Flashback: Scotland’s September surprise

Date published: September 21 2016

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In the latest edition of our series, we look back at this week in history and pick out a key moment from rugby’s archives.

For this edition we’re going back to 2001, when after a delay due to the outbreak of foot and mouth Scotland caused an upset.

September 22, 2001

The 2001 Six Nations began around the usual time in February however instead of the customary March finish, that year’s tournament wasn’t wrapped up until October.

The outbreak of foot and mouth disease cost the UK around £8 billion and resulted in the deaths of around ten million sheep and cattle, with transport bans introduced to stop the spread.

Three of Ireland’s matches were postponed as a result and the first of those came against Scotland, over seven months since Ireland’s win over France and Scotland’s 28-28 draw with Wales.

Sir Ian McGeechan was back in charge for a second stint as head coach, seven years after he first stepped down in 1993, and having won only once in the four regular matches that Scotland played during February and March, against Italy, a result was much-needed.

What followed was a surprise. Ireland had not won at Murrayfield for 16 years but still, they were a talented group set for a showdown with England later in October (a game they would go on to win too).

Ireland couldn’t find a gear as Scotland slotted seamlessly into fifth after the end of a pointless first quarter. A break from centre John Leslie led to the opening try of the match from Budge Pountney, converted from out wide by Chris Paterson.

Things got better for the hosts before half-time, a Paterson penalty and try from prop Tom Smith giving the Scots an eye-opening 17-0 lead.

Three missed penalties from the boot of Ronan O’Gara meant that Ireland had struggled to gain a foothold in the contest until they finally registered some points in the 49th minute, O’Gara conquering the yips.

But with such a flimsy defence the Irish stood no chance, Leslie again the man for Scotland tearing through and this time adding his own name to the scoresheet with Scotland’s third try, converted once more by Paterson to make it 27-3.

And it only got better for the 67,500 at Murrayfield supporting the home side, when Andrew Henderson marked his international debut with a try, after another Paterson penalty, to leave Scotland ahead 32-3 in the closing stages.

Girvan Dempsey’s late try offered Ireland some consolation but the faces of Ronan O’Gara, Geordan Murphy and Anthony Foley said it all. Scotland had pulled off a hell of an upset.

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Pountney, T Smith, Leslie, Henderson
Cons: Paterson 3
Pen: Paterson

For Ireland:
Try: Dempsey
Con: Humphreys
Pen: O’Gara

Scotland: 15 Glenn Metcalfe, 14 Jon Steel, 13 James McLaren, 12 John Leslie, 11 Chris Paterson, 10 Gregor Townsend, 9 Bryan Redpath, 8 Simon Taylor, 7 Budge Pountney, 6 Gordon Simpson, 5 Scott Murray, 4 Jason White, 3 Mattie Stewart, 2 Gordon Bulloch, 1 Tom Smith
Replacements: 16 Steve Scott, 17 George Graham, 18 Stuart Grimes, 19 Jon Petrie, 20 Andy Nicol, 21 Duncan Hodge, 22 Andrew Henderson

Ireland: 15 Girvan Dempsey, 14 Geordan Murphy, 13 Brian O’Driscoll, 12 Shane Horgan, 11 Denis Hickie, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Guy Easterby, 8 Anthony Foley, 7 Kieron Dawson, 6 Simon Easterby, 5 Malcolm O’Kelly, 4 Jeremy Davidson, 3 John Hayes, 2 Keith Wood, 1 Peter Clohessy
Replacements: 16 Frankie Sheahan, 17 Emmet Byrne, 18 Gary Longwell, 19 David Wallace, 20 Peter Stringer, 21 David Humphreys, 22 Kevin Maggs

Referee: Chris White (England)

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