All Blacks: Years of pain and more to come

By Wynne Gray

The Scots claim they caused the international demise of Wayne Shelford. Photo / Janna Dixon
The Scots claim they caused the international demise of Wayne Shelford. Photo / Janna Dixon

Scotland have yet to beat the All Blacks but they can claim they caused the international demise of Wayne Shelford.

The unbeaten All Black captain was dropped after his side escaped with a 21-18 victory against the Five Nations champions at Eden Park in 1990.

As the Scots next day lamented a test they should have won, they were unaware they were about to create a Bring Back Buck brigade.

They could think only about the chance they missed to create history.

But they, and every Scotland side before and after, were unable to close the deal. The best they have done since their first test in 1905 has been two draws in their 27 tests against the All Blacks.

Quizzed about Scotland's chances this weekend at Murrayfield, former captain and fullback Gavin Hastings thought there would be great merit if the hosts kept within 10 points of the All Blacks.

Perhaps it's that sort of damage-control mindset which has troubled the Scots for too long.

A few years after their narrow 1990 escape, the All Blacks made their last decent-length tour to the UK, playing 12 tour games and tests against Scotland and England.

Three tour matches were played in Scotland before the international at Murrayfield, where the All Blacks belted their hosts 51-15.

Jeff Wilson flashed in for three tries and Marc Ellis played first five-eighths. They and Stu Forster and Steve Gordon were playing their first tests, and Zinzan Brooke wore the openside flanker's jersey.

Other strange choices were made before and during this tour, with Marty Berry replacing Walter Little and Paul Henderson travelling in place of the injured Michael Jones.

Mid-tour, the All Blacks moved across the border to Galashiels and slaughtered the South of Scotland 84-5. The locals only points came from left wing Gary Parker who played soccer for five years with Napier City Rovers between 1986 and 1991.

This was Bill McLaren territory or at least close to it. The broadcaster lived at nearly Hawick and disliked venturing too far and too frequently from his village surroundings.

He arrived, invariably, at trainings with his tin of Hawick balls (local sweets) as offerings in exchange for information about All Black players.

The man did some serious homework, looking for any tidbits, anecdotes and pieces of information he could weave into his commentaries.

A real professional Bill, a lovely man, soft in nature but deadly in detail until the insidious Alzheimer's disease claimed him.

At the 1991 World Cup in Scotland, as both of us spent time watching Manu Samoa train, we laughed our way through some hybrid Scots/Kiwi pronunciation of the more awkward Samoan surnames.

McLaren died early this year and never saw his beloved Scotland beat the All Blacks.

If Gavin Hastings' pessimism this week is anything to go by, it could be another 105 years of torment for the Scots.

- NZ Herald

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