When Glasgow faced the All Blacks – 40 years on

When Glasgow faced the All Blacks – 40 years on

Tuesday 6 November 1979

It may not
be a date that many supporters immediately recollect, but it’s a date that is
etched in Glasgow rugby history. For it was on that crisp November afternoon
that New Zealand arrived at Hughenden as part of their 1979 end-of-year tour.

To date, it’s
the sole occasion on which the All Blacks have faced off against Glasgow in any
incarnation. Here, in the words of those that took to the field that day, is
the story of how Glasgow almost took down the world’s greatest team…


A tenacious
27-year-old scrum-half, Sandy Service was renowned for being a menace to not
only his opposite number but to the opposition team overall. It was that tenacity
that saw him named in the Glasgow squad, although he admitted that it was a
slightly bittersweet feeling upon finding out about his selection

“We found
out after a training session at Glasgow Accies,” said Service.

“I was
delighted to be named in the squad, but you also felt for those that didn’t get
selected – it was a difficult one for some of the boys that missed out.”

West of Scotland team-mate Dougie Livingston was another to receive the nod for
selection, marking the then 23-year-old’s first call-up for the District.

“I’d never
played for Glasgow before, so I was a bit overwhelmed to say the least!” said

Glasgow side was a pretty handy side, and we took it to them up front.”

Above: The teams on Tuesday 6 November 1979 (John Griffiths/Rugby Memories Scotland)

Indeed there
was a familiar face in the making lining up in the back-row – albeit after a
swift bit of negotiating on his behalf.

“I was still
a student at the University of Glasgow,” explained John Beattie.

“I’d booked
an appointment to see my tutor, a chap called Hugh Sutherland, and I genuinely
thought they wouldn’t give me the afternoon off!

“To me this
was the most important thing that had ever happened in the world, apart from
the moon landing, but I was thinking that I was doing a degree and rugby was
nothing to the powers-that-be at the university.

“I sat down
– absolutely terrified – with the head of department and almost apologetically
asked for the afternoon off, explaining that I’d been picked to go and play in
a rugby match. He just sort of raised his eyebrow and asked who I was playing.
When I said the All Blacks, he just started laughing and told me that the
university would be honoured! It was a huge thing for everyone.”

“To me this was the most important thing that had ever happened in the world, apart from the moon landing, but I was thinking that I was doing a degree and rugby was nothing to the powers-that-be at the university.”

Pre-Match Preparations

Whilst the game was still an amateur sport, no-one should be in any doubt as to the extent of Glasgow’s preparations for the biggest match in their history.

“I think people underestimate how hard rugby players trained back in those days,” said Beattie.

“I remember Bill Dickinson had been brought in, and he kept hammering the message home that the All Blacks were just humans like you,” agreed Livingston.

“My week in those days was go up to Stirling on Monday to do weights with a few West team-mates, Tuesday and Wednesday were club training days, Thursday was Glasgow training and then Friday was the day off –alongside the day job, we were kept pretty busy!”

With the game fast approaching, the All Blacks arrived in Glasgow with something of a fanfare – including some particularly interested spectators upon their arrival at the team hotel.

“We’d actually snuck into the grounds of the then-Pond Hotel when the All Blacks arrived,” admitted Beattie.

“I turned up in my car, and the car park was already suspiciously full. I looked around, and almost every other Glasgow player and coach was sat in their own car waiting for the All Blacks to turn up!

“They were huge men, the All Blacks. They were almost figures of myth.”

Above: Brian Ford scores for New Zealand despite the attention of Andy Dougall (John Griffiths/Rugby Memories Scotland)


Game day
arrived, and with it the fervour amongst players and spectators alike increased
tenfold. To a man, the Glasgow side line up to face the haka ahead of kick-off,
with one player in the home side particularly fired up.

“The haka in
those days definitely wasn’t what it is now, but it was quite something to face
that,” said Service.

“It got me
going, let alone them – I was stood there thinking ‘you’re in for it pal’!”

At the other
end of the spectrum was Livingston, who was experiencing pre-match nerves on the
grandest of scales.

“I actually
almost had a panic attack ten minutes before kick-off!” he laughed.

“Once we got
out there though, it was all about the game. I found myself on the wrong side
about ten minutes in and got myself rucked out the back of the breakdown by the
All Blacks pack. That was an experience I’d never had before!

“It was
amazingly skilful, so well executed – it wasn’t done to give you a kicking, it
was to get you away from the ball.”

“You were in
the middle of that game thinking ‘am I really here?” added Beattie.

“We had car
mechanics, lawyers, builders, butchers and students like myself, and we were
playing the All Blacks.”

