50 games that defined Scottish rugby: part five

The final leg of The Offside Line’s whistle-stop tour of 163 years of thrills, spills, glory and despair ... with the odd brush with the bizarre along the way

Scotland Greig Laidlaw calls after referee Craig Joubert as he runs from the pitch immediately after the final whistle of Australia's controversial World Cup quarter-final victory. Image: FOTOSPORT/DAVID GIBSON

THE final instalment of The Offside Line’s trip down memory lane to revisit the games which defined Scottish Rugby involves Glasgow Warriors and Edinburgh finally earning their spurs in Europe, heartbreak for the national team on the biggest stages, some significant developments in the women’s game and that thing that happened in Yokohama.

Read through all of our selections and let us know what you think? Which games have we erroneously forgotten? Or have we hit all 50 nails on the head?

Previous articles in this series:

50 games that defined Scottish rugby: part one

50 games that defined Scottish rugby: part two

50 games that defined Scottish rugby: part three

50 games that defined Scottish rugby: part four


17th January 2009 – Toulouse 26 Glasgow Warriors 33

One of the biggest shocks in Heineken Cup history saw Sean Lineen’s side stun the three-time champions in this pool match at the Stade Ernest Wallon – despite the fact that they already knew they could not reach the quarter-finals. Tries from Graeme Morrison and Kelly Brown helped Glasgow to a 23-3 half-time lead, Max Evans added a third after the break, and the boot of Dan Parks did the rest. Some tangible evidence, at long last, that a Scottish pro team might be able to compete among the higher echelons of European rugby.

Glasgow Warriors players Colin Gregor, Richie Vernon and John Barclay celebrate their historic win against Toulouse Image: Fotosport/Cleva Media
Glasgow Warriors players Colin Gregor, Richie Vernon and John Barclay celebrate their historic win against Toulouse Image: Fotosport/Cleva Media


20th March 2010 – Ireland 20 Scotland 23

Following 12 matches unbeaten against Ireland over a timeframe that spanned the 1990s, the rugby fortunes of the two nations swung almost full circle after the turn of the century, with the team in blue managing just two wins at home against their rivals in green throughout the noughties. All in all, it had been a fairly desperate decade for the national team, but there were a few highs – most notably this remarkable win over the previous year’s Grand Slam champions played at the magnificent Croke Park due to Lansdowne Road being under reconstruction.

It was the final match of the Six Nations, Scotland were looking to avoid the Wooden Spoon, and Ireland were still in with a shout of claiming the championship despite a 33-10 loss in Paris in round two.

The underdogs had their day, with Dan Parks kicking five penalties and a drop-goal, and the undoubted highlight being Johnnie Beattie’s barrelling run over Geordan Murphy, Paul O’Connell and Gordon Darcy for what proved to be the game’s decisive try.


28th April 2012 – Ulster 22 Edinburgh 19 

Edinburgh’s march to the semi-final of the Heineken Cup was as spectacular as it was unexpected. Their Celtic League form was woeful and they ended the 2011-12 campaign second bottom of the table, with only six wins from 22 matches, ahead of only doomed Aironi. However, in Europe they were a completely different proposition, with their run to the last four including a sensational comeback 48-47 victory over Racing 92 in the pool stage, and a 19-14 quarter-final over mighty Toulouse in front of almost 38,000 fans at Murrayfield in the quarter-final.

Sadly, the bandwagon hit the buffers in the semi-final, when South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar did the damage for Ulster as they booked their second ever final appearance in the Heineken Cup, 13 years after lifting the trophy.


30th May 2015 – Munster 13 Glasgow Warriors 31

A grand day out in Belfast saw Gregor Townsend’s Glasgow win the PRO12 final with a majestic display of attacking rugby. After the loss of two semi-finals and a final in the preceding three years, there was a feeling that the Warriors’ time had come, and so it proved. The tries came from Rob Harley, DTH van der Merwe, Henry Pyrgos and Finn Russell, but the key man was Leone Nakarawa, at the height of his powers as a creative force.

Warriors captain Al Kellock raises the PRO12 trophy. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson
Warriors captain Al Kellock raises the PRO12 trophy. Image: Fotosport/David Gibson


18th October 2015 – Australia 35 Scotland 34

Scotland were minutes away from completing a stunning upset at Twickenham and going through to their first World Cup semi-final since 1991 when up stepped Craig Joubert. As World Rugby later admitted, the referee mistakenly awarded the Wallabies a penalty instead of a scrum, allowing Bernard Foley to score the winning points. It was a desperately disappointing way to end one of the finest Scots performances of recent decades, yet still highlighted the substantial progress they had made under head coach Vern Cotter.


