Rugby Union / Five Nstions' Championship: Callard's boot route to history: Ken Jones recounts a moment of drama that made a strong man cry

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The Independent Online
ONE WAY or another, Jon Callard was about to boot himself into history and you could imagine the thoughts that filled his mind.

Longish. Probably 40 metres. No wind to speak of. Not a difficult angle. So relax. Take a deep breath, concentrate on technique and give it plenty.

Every so often there are moments in sport to remind us that drama is its life blood. This was one of them, the tension supercharged with all eyes at Murrayfield focused on the Bath full-back as, in injury time, he wound up for the pressure kick that would settle an indifferent but nevertheless gripping game.

Now the clock had lost all meaning. Time literally stood still. A Scottish reporter, shedding all impartiality, muttered: 'Miss it, go on, miss it.'

It had not been a perfect day for Callard behind an England pack that had lost its early momentum and then wilted under aerial bombardment, but he was up to the task.

The purity of Callard's strike was immediately evident, the raising of the touch judges' flags an agonising formality for the Scottish players and their supporters. So close to a famous victory, but now only the silver lining of a performance that set aside recent humiliations.

'At least we've proved that Scottish rugby isn't for the knacker's yard,' growled a former internationalist, drawing some consolation from a stirring effort by the underdogs.

All week England had paid serious account to the complacency blamed for the defeat at Murrayfield in 1990, one that cost them a Grand Slam.

Please, no foolishness this time, and not a hint of it in the intensity of a blitzkrieg that suggested Scotland would be fortunate to avoid another slaughter.

When things began to go wrong for England, it was difficult to figure out why, though the return of a reluctant Scottish hero, Gary Armstrong, and a policy based on traditional Celtic virtues had a great deal to do with it.

The England manager, Geoff Cooke, could not recall so many unforced errors, never such a spate of fumbling, his understandable conclusion being that France would capitalise crucially on such untidiness.

A popular conclusion, one that no Englishman can dispute, is that their team got out of gaol. 'You've never seen so many relieved faces,' somebody said on the flight to London.

No wonder. A minute before a Scottish hand carelessly snatched at the ball to give Callard an opportunity to consolidate his place in history, Murrayfield was high on the prospect of a remarkable resurrection.

What joy when Gregor Townsend emphasised his enormous potential by hoisting Scotland ahead with a drop kick, just reward for the unflagging commitment of their forwards and sterling work by the backs.

Then, agonisingly, victory was snatched from their grasp. A look of utter disbelief crossed the faces of the Scottish players and it wasn't the sound of English cheers that was loud - but the sound of Scottish silence.

It was reported that Gavin Hastings shed tears in the tunnel. Not what you expect of a strong man but, on this occasion, understandable.

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