Hastings carries Scotland to victory
February 18, 1995
Gavin Hastings sprints away against France for what proved to be the match-clinching score
© PA Photos
Scotland ended a 26-year hiatus by winning in Paris in 1995 when Gavin Hastings converted his own try in the dying minutes. Arguably the high point of Hastings career, this was a rare instance of triumph against the odds for both the man and his team. As captain, goal kicker and veteran of 59 internationals, 33-year-old Hastings carried the burden of responsibility and knew he wouldn't be returning to Paris as a player.
France had a stellar line-up; Philippe Sella, Thierry Lacroix and Philippe Saint-Andre among the backs and a gnarled pack including back row trio Abdelatif Benazzi, Laurent Cabannes and Philippe Benetton. The rugby press, and perhaps the French players, already had one eye fixed on the looming World Cup in South Africa and Scotland were given no chance by the scribes.
Pierre Berbizier, France's coach, was a lone voice of caution before the game. "They tell us Scotland do not have a great team. But in the Five Nations Championship there is no such thing as a great or a weak team."
For Scotland, with international novices Dave Hilton, Stewart Campbell and Eric Peters up front and youngsters Kenny Logan (22) and Gregor Townsend (21) behind, containment would not be enough. To achieve what no Scottish team had done in Paris since Jim Telfer scored the winning try in 1969 would demand something special.
Without a win the previous year, Scotland's public had been baying for the blood of their selectors, management and even Hastings until wins over Canada and Ireland in the past month tempered the gloom. This win not only silenced the critics, but sent Scotland gleefully towards a Grand Slam decider with England at Twickenham a month later.
Saint-Andre scored the softest of tries wide on the left in the opening minutes. Lacroix missed the conversion, setting the tone for his kicking day. By the end he had missed three conversions and two penalties, When 12 points go begging off the boot in a two point defeat, it's easy, if sometimes unjust, to point the finger.
Hastings lifted his team by hoofing his opening penalty over from the wrong side of halfway and, before long, the mercurial Townsend danced over under the posts having sent the defence one way and gone the other. It was Scotland's first try against France in three years. A second Hastings penalty gave the visitors an eight point lead at the break.
French full-back Jean-Luc Sadourny crashed over in the corner for his side's second try. Fly-half Christophe Deylaud dropped a goal on what was otherwise a grim afternoon for him. Lacroix added a penalty and Hastings added one for Scotland, leaving the scores level at 16-16 going into the final ten minutes.
Townsend, never one to allow his fans to relax, failed to find touch with a kick and, moments later, Saint-Andre was over for his second try, in the left corner again. Hastings made a final rallying cry to his men. "I told them we had to score under the posts to win. We just went for it," he said afterwards.
© PA Photos
Fittingly, it was Townsend, twice villain and now twice hero, who charged through a gap in mid-pitch and needed support. He explained: "I thought we'd blown it and it was my fault. I didn't want that. I heard Gavin screaming, 'Gregor, inside' so I popped it up and saw the old boy wasn't going to be stopped."
Hastings touched down under the posts. By the time he had converted to take the lead, there was too little time remaining for France to respond with a score.
The hosts left to howls of derision from the crowd, leaving Hastings and his men to parade before the kilted section. Damian Cronin had ruptured his elbow and Ian Jardine had his cheekbone smashed in the last minute, but nothing doused the celebrations when Hastings declared the victory to be 'up there' with the defeat of England at Murrayfield in 1990.
France avenged this defeat when the teams met again in the pool stages of the World Cup four months later, winning 22-19 and condemning Scotland to a quarter final against New Zealand.
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