by STUART RUTHERFORD
SPORTING contests are so often determined by a single piece of inspiration: from Johnny Wilkinson’s 2003 World-Cup winning drop-goal in Sydney, to Tiger Woods’ now iconic chip shot at the 2005 Masters, the sporting history books are littered with individual moments of magic that seem to transcend through the ages. However, there is one flash of genius that has perhaps been left neglected when discussing rugby’s greatest moments by those who did not witness it first hand. But those who recall Scotland’s stunning victory over Wales in the 1951 Five Nations, will undoubtedly agree that ‘Kininmonth’s kick’ should be held in as high regard as the aforementioned triumphs.
When Wales travelled to Edinburgh in February of 1951, the clash was labelled by the press as a real-life ‘David versus Goliath’ encounter. The Scottish press were warranted in their apprehension for a variety of reasons. With twelve of the visiting fifteen having recently returned from the Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand the previous summer, the Welsh squad contained super-stars from top to bottom; and a fortnight previously they had made mincemeat of a talented England side, with a final score of 23-5 representing a minor thrashing under the old scoring system.
Scotland were written off before a single pass, kick or tackle was been made. With an average age of just 21 – they were labelled as a boyish team of unknowns.
David may have defeated Goliath with a slingshot, but in February 1951 Scotland had their own weapon in the boot of number eight: Peter Kininmonth.
With the home-side leading 3-0 and looking for inspiration, Kininmonth collected a loose clearance kick on the touchline before launching an immaculate drop-goal of his own. The strike split the uprights and the rest, as they say, is history. Scotland would go on to win 19-0, which at the time, was the second biggest margin of victory ever by a Scotland team over Wales.
Donald Scott was one those unheralded youngsters that glorious afternoon. The centre, who was playing in only his third international match, would go on to make ten appearances for Scotland over three years. It wasn’t a particularly auspicious period in the national team’s history. After the Wales game, Scotland went 17 matches without a win before eventually breaking their duck against Wales, again, in 1955.
Scott tasted victory only twice in the dark blue jersey and played in the 44-0 defeat at the hands of South Africa in November 1951, labelled the ‘Murrayfield Massacre’. So it is no great surprise that Kininmonth’s kick ranks near the top of his rugby memories.
“I was right behind it and the moment he struck it, you knew it was flying over. And that, of course, knocked a bit of the stuffing out of the Welsh. There was no doubt at all, it lifted us as a team,” recalls the sprightly 88-year-old.
“Ian Thomson kicked a penalty to put us 3-0 up and that had a great effect upon us, because here we are at half-time, the Welsh haven’t got any points yet and we’re still in this game. Then low and behold,we attacked again: David Rose kicked ahead and Gerwyn Williams tried to clear, but didn’t find touch. Then Peter Kininmouth, who was a back-row – but had played in the back division whilst attending Sedbergh School – got this ball out on the touchline, pirouetted, took aim, and next thing you know it was sailing between the posts.”
“Funnily enough I was standing within a yard or two of the clearance kick, and I really thought it was mine because I was standing right underneath it, but then I hear this big booming voice from Peter saying ‘My Ball’. Well: A, he was the captain; and B, he was about six foot three, so there was no way I was going to get in his way!”
Scott put in a fine performance against Wales, setting up Bob Gordon for the first of his two tries that afternoon; but he had not been as satisfied after his debut the previous February, when a poor showing against Ireland in a 21-0 loss at Lansdowne Road left him convinced that he would never play for Scotland again. Fortunately he was given a chance to redeem himself in the final match of the 1950 Five Nations and did enough in a 13-11 victory over England to ensure that he was given another chance against Wales the following year.
“Although we were written off from the start, it was a different feeling altogether in the dressing room,” reveals Scott. “Peter Kininmonth was the captain but Douglas Elliot of Edinburgh Accies was the real leader. He was a great back-row forward and no matter the opposition, he always thought he was going to win.”
“I remember he said: ‘Let’s forget about the press. Wales are just fifteen blokes’. So I asked: ‘Well, what can we do?’ And I’ll always remember his response. He just looked at me dead in the eye and said: ‘Tackle, tackle, tackle. They may have great three-quarters, and they will will want to run and show how good they are, but they can’t run if they are lying on the ground’.”
Tackle Scotland did. Scott, alongside his centre partner, Donald Sloan, formed a brick wall in Scotland’s midfield. Whilst a back-row – which Scott happily admits were offside “80 percent of the time” – put the visiting stand-off under an immense amount of pressure.
“We gave Glyn Davies no time at all to pass the ball. Every time he received the ball, he was getting mauled by Scottish forwards. So, eventually they swapped Davies with Lewis Jones in the centre, who was their new wonder boy. You could probably compare him to a Stuart Hogg of today’s rugby.”
“It was a great move for Jones – he could play anywhere in the back-line – but it wasn’t so good a move for Davies. He really wasn’t so accustomed to playing in the centre.”
“With Davies in the midfield, I was able to take a pass and nip through the centre channel. I remember haring for the line and thinking: ‘I’m going to just about get there’ – but then I suddenly saw a shadow on my left. I couldn’t tell whether it was a Welshman or a Scotsman supporting me, so thought I better play it safe here. I could I see Bob Gordon on my right, so I shipped him the ball for the easy try.”
“We had a laugh afterwards. I said: ‘You only had about three or four steps to take for the try!’ But he seemed to think he had about twenty!”
With two tries on the day, Gordon received his fair share of praise from both his team-mates and the media, however, Scott is keen to mention the impact of full-back Ian Thomson, who at the age of 19 slotted a penalty and a conversion on his international debut.
“Tommy Gray ended up extremely ill and called off at about eleven o’clock on the morning of the match. Tommy was an ex RAF pilot and actually lost part of his foot in the war, so had to have a boot specially made to fit. However, he luckily played for Northampton, which was a great shoe manufacturing town!”
“So they had to start looking for Ian, who wasn’t even a reserve prior to kick-off. They ended up going to his house, but he wasn’t there. So there was this mass search party looking for him and I think they eventually found him walking along Princes Street.”
The match was played in front of a then record crowd of 80,000 spectators, which Scott believes was a major factor behind his side’s breathtaking performance.
“You definitely felt how large a crowd it was. The kick-off was delayed because some Welshmen weren’t able to get in straight away and so set about climbing over fences and kicking them down. Eventually they had to walk in the stadium and sit on the grass in front of the schoolboys’ enclosure, which ran round the pitch,” he explains.
“When we ran out, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a noise like it. It was just a resounding wall of sound: ‘Scotland, Scotland.’ Honestly, it was absolutely mesmerising and you felt the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You really felt: We can’t let these guys down!”
As Scotland prepare to face a strong and improving Welsh side this Saturday, they can perhaps take some inspiration from Scott’s generation who, against the odds, pulled off the most unlikely of victories in stunning fashion. Following the 1951 victory, famed Welsh rugby star Wilf Wooller claimed that Scotland: “Did everything with the ball except swallow it!” Scotland may need the same herculean effort if they are to triumph this weekend – but don’t expect any drop-goals from Ryan Wilson.