large numbers to feast on grass seed, preventing turf regrowth and therefore damaging the grounds. Though weekly hawk flights did not eradicate their presence altogether, they did scare the pigeons enough to stop them nesting in the stadium, limiting the damage caused by reducing the feral pests to visitors, rather than residents.

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Argentina’s First Test Match

Earlier in the year, Eduardo García Sáenz provided a tour report of the British & Irish Lions 1910 tour of Argentina. Here he provides more detail, including local match reports, on Argentina’s first ever test-match on the same tour.

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‘L’art du drop goal’ – a French phenomenon?

Kicking a drop goal has often proved a decisive factor in the winning of matches at international level since the second match between England and Scotland at The Oval in 1872 when Harold Freeman for England and Charles Cathcart for Scotland each scored a drop goal. 

Some prolific drop goal specialists in recent years come to mind – England’s Rob Andrew and world record holder Jonny Wilkinson; Scotland’s John Rutherford and Dan Parks; Ireland’s Ronan O’Gara and the Welsh fly half maestros Barry John and Jonathan Davies; Phil Hawthorne of Australia and South Africa’s Naas Botha and Jannie de Beer, architect of England’s downfall in the 1999 World Cup with five sensational second-half drop goals in twenty five minutes.

Jannie De Beer during South Africa v England, 24/10/1999, Stade de France.
(Photo Credit: Dave Rogers/Allsport)
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#FromTheVaults – British Isles Dinner Menu, 1904

This month we wanted to share with you this charming little dinner menu from the British Isles tour to Australia and New Zealand in 1904 – the first time a British team played both countries on the same tour. The dinner, held in honour of the visitors, was hosted by the Otago and Southland Rugby Union at the Coffee Palace, Dunedin on Wednesday 10th August, 1904.

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Durham County’s Golden Era

The annual County Championship was one of English rugby union’s leading competitions from the 1890s through to the professional era in 1995.  It provided a vital stepping stone for emerging players from leading rugby clubs and outstanding performances for their counties often propelled them on to international recognition.

Yorkshire was the dominant county until the schism of 1895 over broken-time payments which led to the formation of the Northern Union and the game of rugby league.  By the turn of the century, different counties had risen to the fore but, despite the ravages that rugby league inflicted on clubs in the north of England, the county of Durham remained a source of clubs and exceptionally talented players who were at the forefront of English rugby up to the outbreak of the 1st World War.

Durham v Cornwall, 27/03/1909, Hartlepool
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International Triplets

Photographs of the three BARRETT brothers standing in line for the national anthems before starting for the All Blacks in the 1st test against France in June 2018 gained much coverage on and off line, but this was not the first time they had been picked in an All Black squad. 

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – JUNE 09: Jordie Barrett, Scott Barrett and Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks stand for the national anthem during the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and France at Eden Park on June 9, 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

Beauden Barrett was the first-choice fly half against Samoa at Eden Park in June 2017 with his two younger brothers, Scott and Jordi, on the bench.  Although Scott came on in the 51st minute, Beauden was replaced two minutes before Jordi came on in the 63rd minute and so the three brothers had not yet played together on the pitch in an international.  Similarly, in the 3rd test against the British Lions later that season, Scott came on in the 78th minute by which time Jordi had been substituted with his brother Beauden having moved from fly half to replace him at full back.  To date the three Barrett brothers have taken the field in 13 international matches but have only started together in five of those matches.

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