ANY Scot who’s ever watched their country contest a rugby match knows the familiar feeling of a nail-biting finish.

Many of those occasions have seen the team snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, but now and again fans and players have tasted a euphoria that’s hard to describe when you come out on the right side of a tight encounter.

One of those occasions happened 25 years ago, when Scotland Women defeated England 8-5 to clinch the team’s one and only Grand Slam in 1998, having already beaten Ireland, Wales and France that year.

But unlike the men’s Grand Slams of 1925, 1984 and 1990, players from the time have come to find most Scots are unaware of what they achieved.

Captain Kim Littlejohn, who scored what ended up being the decisive try, told The National how there was a fair bit of attention on the team at the time before momentum seemed to slip away.

Asked if she felt most people knew about the Grand Slam, she said: “I don’t think so.

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“I was away for 15 years in Australia from 2000, that was just when I finished. The girls had a great win in 2001 in the European Championships, but I was surprised there seemed to be bit of a calming down during that period. There wasn’t a steady building on the platform that we hoped for.

“I feel like now there is a great momentum [behind women’s rugby]. They [the current team] are really strong characters, as we were.

“But I don’t think we had that platform remembered. I think it kind of disappeared.”

Janyne Afseth, who played as a flanker in the team, added: “The last five or six years there’s been this huge momentum around women’s sport and it’s just fantastic women’s rugby is part of that.

“I feel in our era we got a bit of coverage and then it dropped off.”

Four years prior to the glory of 1998, Scotland stepped in to save and host the World Cup in 1994 after it was cancelled at the last minute, as organisers failed to get official endorsement of the event from the International Rugby Board.

The National: A cutting from the Sunday Times in 1998 A cutting from the Sunday Times in 1998 (Image: NQ)

Former scrum half Sandra Colamartino, who was captain at the time and is in the process of writing a play about the tournament, felt this was one of the reasons why the team had a bit of spotlight on them for a few years.

“Suddenly the newspapers had a good news story that wasn’t necessarily just about women’s rugby and that being a bit of a novelty,” she said.

“I think the whole women’s game benefitted from it [the World Cup] being in the UK.”

Afseth, Littlejohn and Colamartino are now hoping their trailblazing exploits can be brought into the consciousness of not only the current women’s team but budding young players who dream of wearing the thistle.

In recent years, the historic achievements of the women’s team have started to be recognised more, with Littlejohn featuring on a stamp two years ago marking 150 years since the first international rugby match – when the men played England in 1871.

Last year, a roll of honour recognising every woman who has been capped for Scotland also took pride of place in the Murrayfield tunnel.

Littlejohn, 52, said: “We’re only just in the process of gathering together memorabilia.

“Sue Brodie [former player] is working with the SRU [Scottish Rugby Union] to pull together bits and pieces and there have been things that have been lost. When they tried to work out who the women are who have been capped it was so hard. There was no newspaper clippings for some things.

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“I think we can see from the situation we’re in now [with history finally being recognised], it kind of highlights how we lost momentum for a wee while.”

Afseth, 53, added: “I think bringing that history and achievement to life is important. I think what’s great is most of the players and the pioneers are still around. At that point, it was really breaking down barriers and that rich history is hopefully good to inspire the game at all levels.”

The feeling when the final whistle went at the end of the match against England in 1998 has not faded for Afseth and Littlejohn, while Colamartino – who had finished playing by then -  remembers watching vividly from the stands.

By sharing their memories, they hope it can serve as an inspiration to the current women’s team, who play France today in the Six Nations on the back of defeats to England and Wales.

Littlejohn said: “One of the great things we had is we were so new to the game, there was no history of Scotland losing. I never thought there was a reason we couldn’t beat England.

“We had this great belief we were a good team and I hope the current players feel like that.

“I remember when the whistle went. It was just unbelievable. There’s a photo afterwards where you can see we’re united in the same level of euphoria.”

“We did have such belief we were going to win it,” said Afseth, who fondly remembers making many key tackles in the game, including one to stop England clinching victory at the death.

“As an adopted Scot [Afseth is originally from Canada] my pride couldn’t have been bigger. It was the biggest achievement in my life at that point.”

Remembering Afseth’s try-saving tackle, Colamartino said: “There was five minutes to go and the score was 8-5, so they [England] were going for glory. It was one of those classic encounters.”

Colamartino has now almost finished her first draft of her play and she is hoping people will be able to enjoy the uplifting story of how Scotland saved the 1994 World Cup next year to mark the 30th  anniversary.

Having used the Six Nations this year to try and spread the message, the 54-year-old said she has seen signs of how little people know about the history of women’s rugby in Scotland, but she is hopeful the seeds are now being sown to change that.

Colamartino said: “Everyone that hears about it wants to know more.

“I spoke to a couple of young players at the Melrose Sevens and they were astounded by the story [of the World Cup].

“All you do is hand the jersey over to the next player, but you do have a connection and I think they are picking up on that.”