'Lucky Jim' hopes to pass on some fortune at Murrayfield

Winger from the last Scotland team to hold the All Blacks says they have 'nothing to lose'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The result of the All Blacks' last match, a drawn affair against Australia in Brisbane three weeks ago, is logged on their website as "LOST 18-18." Asked whether the world champions considered it a defeat, their backs coach Ian Foster replied: "Yep, it certainly felt like it."

That being the case, The Independent enquired whether Scotland might consider they had already achieved their holy grail, having drawn 0-0 against New Zealand at Murrayfield in 1964 and more thrillingly 25-25 in the west end of Edinburgh in 1983? Foster gave a wry chuckle. "That's fine," he said. "You write whatever you want," he said.

It just so happens that the wiry winger who dramatically secured that epic draw in November 1983, Jim Pollock, will be among the full house 67,500 crowd at Murrayfield tomorrow to see whether the Caledonian class of 2012 can achieve an undisputed points victory against the world's No 1 rugby union nation for the first time. "Lucky Jim," he was dubbed when he appeared on the international scene in the 1980s – not because of any similarity to the central character in the Kingsley Amis novel of that name but because the Gosforth winger with the gold coloured hair (well, ginger at any rate) brought a Midas touch to the Scotland XV of that era.

He scored on his debut against Wales in 1982, Scotland's first win at the Arms Park for 20 years, and played in the 22-12 win at Twickenham in 1983, which remains the Scots' last success on England's home patch. He also appeared in three of the four matches in Scotland's Grand Slam campaign of 1984. Pollock, though, is best remembered for the late try he scored the last time Scotland succeeded in avoiding defeat against the men in black.

It was on 12 November 1983, and the All Blacks, captained by Stu Wilson, were leading 25-21 when Jim got lucky. "We'd been practising this move for 90 minutes in a gale-force wind the day before – miss one, chip into the corner – and I kept running down the wing getting nowhere near the ball," he recalled, with a chuckle. "Fortunately practise makes perfect because on the day this chip from David Johnston was spot on. Bernie Fraser came up in the line and I ran past him and fortunately outpaced a couple of people to score in the right-hand corner."

In those days of four points for a try, the scores were tied at 25-25. Peter Dods, Scotland's full-back, gave the touchline conversion a mighty whack but missed the posts by a whisker.

There was more drama to come, though. "New Zealand threw everything and the kitchen sink at us to secure victory," Pollock recalled. "They came down the blind side inside our 22 and I stepped out and tackled Bernie Fraser without the ball. Play went on and New Zealand got a penalty which was eminently kickable but in the meantime Bernie Fraser was beating me up off the pitch.

"I think that was the first game in which the touch judge was allowed to intervene and the penalty was reversed because of foul play by him, which was quite nice. I sacrificed my nose but it was worth it – a 25-25 draw against a fine All Black side was a fantastic achievement."

Now 53, Lucky Jim is still involved in the oval ball game, south of Hadrian's defensive wall on his native Tyneside. He teaches and coaches at the Royal Grammar School in Newcastle and also coaches at Northern.

In his Scotland days Pollock played for Gosforth, the club that became Newcastle Falcons. Tomorrow he will be watching a Scotland side featuring a flying winger who learned his trade with the Falcons – the native Dutchman Tim Visser.

"I saw Tim play as a boy for Barnard Castle School," Pollock said. "I think he's done particularly well since he moved up to Scotland. He's a big, strong boy and he's a pretty direct runner. He's got a lot of attributes.

"Scotland can take a lot of confidence from beating Australia, Fiji and Samoa in the summer. New Zealand showed their vulnerability in the World Cup final last year. I think Scotland have got absolutely nothing to lose on Sunday."

Thistles plucked: Winless Scotland

* Jim Telfer, the coaching brains behind Scotland's 25-25 draw with New Zealand in 1983, was in the thick of the action on the only other occasion on which the Scots matched the mighty All Blacks.

That was a 0-0 draw at a misty Murrayfield in January 1964. It prevented the All Black team from completing a Grand Slam tour. Telfer, who played at blindside flanker, saved the Scots by diving on a loose ball near their try line and holding on to it, despite being kicked by Colin Meads. Scotland have lost all 26 of their other encounters with the All Blacks, stretching back to 1905.