It’s no coincidence that so many of the most unforgettable tries that Scotland have scored in international rugby have come against England, but one sits above all others in the pantheon. Thirty years on, this is the story of the most famous Scottish try of them all that brought, arguably, the greatest Scottish victory of them all – a 13-7 win at Murrayfield.
Taken from an updated edition of The Grudge, it’s the tale of a remarkable day when a seemingly invincible England team walked out into an atmosphere the like of which they had never experienced before and were undone by a momentous performance and a Tony Stanger try that will live forever in the memory…
Scotland coach Jim Telfer: It was Bannockburn and Culloden rolled into one. The press hyped it up. You had Margaret Thatcher and the poll tax thrown in. There was no escaping it. Was it different to a normal Calcutta Cup? Oh, aye.
England captain Will Carling: If you’d told me a week before that I’d have Margaret Thatcher, the poll tax, Butcher Cumberland and Bannockburn thrown at me, I’d have told you that you were on drugs. Butcher Cumberland? I’m not sure I’d even heard of him. They said I was Thatcher’s captain. The Scottish media stuck that label on me and everybody bought it. People just assumed things about me that were wrong. Most of my team-mates didn’t really know what was going on in my head so I don’t know how the Scots thought they did. Thatcher’s blue-eyed boy. Bloody stupid.
England hooker Brian Moore: If you’re faced with the barrage of abuse we got, what are you going to do? You’re going to bridle, aren’t you? That sort of atmosphere wasn’t in Ireland or France and it wasn’t even in Wales – and it was hardly pleasant down there. Because of all the things going on at the time in Scotland, the atmosphere was nasty. It was nasty and hard. Fair play, if I was a Scot in that climate I’d have been the same. Hatred is not the wrong word. Not on that day. It wouldn’t have gone into physical violence, but it was total enmity.
England flanker Peter Winterbottom: There was a harshness about it that was new. It was a bit of a gauntlet. It bothered some, but not me. I was thinking, ‘OK, that’s fine, we’ll soak this up and use it against you’.
England lock Wade Dooley: I was a bit like Winters. Soak up the abuse and let it inspire you. Look, it was bad, but I’d been through some hairy situations in the [police] force by then, so something like this wasn’t going to bother me. A while before, while I was off duty, some ****** pulled a gun on me. A house was being burgled and I disturbed them, they jumped in a car and couldn’t get it started and I was trying to open the door. The guy reached under his seat and pulled a shooter out and pushed it up against the window. I thought, ‘OK, I’ll back off now’. So when they told me to **** off back to England, I didn’t bat an eyelid. I just said, ‘We’ll see how smart you are later on’.
Scotland winger Iwan Tukalo: It was my 11th time playing at Murrayfield and the noise was never like this before. Or after.
England centre Jeremy Guscott: I’d never played a Test match in Edinburgh before. I’d heard everybody saying what a wonderful place it was, but I didn’t see that. As an Englishman you weren’t welcome there. As far as I was concerned I was just a young guy playing the game I loved. But in Scotland I figured out that the Calcutta Cup was more than rugby. I didn’t mind banter. I enjoyed it. But hate and jealousy, they’re evils really.
‘I tried to pick it up and dropped the thing’
England coach Geoff Cooke: We should have been in control of the game by half-time, instead of being 9-4 behind. But I was confident the points would come. Scotland had got lucky, that was my view. And they couldn’t get lucky the whole game.
Scotland full-back Gavin Hastings: I kicked off the second half, gave it too much welly and the ball went out on the full. First time I’d done it since my debut four years earlier.
Cooke: So we had a scrum back on the halfway line and I’m rubbing my hands. Excellent. We’ve rehearsed this a hundred times. It goes right, Hodgy [full-back Simon Hodgkinson] comes up from full-back and kicks it down in the corner and we’re back on the Scottish line.
Scotland hooker Kenny Milne: It was their put-in, but we got a wee movement in the scrum, about six inches. And six inches in a scrum is a lot.
England number eight Mike Teague: The ball came through the scrum at a hundred miles an hour. I tried to pick it up and dropped the thing.
England captain Will Carling: Iron Mike. The hardest rugby player around.
Cooke: Why Mike Teague went to pick it up, I don’t know.
England flanker Mick Skinner: You could ask Teaguey, but I bet he wouldn’t know himself.
Teague: I knew what I was doing. I didn’t hear them complaining when I picked it up at the back of the scrum and made the surge for our try. I didn’t hear them giving out when I tried it again a few minutes later and ran about a mile and a half downfield. I did it because it had worked the two times I’d tried it before.
‘This will sound strange, but I don’t really remember it’
Scotland flanker John Jeffrey: It was our scrum now. What happened with Teaguey made me all the more conscious that I had to get the pick-up spot-on. We called a set move: Fiji. We’d tried it in the first half and it went wrong.
Scotland scrum-half Gary Armstrong: That was my fault. Gavin gave me a **********.
Jeffrey: We needed fast ball and we got it. I was up and away, drew in the wing-forward, and gave it to Gary.
Armstrong: The first time we did it, I gave the pass to Gav too early. I wasn’t making that mistake again. I held it and held it, waited for Rob Andrew and Mike Teague to get to me and then let it go.
Hastings: I was looking for a gap to run into, but there wasn’t one. Rory Underwood was coming across to me. I’d no choice. I had to kick it. Just kick it infield a bit and hope that someone was around to chase it.
Jeffrey: The ball was in the air. It was Stanger versus [Rory] Underwood. Our fastest guy against their fastest guy.
Scotland winger Stanger: I was just glad to be there. The week before I was playing for Hawick against Stewart’s Melville and Alex Brewster fell on me and my collarbone shot out. Until the Wednesday that week, it didn’t look as if I was going to be able to play. The sorest movement was when I put my hands above my head. Creamy [Jim Telfer] put me through a tackling and rucking session with the forwards and it was unbelievably hard. I survived, but I was thinking, ‘Am I being stupid here? Will I let everybody down? I reckoned I’d be fine as long as I didn’t have to lift my arms directly above my head. And what were the chances of that?
Skinner: I’m running behind the two boys, knowing that the bounce is crucial. It bounces straight or a bit to the left, then Stanger scores. It bounces a bit to the right and Underwood saves us. The Jocks got the right bounce.
Stanger: This will sound strange, but I don’t really remember it. I look at the video now and it’s like somebody else scored that try. I can’t quite believe that it’s me. I don’t remember seeing the ball in the air in front of me. I think instinct had taken over. Like driving a car. You go from A to C and sometimes you can’t remember going through B, but you did. Chasing the kick, reaching up for the ball, I did it automatically, without even thinking. It was only later that I thought about my collarbone – and then suddenly I was in pain again.
‘Tony didn’t touch it down’
Teague: A bloke comes into my bar in Gloucester and says, ‘You’re Mike Teague, you ****** up at that scrum in Murrayfield’. This was in 2008!
Jeffrey: I’m not sure Tony got the ball down, you know.
Telfer: I maintain it wasn’t a try. He didn’t touch it down.
Teague: Now you tell me.
Telfer: Every time I’ve seen it I think, ‘Look at that, the most famous try in the history of Scottish rugby and he didn’t get it down’.
Stanger: It was a definite try.
Telfer: It’s always been dubious to me.