Great cross-border skirmishes enriched by history

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The great Billy McNeill will not talk about the match, even now

The great Billy McNeill will not talk about the match, even now

All this England v Scotland ballyhoo has inspired me to trawl through the archives, and through the memories of some celebrated sports fanatics, such as Bill McLaren, in search of classic encounters between the two countries. Here are 10, including confrontations between individuals as well as teams. And, just to show I'm not partisan, the score is 5-3 to Scotland, with two honourable draws.

1. Scotland 14 England 11, Murrayfield, 1925. Not only was this the inaugural rugby international at Murrayfield, but, by winning it, Scotland clinched their first Grand Slam, an achievement unequalled until 1984. A powerful English side was leading 11-10 when Herbert Waddell kicked a spectacular drop-goal, then worth four points.

2. Benny Lynch v Peter Kane, Glasgow, 1937. Lynch, a ferocious, precocious flyweight, was a legend in his own abbreviated lifetime and many still consider him to be the best fighter to come out of Scotland. In October 1937, aged 24, "oor Benny" successfully defended his world title in front of 40,000 home fans. It was one of the century's greatest fights. Kane, from Manchester, was only 19, yet unbeaten in 41 bouts. He put up stiff resistance before Lynch prevailed, knocking him over twice in the 13th round. Sadly, Lynch, an alcoholic since his teens, was hardly ever sober from that moment on. He was found dying in a Glasgow gutter in August 1946.

3. England 16 Scotland 21, Twickenham, 1938. Watched by an impressionable teenager from Hawick, name of Billy McLaren, the Scottish captain Wilson Shaw scored two virtuoso tries to seal a famous victory. It went down in the annals as "Shaw's match".

4. England 9 Scotland 3, Wembley, 1961. Note the venue. Despite the scoreline, this was football, not rugby, and included a Jimmy Greaves hat-trick. Frank Haffey was the hapless Scottish goalkeeper, and Glasgow pub legend asserts that he emigrated to Australia the following day. In fact, he went the following year. The Scotland centre-half that day, the great Billy McNeill, will not talk about the match even now. In a whitewash worthy of Stalinist Russia, there is no mention of it in his autobiography

5. England 3 Scotland 3, Twickenham, 1965. Bill McLaren, back as a commentator, remembers this game principally for a marvellous English try (then worth three points) in the dying seconds. A Scottish victory seemed assured, but was thwarted by the England winger, Andy Hancock. "He had run 80 yards on a muddy, wet, cloying pitch," McLaren recalls. "And when he finally dived over in the corner, absolutely exhausted, he heard someone in the stand shout: 'Behind the posts, you bloody fool!' "

6. England 2 Scotland 3, Wembley, 1967. England were reigning world champions, which made victory even sweeter for the Scots. It was, moreover, a one-sided affair, embodied by the imperious Jim Baxter, who had the effrontery to play "keepy-uppy" while England desperately tried to get the ball. The Scots taunted their opponents verbally, too, with the fiery Alan Ball the main target. Throughout the match, Baxter kept asking him whether he was [the tiny, squeaky-voiced comedian] Jimmy Clitheroe's son.

7. England 5 Scotland 1, Wembley, 1975. Payback time. The 1967 match had, in the words of the distinguished Scottish sports writer Graham Spiers, given the Scots "an inflated opinion of their own brilliance" which lasted for years afterwards. It finally crumbled in this home international, in which Kevin Keegan played a blinder. This time, the hapless Scottish goalkeeper was Stewart Kennedy, who had recently been an eminent part of a treble-winning Rangers side. Some say he was never the same again after this crushing defeat. He didn't leg it to Australia, like Frank Haffey, but he did go to play for Forfar Athletic.

8. Allan Wells v Mike McFarlane, Brisbane, 1982. Wells was the reigning Olympic 100m champion and 200m silver medallist when he lined up against Mike McFarlane in the Commonwealth Games 200m final. Accordingly, the Scotsman was hot favourite, but McFarlane matched his blistering pace and the race finished in a dead heat, extremely rare in this age of split-second timekeeping.

9. Sandy Lyle v Nick Faldo, Wentworth, 1988. In the World Matchplay Championship final, Lyle was one down with five to play but recorded four consecutive birdies to win 2 and 1. It was especially satisfying because the pair had some history, dating back to the Safari Tour in the late 1970s, when Faldo got Lyle disqualified for taping the head of his putter to block the sun's reflection.

10. Scotland 6 England 9, Murrayfield 1991. It wasn't pretty, but it took England to the World Cup Final. Scotland's full-back Gavin Hastings, who missed an easy penalty to take the lead with time running out, was not a happy bunny.

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