On This Day

  • March 17 down the years

The white-hot Grand Slam decider

Scotland and England's 1990 Grand Slam decider was a heated affair © Getty Images
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1990
The white-hot Grand Slam decider at Murrayfield. England had beaten Ireland 23-0, France 26-7 in Paris, and Wales 34-6. The pace and passing of their backs made them attractive as well as successful. Jeremy Guscott, Will Carling and Rory Underwood, controlled by Rob Andrew and backed by Simon Hodgkinson's kicking. Meanwhile Scotland had beaten the same three teams but, although they thumped France 21-0, their wins over Ireland and Wales were by a single score.

Scotland looked like they meant business even before the start. When David Sole led them out against England, they walked. Teams ran out for rugby matches, but they walked. They imposed themselves on the actual game too. Jeremy Guscott dummied over for a try, but England trailed 9-4 at half-time. During that first half, they ran a couple of close-range penalties instead of giving Hodgkinson a shot, decisions that seemed to be made by hooker Brian Moore rather than captain Carling. Scotland were far more purposeful. From a scrum, Gavin Hastings ran up the right touchline before kicking ahead, and the ball bounced towards Tony Stanger and away from Underwood. Scotland protected their lead with fervent tackling and harrying, their back-row trio gloriously offside. The 13-7 defeat ate into the England team's soul. They used a less glamorous style the following season, enough to give them another go at the Grand Slam on March 16.

1897
The first British boxer to win the world heavyweight title. Bob Fitzsimmons, known as Ruby Robert, was born in Cornwall but learned to box in New Zealand. Working as a blacksmith built up the shoulders and upper back muscles that made him one of the great punchers. After winning the world middleweight title on January 14, 1891, he had to wait until now to get his shot at something heavier, against Jim Corbett, who was a master boxer with a cutting edge. He outweighed Fitzsimmons by more than a stone and would have been confident he could beat him up at long range.

Sure enough, he knocked him down in the sixth and battered him with uppercuts. By the tenth, Fitzsimmons was spitting blood. But he was still there in the 14th - and suddenly a single punch changed everything. As Corbett came in, Fitzsimmons caught him with a left to the top of the stomach. Corbett went down in agony, got up on one knee, but could not beat the count. He was not hurt, or beaten up, just unable to get to his feet in time. When he finally did, he lost his temper, throwing punches around the ring as he tried to get to Fitzsimmons. His seconds had to drag him out. Both fighters went on to lose title fights to giant Jim Jeffries, Fitzsimmons to become champion at a new weight on November 25, 1903.

2010
John Lloyd resigned from his position as captain of the Great Britain Davis Cup team. He took the decision to step down following the embarrassing loss to Lithuania that left Britain facing a play-off with Turkey to avoid slipping to the bottom rung of world tennis.

1902
Bobby Jones was born in Atlanta and grew into the most successful golfer of his generation. A chain-smoker and no giant, he was strong and compact, his touch was superb and his swing smoothness itself. He equalled a record that still stands by winning the US Open four times - from 1923 to 1930 - and the British Open three times. At the time, the Grand Slam consisted of these two tournaments and their amateur equivalents. Jones made history by winning all four in 1930. He won the US Amateur five times and reached the final seven times, including five in a row. All these are records. He helped devise the Masters and design the course at Augusta.

1876
The first six-foot high jump. At the Oxford University sports in Marston, Marshall Brooks cleared 1.83 metres on his last attempt. It has not been much of a height for women since the 1960s, but those old pioneers didn't use the Fosbury Flop or straddle. Brooks took hardly any run-up and simply hurdled the bar with both feet out in front of him. His centre of gravity was way above the bar. Plus he took off from a cinder runway soaked by hours of sleet and snow. What he and his contemporaries could have cleared with an efficient technique, proper training, and airbeds to land on...The following month, Brooks raised the record to 1.89. He played rugby for England in their win over Scotland in 1874.

1977
George Foreman still had not recovered from losing his world title to Muhammad Ali on October 30 three years earlier. He had knocked out five opponents since then but looked shaky at times. This simply was not the ogre who once terrified the heavyweight world. Jimmy Young proved that tonight by flooring the big bad giant in the last round. Once the fight went past the ninth, Foreman ran out of legs. He spent the night in hospital and retired in May - for religious reasons, he said. He didn't fight again until March 9 ten years later.

