England travelled to Murrayfield amid the uneasy mix of sport and politics that seldom leaves a nice taste in the mouth.
If you were Scottish, this Five Nations ended with the flavor of success in the form of English blood on their lips. It was a winner-take-all scenario in the final weekend of the championship with the Grand Slam on the line.
In the background, the Poll Tax was being given a dummy run on the people of Scotland, a political decision that firmly established English Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as public enemy No. 1.
Since she wasn’t picked by Geoff Cooke in his first XV, Red Rose captain Will Carling had to do as the embodiment of English arrogance for the Scottish rugby faithful.
In 2010, Brendan Gallagher remembered the game 20 years on in The Telegraph:
It was a massive rugby occasion by any criteria, but doubly so when set against the backdrop of many Scots seizing the opportunity to vent a collective fury at Margaret Thatcher's hated Poll Tax. Or at least that was the perception, and in politics that is what counts. Histories are written accordingly.
The Poll Tax – the invention of a Scot, Douglas Mason, incidentally – was being "tried out" on the Scots first. As tempers flared everything became black and white. England's rugby team, and their very pukka captain Will Carling, were portrayed as Thatcher's storm troopers.
And so a fervent Murrayfield met Carling’s men with a wall of jeers and followed that with frenzied rapture as Scottish skipper David Sole calmly, slowly, walked his troops onto the field.
Forget the pipers, cannon and twee soundtracks of today’s Murrayfield. This one, simple act had the home support going wild, as did their newly adopted anthem Flower of Scotland, as Gallagher recalls:
At the end of the 1989 season even the ultra-conservative Scottish Rugby Union, with the Princess Royal as their popular patron, decided that God Save the Queen was no longer a suitable anthem for their team and supporters.
For the 1990 Six Nations they switched Roy Williamson's folk ballad Flower of Scotland, which is dedicated to Scotland's victory at Bannockburn.
Early penalties put the Scots ahead before Carling’s pace carved open their defence to feed Jeremy Guscott for a fine try. Craig Chalmers’ third penalty made it 9-4, before Tony Stanger pounced on Gavin Hastings’ hack to score a famous try.
England then tried to run the legs off their hosts, but the Scottish defence held firm to win a fiercely contested Grand Slam.