The Calcutta Cup – Five of the Best

Calcutta Cup. England v Scotland. Rugby Union. Twickenham.

With this weekend’s Calcutta Cup looking likely to be the most competitive in years, I wanted to take an affectionate look at five of the best clashes between England and Scotland.

There’s an ancient rivalry between the two nations stretching way beyond the sports pitch from Bannockburn to the Reformation through to the Independence Referendum and probable rematch.  Perhaps my favourite comment on the relationship between the two nations comes from Renton in Trainspotting: “Some people hate the English, but I don’t. They’re just wankers. We, on the other hand, are colonised by wankers.”  I’ll leave that one for you to chew over.

The first Calcutta Cup match was played in 1879 and ended in a 3-3 draw.  The tally now stands at 70-39 in England’s favour with 14 draws.  There have been a few notable upsets (from an English point of view) over the years and it always seems to be these that stick in the memory.


1926: Scotland Shatter England’s Pristine Record

Scotland won the match 17-9 and became the first home nation to beat England at Twickenham.

The result was shrouded in a very 1920s controversy.  The Scots refused to wear numbers on their shrits in protest that “this is a rugby match and not a cattle sale”.  Apparently, King George V was particularly keen on their wearing numbers.


1974: Irvine’s Late Winner

The match was won by a late 45-yard penalty kick from Scotland and Lions Full-Back Andy Irvine.

A tense finish to the match, the successful kick prompted a more than indiscrete leap of celebration by the Scottish touch judge: shocking!

Irvine was one of the great Scottish Full-Backs and a Lions superstar too, he scored 12 of Scotland’s 16 points on the day.


1980: England’s Grand Slam

England ended a long barren spell with a Calcutta Cup win at Murrayfield that brought them the Grand Slam and their first Five Nations Championship since 1963.

We’re all familiar with the pictures of England Captain Bill Beaumont being chaired off the Murrayfield pitch after the game but it was a hat-trick from John Carleton, the first by an England since 1924, that secured England’s to a 30-18 win.

Bill B


1990: Scotland’s Grand Slam

This is first Calcutta Cup clash that I remember and it’s a real classic.  Both sides came into the match on three wins apiece and the scene was set for a deciding match for the then Five Nations Grand Slam decider.

Scotland Captain David Sole famously led his team out slowly onto the Murrayfield pitch which drove the crowd wild and obviously affected the England team.  England Captain Will Carling made some odd decisions that day, going for tries when kickable penalties were available.  Scotland won 13-7 and took the Grand Slam – they haven’t got close since.


2000: Scotland Spoil England’s Grand Slam

2000, a new Millennium and a new tournament, the Five Nations became the Six Nations and what would become the greatest England team ever looked to be on their way to a Grand Slam.

England were captained by Matt Dawson that day and failed to adapt to the awful conditions which saw driving rain for much of the match.  The crowd got behind Scotland (which isn’t always guaranteed at Murrayfield) and Duncan Hodge’s try helped the home team to a 19-13 win.

Andy N

Many will remember the image of Andy Nicol lifting the Calcutta Cup with blood running down his chin.  Some may also remember a shell-shocked and exhausted Matt Dawson forgetting to collect the Six Nations Trophy from the Princess Royal.



As for 2017, it’s nicely poised.  Scotland have found some great form under Verne Cotter and England have yet to fully hit their stride this year.  I expect an England victory, possibly a classic to feature in future blogs.

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