Over the years, Wales against Scotland has thrown up some fantastic encounters, and the game in 1988 was no different. As a teenager at the time, I watched this match many times and especially two of the tries scored, both exceptional in their own right. Join me as I take a trip down memory lane, which will hopefully get your juices flowing for the upcoming clash between the two on the weekend.
The date was 20th February 1988. Wales came into the game off a famous victory against England at Twickenham, famous for two Adrian Hadley tries. The second, a free flowing attack involving backs and forwards, was finished by Hadley when he somehow withstood a tackle from the tackling machine that was England’s outside half, Les Cusworth, and scored in the corner. Wales had shown their willingness to attack in that victory, and they kept the same mindset going into this match.
Scotland were captained by hooker Gary Callender, and had some fine players in their ranks. In the backs, the Hastings brothers Gavin and Scott, Alan Tait and Roy Laidlaw, as well as their outstanding back row trio of John Jeffery, Derek White and Finlay Calder. Calder, only a year later would captain The British and Irish Lions to a series victory in Australia.
At half time, Scotland were leading seventeen points to ten, a lead Gavin Hastings extended shortly after the break with a penalty goal. The stage was set for an epic Welsh comeback.
The first Welsh try was scored by outside half, Jonathan Davies. Wales had a scrum in a good attacking position, however the Scotland forwards put in a strong shove, forcing the ball to fly out of the back of the scrum. Robert Jones was forced into an improvised reverse pass, a move the highly skilled player was capable of doing.
The pass found Davies, who jinked past openside flanker Calder, and then put in a grubber kick. Davies was in full flight and his acceleration took him past number eight White, who on the turn had no chance to get to the ball first. After he touched down, Davies gave White a knowing look, as if to say I can do that to you at anytime. It was a fantastic individual effort.
The second memorable try was scored by a Welsh winger who for many years was outstanding; Ieuan Evans. The try started yet again from a scrum. Scotland got a wheel on, but Paul Moriarty showed great ball control at the back. Robert Jones whipped a pass out to Jonathan Davies who moved the ball inside to inside centre Bleddyn Bowen.
The centre put in a great pass to his midfield partner Mark Ring, which pushed Ring outside of his marker, the Scottish centre, Alan Tait. Adrain Hadley had come in off his wing and took the pass from Ring, before taking the tackle of fellow winger, Scotland’s Iwan Tukalo. Instead of setting up a ruck however, he offloaded to Ring who had come around on the loop. Ring took the pass low down to his ankles, he stumbled, but quickly shipped the ball onto Ieuan Evans. It was a wonderful bit of skill by Ring to take the low pass and regain his balance before putting in a great pass to the ever dangerous Evans as quickly as possible.
Evans took the pass and stepped inside off his left foot past Gavin Hastings. He then kept stepping inside off his left foot past five Scottish defenders, before straightening up and evading a desperate attempt by Scottish loosehead prop David Sole. In truth, Sole had done very well, given the speed of the move, to get back into a try saving position. Sole grabbed the legs of Evans, but it was too late, the Welsh winger was in for the try. A fantastic team effort.
Scotland also played their part in this fantastic game, scoring two tries of their own via winger Matt Duncan and back rower Finlay Calder, plus four penalties from full back Gavin Hastings. Wales came out on top though; another try was scored by hooker Ian Watkins and was backed up by two conversions and a penalty from Paul Thorburn and two drop goals from Jonathan Davies.
None of Thorburn’s kicks were of a distance of the encounter two years earlier, when he thumped a penalty over from inside his own ten yard line. The legendary commentator Bill McLaren commented at the contact of the rugby ball with Thorburn’s boot “He has given it hell of a belt,” and continued to enthuse as the ball sailed over the posts.
Wales would come out on top in the encounter in 1988, twenty five points to twenty, and would go on to beat Ireland and win the triple crown, as well as sharing the Championship that season with France. It was a fantastic match and as a Welshman one of my all time favourites.