A Field Day for Dods

By Nicholson, Geoffrey | The Independent (London, England), February 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
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A Field Day for Dods

Nicholson, Geoffrey, The Independent (London, England)

UP IN mild, grey Murrayfield, far from England's unhealthy absorption in its own destiny, and whether Jack is still talking to Will, the real business of the Five Nations was being settled. Or so it seemed to us. Here, after all, were two unbeaten nations, either of them capable of winning the Grand Slam. And after 80 minutes of magnificently fast, courageous rugby, with never a pause for breath or reflection, it was the ebullient Scots who came through, with all their points supplied by the left wing, Michael Dods.

"Scotland should win the Grand Slam the way they played against us," the defeated French captain, Philippe Saint-Andre, said. "The Scots played very well and I was not surprised at the type of rugby they played - especially during the first 20 minutes when they put a lot of pressure on us. We made too many mistakes and just conceded too many penalties."

Scotland now take their campaign to the Arms Park in a fortnight's time, and defend the Calcutta Cup here two weeks later. In their present state of mind, everything is possible, and they could well become unbeaten champions before the other four contenders have finished their progamme.

Recently, the old allies have been sharing these spoils about equally. Verdicts have got closer and closer in recent times, with one side or other winning only in the dying minutes. Last season's Boys' Own try from Gavin Hastings gave Scotland their first win in Paris for 26 years. A riposte from Emile Ntamack put Scotland out of the World Cup four months later.

Yesterday's seething game was in the same tradition: first a powerful surge by the Scots in which Bryan Redpath and Gregor Townsend led the dance, and their flanker Rob Wainwright inserted himself in practically every move of attack and defence; then a spell when the French, who gradually worked their way back into the game. Finally, after they had managed to edge their way back from eight points down to only two points down, there was a period of acute suspense before the Scots could believe that victory was theirs.

Scotland had burst into the game in one of the most explosive starts that Murrayfield had ever seen. The Scots played the ball back upfield from the French kick-off with a move along the left which produced an offside penalty against France. Dods's kick from the touchline refused to bend in between the posts, but his moment was to follow.

First came a promising midfield charge by full-back Rowen Shepherd. Then there was a collective move out of defence, with Wainwright fielding a French kick ahead, a pass flicked behind bringing Shepherd again into the action, a strong run by Townsend and then from Redpath a low kick down the left of such elegant accuracy that the ball trickled over the French line just as Dods steamed up to touch down.

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