1885
Henry Taylor was born in Oldham. Before Rebecca Adlington on August 16, 2008, he was the last British swimmer to win two gold medals in one Olympic Games. He won eight Olympic medals in all, a British record in any sport, which would have been more but for the First World War. Stocky and strong, he was king of the longer distances. At the Intercalated Games of 1906, he won the one-mile freestyle, more than a minute-and-a-half ahead of team mate Jack Jarvis. He finished a close second to Austria's Otto Scheff in the 400 metres, and won bronze in the 4x250 relay. Two years later, in London, he was the star of the pool. His three gold medals were all won in world record times: the 400 , with Scheff nine seconds behind in third, the 1500 (Scheff did not finish), and the 4x200. Taylor won four medals in the long relay, the last in 1920 when he was 35.

If the Adlingtons of today think they've got it tough, with early morning training in public pools, they should see what Taylor had to deal with. In between working long hours in the Lancashire cotton mills, he trained in the nearby canals or during 'dirty water day' at the public swimming pool, when admission was cheaper.

1990
At the Osaka tournament, Mitsugu Akimoto, known as Chiyonofuji ('The Wolf'), floored Hananokuni to become the first sumo wrestler to win 1,000 bouts.

Mark Foster retained his 50 metres freestyle title © Getty Images
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2000
Mark Foster retained his 50 metres freestyle title at the World Short-Course Championships. He won another gold two days later. He won the 50 free for the first time in 1993 and the last in 2004.

1923
When he became world light-heavyweight champion, Battling Siki lived the high life in New York. His confidence must have been sky-high, because he agreed to defend the title against an Irishman in Dublin on St Patrick's Day at the height of the Troubles. Spectators were searched for weapons on their way in. Siki was bigger and stronger and cut Mike McTigue's eye in the 12th, but McTigue knocked him down in the same round and jabbed him silly for the rest of the fight. Not bad for someone who had broken his thumb in the fourth round. The bout lasted 20 rounds, the last world title bout to go more than 15. Siki was found dead on December 15 only two years later. He lost another 17 fights in that time.

1885
Ralph Rose was born in California and grew into a bit of a giant. One of the mammoth Irish American throwers of his era, he was the biggest of the lot: 6' 5 and 18½ stone. He set a world record in winning the shot putt at the 1904 Olympics, won it again four years later, and took silver in 1912 behind the equally huge Pat McDonald, who set a lifetime best in beating him by less than four inches. At the same Games, Rose beat McDonald to win the shot putt for both hands, the only time the event was held at the Games. The following year, Rose died of pneumonia when he was 28. At the 1904 Olympics, he also won silver in the discus and bronze in the hammer. He set eight world records in the shot. The last, 15.54 metres in 1909, wasn't broken until 1928.

1928
England's recent domination of the Five Nations ended after this, their last rugby Grand Slam until March 16, 1957. Tries by Joe Hanley and 19-year-old Colin Laird beat Scotland 6-0 at Twickenham.

1914
Slingin' Sammy Baugh was born in Texas. The story goes that when he arrived at the Washington Redskins training camp before the 1937 season, the coach told him that if he was going to make it as their quarterback he would have to throw so accurately that he hit his wide receivers in the eye. Certainly, sir, said Sam. Which eye? What have we got here, they wondered. What they had got was one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, the first to us the long pass as a regular weapon rather than a last resort. The Redskins won the title in his first year. In the Championship Game against their deadly rivals the Chicago Bears, Sammy slung for 358 yards and three touchdowns. And this with a ball that was fatter and rounder than the one they use now, which is much easier to throw accurately. Washington beat the Bears again in the 1942 Championship Game, but Baugh was on the losing side in three others, including the most famous of all time, on December 8, 1940, when he was on the receiving end of a record scoreline. He also found an original way of losing another one. Against the Cleveland Rams in 1945, he stepped back into his end zone and unleashed the golden arm. The ball bounced back off his own post to give away two points. The Redskins lost by one. A blip in one of the great careers, which included NFL records as a punter and defender.

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