24th February 2017 – Scotland 15 Wales 14

After years of being under-supported by the SRU, the national women’s team began to make slow but steady progress once Shade Munro took over as head coach in 2015, and this narrow victory at Broadwood was their first competitive win since 2010. The fact that the team recovered from a 14-0 deficit testified to their renewed self-belief, and they went on to beat Italy at home a few weeks later.

Scotland Women celebrate their historic victory over Wales. Image: ©Craig Watson
Scotland Women celebrate their historic victory over Wales. Image: © Craig Watson


18th November 2017 – Scotland 17 New Zealand 22

Scotland have, of course, never beaten New Zealand in 31 full-cap internationals played between the two countries since their first encounter in 1905. They managed to hold them to draws in 1964 [0-0] and in 1983 [25-25], and had another golden opportunity here, when the Scots battled back from 3-15 down with around an hour played to have the tourists on the ropes [and down to 14 men due to Wyatt Crockett’s sin-binning] for the last four minutes.

Then, with less than 15 seconds left on the clock, Huw Jones released Hogg with an inside pass and the full-back burst clear, but somehow Beauden Barrett got across to make the last ditch tackle on the left touchline, just ten yards from glory, and a desperate attempt to feed the ball back inside drifted forwards. The final whistle blew, leaving Hogg and his team-mates with head in hands, contemplating their near brush with immortality.

Stuart Hogg's offload back infield strays agonisingly forward. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson
Stuart Hogg’s offload back infield strays agonisingly forward. Image: ©Fotosport/David Gibson


16th March 2019 – England 38 Scotland 38

The year before, Scotland had beaten England 25-13 at Murrayfield in what was perhaps their best display under Gregor Townsend. Any chance of retaining the Calcutta Cup at Twickenham seemed to have vanished as England raced into a 31-0 lead, but then a barely plausible comeback – arguably the team’s best spell of play since France in 1999 – saw Scotland score 38 unanswered points before a late reply from the home team claimed a draw.

Darcy Graham was the king of the castle at Twickenham in 2019
Darcy Graham was the king of the castle at Twickenham in 2019


27th April 2019 – Hillhead Jordanhill 17 Watsonians 21

Between them, Hillhead-Jordanhill and Murrayfield Wanderers had won the Sarah Beaney Cup for the eight previous years, mirroring their duopoly in the league. Hill-Jills had also beaten Watsonians comfortably the previous year, but the Myreside club gave proof of how rapidly they had progressed since then by first taking the game to their opponents through the likes of captain Nicola Nightingale and Megan Gaffney, and then closing the game out with some dogged defence.


13th October 2019 – Scotland 3 Ireland 27

Gregor Townsend’s side travelled to Japan with high hopes after a meticulously organised summer of training and a fairly encouraging warm-up series, but they were blown away in their opening match against an Ireland team who hade kept their powder dry during the pre-match build-up before showing their opponents that reputations are not claimed but earned when it really matters. Three tries scored by tight-five forwards inside the opening half-hour killed the game as a contest.

Losing to Ireland, ranked No 1 in the world at that time, was not a disaster, but the manner of the defeat was a harrowing experience for all those who witnessed it – not least the players, many of whom appeared shell-shocked during the long eight days which followed before some of them got a chance to make some amends with a 34-0 win over Samoa in Kobe.

Townsend had gone for experience against Ireland, which was a miscalculation. As the campaign progressed, youngsters such as Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury and Scott Cummings became more and more influential, suggesting that while Japan 2019 was a big disappointment, there remains cause for optimism that better days might lie ahead.

The defeat to Japan in the final pool match, which condemned Scotland to an early exit, was nowhere near as disappointing. That was the host nation’s day – they were magnificent.

Ali Price and Stuart McInally are left desolate after their WorldCup opening match hammering by Ireland. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Ali Price and Stuart McInally are left desolate after their WorldCup opening match hammering by Ireland. Image: © Craig Watson – www.craigwatson.co.uk

Colin Rigby and Keith Wallace stand for SRU Vice-Presidency


  1. A great series. Warts and all, well researched and written. A credit to all involved.

  2. Excellent series of articles. Would have tried to squeeze in the two sevens wins at Twickenham, especially the second one as it included our only victory over New Zealand. Also thought putting 50 on Australia worth a mention bad it’s only time we’ve done that to a tier one nation.

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