“I found myself on the wrong side about ten minutes in and got myself rucked out the back of the breakdown by the All Blacks pack. That was an experience I’d never had before!”

it was the tourists that took the victory, edging a highly competitive
encounter 12-6.

“To my dying
day I claim we should have won that game,” stated Beattie.

“There were
parts of that game where we were all over them.

“It was a
day that definitely saw Glasgow gain some respect from the best team in the

Whilst not
feeling as assertive as his former team-mate, Service admitted that there were
a few ‘what ifs?’ amongst the Glasgow side following the full-time whistle.

“They scored
two tries and we didn’t score any, so you can’t argue too much,” said the scrum-half.

“There was a
lot of pride at the final whistle, but there was definitely a mix of emotions –
you were thinking ‘if only’, for sure.”

It’s a match that still lives on in the memory of the New Zealand number eight that day, too. Now a broadcaster back home, Murray Mexted was left with a painful memory of his appearance at Hughenden.

Above: An action shot from the match report (John Griffiths/Rugby Memories Scotland)

“That game is still vivid in my mind,” said Mexted.

“It was a grey old day which proved to be most demanding, as I was marking John Beattie and he was a hell of a tough opponent.

“During my career, I left the field three times & Glasgow in 1979 was the first – I popped a couple of rib cartilages which were incredibly painful for the rest of the tour.

“I remember having cortisone injected generously into the rib area to enable me to play
in my first test four days later.

“It was a hard tour. The rules of the period limited teams to 26 squad members, which of course required some of us to play three matches in 8 days. Certainly not the done thing these days!”

All those
thoughts were put to one side for the post-match social, however.

“The All
Blacks who weren’t in the Test team at the weekend made a night of it,” smiled

“We were
allowed two free beers, and then we had to start paying for the drinks,” added

“We all then
ended up on the bus back to the New Zealand hotel, and the drink was free all
night. It was a tremendous night.”

Above: A report on the match (John Griffiths/Rugby Memories Scotland)

years on

Each of
Beattie, Service and Livingston went on to continue their rugby careers
following that match at Hughenden, each in similar yet different fashions.

“I’d played
down in Newcastle with Gosforth in the same side as [former England and Lions
back-rower] Roger Uttley for a while, I then got a job with Proctor and Gamble which
is what brought me back up to Glasgow,” said Service.

“I stopped
playing senior rugby in 1989 – I think! – and then went into coaching.

“I coached
at Ayr, and worked with guys like Pat MacArthur and Gordon Reid – both future
Warriors of course! – and at one stage I was coaching West of Scotland firsts,
doing some work with Ayr and also with Stewarton.”

business also gave him the unique opportunity to claim a memento of his battle
with the All Blacks, showing the distinctive opportunism of a number nine.

Above: The match-day programme (John Griffiths/Rugby Memories Scotland)

“I’m the
only one with an All Blacks jersey from that day,” he laughed.

“There was a
wee bit of a stooshie during the game, where Mark Donaldson punched Gavin
Angus. So of course at the next ruck, the Glasgow pack took a bit of
retritbution, and they ripped his jersey.

“In those
days if you ripped your jersey, it was of no use to anyone, but I had a company
that meant I could repair it.

“I asked him
for the shirt, mended it and I’ve kept hold of it ever since.

“I actually
met up with Mark in a Classics event in Bermuda – we had a great wee catch-up,
and I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of the boys I played with on that day.”

pre-match nerves didn’t prevent him from turning out for Glasgow on many
subsequent occasions, including making further appearances against
international opposition.

“I continued
to play for West until 1990, and I got to play against Australia and France for
Glasgow later in my career,” he explained.

“I’ll never forget taking that afternoon off to go to Hughenden to play the All Blacks, going out there in a Glasgow shirt and taking on the best in the world.”

“That New
Zealand match is right at the very top, though. No question.

“A friend of
one of my children was over staying with us from New Zealand, and it turned out
that both Murray Mexted and Graham Mourie – who I’d played against in that
match in 1979 – were both friends of his family. It’s a small world!”

For Beattie,
his rugby journey was just getting started. A sterling career saw him go on to
make 25 appearances for Scotland, as well as touring with the British and Irish
Lions on three separate occasions. So where does his first encounter with the
All Blacks rank in his illustrious life in rugby?

“It’s the
biggest memory of them all for me,” said Beattie.

“All the
Warriors boys now will realise that what you remember as you get older is not
what you do late in your career, or the big results – it’s the formative days
with your club you remember the most.

“I’ll never
forget taking that afternoon off to go to Hughenden to play the All Blacks,
going out there in a Glasgow shirt and taking on the best in the world.

“To me,
that’s probably my biggest rugby memory.”

Spread the word

Newsletter Sign-up

Sign up to our newsletter today to receive the latest updates, content and releases from Glasgow Warriors.