Dundee HSFP RFC had experienced something of a rollercoaster ride in terms of National League success since 1973. However the early 90’s were to see the club enjoy its highest league placings and groom a hitherto unprecedented number of international and professional players, thereby staking a claim to be North & Midland’s/Caledonia District’s most successful club.
In the summer of 1992, players and coaches were packing their bags for the club’s3 week tour to New Zealand by way of marking their first ever promotion to Division 1 as runners up to Kelso in Division 2. Led by coaches David Leslie and Sandy Hutchison and skipper Ally Keys, a stirring win against Peebles on the 28th of March 1992 secured the second promotion spot as Derk Milne crossed the line in the mud for the winning try. The moment is immortalised in the clubhouse entitled “Muddy Marvelous”.
That the tour succeeded – the first ever tour to New Zealand by a British club side, – was in no small part thanks to David Leslie and his contacts in the land of the long white cloud, particularly Andy Leslie ( father of kilted kiwis, John and Martin ) and his club Petone, the home club of Paul Berney and Dean Newman who played for the FP’s during season 1989/90 and JJ van der Esch who was so influential in the two decades spanning the millenium. The experience cemented a relationship with Petone Rugby Club that endures to this day.
Promotion successes to Division 1 for season 1992/93 and again for 1994/95 flanked the club’s victory over Edinburgh Accies in the 1993 Alloa Cup, the forerunner of the Scottish Cup. 1993 saw Andy Nicol follow in his grandfather, G F Ritchie’s footsteps and pull on the dark blue of Scotland in the 5 nations championships. Andy later went on to be part of the World XV that defeated the then almost invincible All Blacks, thus becoming one of the elite band of Scottish playesr to have beaten New Zealand. Further international honours were to follow as Andy was called out as a replacement for the Lions tour that year.
Alloa Cup finalists again in 1994, this time losing out to Boroughmuir, then semi-fianlists in the inaugural Tennents Scottish Cup in 1996 led some commentators to refer to the FP’s as Scotland’s cup specialists. The reputation was further emphasized with the 2nd XV’s, 21 – 6 triumph in the 1994 Midlands Cup final against Dunfermline.
League reconstruction at the end of season 1994/95 meant the FP’s were one of the unlucky clubs allocated down to the new Premier League 2. In 1995, lock Stewart Campbell won the first of his 17 Scotland caps against Canada while ex club prop John Manson made his Scotland debut as a 2nd half replacement at Twickenham as the English denied Scotland their 2nd Grand Slam of the decade.
Unbowed by the relegation setback the club worked hard and by season 1996/97 were fitter and faster and had an exceptional squad of players who controversially just missed out on promotion on the last weekend of the season.
1997 was Tom Smith’s year, gaining his first cap for Scotland after his ‘A’ honours the previous year. Only 3 caps later he made the meteoric rise to become many peoples choice as the world’s best prop when he played all 3 tests for the Lions during their outstanding success in South Africa that summer.
The next season saw the club regain the services of international lock, Stewart Campbell, British Lion, Tom Smith along with the scorer of the fastest ever Lion’s try, ex-Scotland skipper, Rob Wainwright. However the club were again pipped for promotion on the last weekend of the season and the subsequent dawn of the professional era saw this awesome squad scattered to the winds.
The club suffered doubly from the advent of professional Rugby Union, not only were many players offered contracts but clubs from Premier 1 with deeper pockets cherry picked many of the remaining players to fill gaps left by their own losses to pro rugby.
February 1998 saw Shaun Longstaff collect the first of his caps for Scotland, coming on as a replacement against France in the 5 Nations Championship. 1998 was also another memorable year for Andy Nicol as he captained Bath to victory against Brive in the 1997-98 European Cup.
By 1999/2000, the club was fielding a young, talented team but the lack of senior players and the inexperience of the squad contributed to their relegation to Premier 3.
Players of the 90’s included,
- Andy Nicol (Scotland (c), Lions)
- John Manson (Scotland)
- Stewart Campbell (Scotland)
- Shaun Longstaff (Scotland)
- Tom Smith (Scotland (c), Lions)
- Jon Petrie (Scotland) – pictured
- Rob Wainwright (Scotland (c), Lions)
- Ian Fullerton (Scotland)
- Jacob Rauluni (Fiji)
- Moses Rauluni (Fiji)
- Gavin Scott (Scotland A) – pictured
- Paul Rouse (Scotland A)
- Gregor Hayter (Edinburgh Reivers)
- Danny Herrington (Scotland A)
- Tony McWhirter (Ulster)
- JJ Van der Esch (Netherlands)
- Roger Moore (Zimbabwe)
- Maurice Karatania (Maoris)
During the 90’s, many DHSFP players also represented North & Midlands/Caledonia Scottish Schools, Scotland U19, Scotland U21 and Scottish Universities.
The Squad of 1997/1998. Click for a bigger image
The success of the club during this decade also saw invitations extended to provide opposition for Ian McGeechan’s Northampton and the newly formed Caledonia Reds. There was also the Drew Hutchison Memorial fixture featuring DHSFP Past and Present v Scotland at Mayfield organised by Andy Nicol which saw several thousand spectators raise thousands of pounds for Rachel House.
As the FP’s cachet increased during the early 90’s, the club also began a short association with Welsh club Pontypridd, playing each other home and away in alternate seasons prior to the Scotland-Wales clashes in the 5 Nations Championships.
Dundee High also reached the final of the inaugural Scottish Touch Rugby Cup in 1994, losing 2-1 to a Glasgow Select.
The club received a final honour for the decade when one of the FP’s long serving members, ex club president Harvey Wright was made President of the SRU for 1999-2000.