v. Monmouthshire County, at Pontypool
Now we had to do something we should never have done— go back to Wales for the third time. We had already had two excursions to the Principality, and had kept. the slate clean, despite a shock at Newport. Oh, ye who have anything to do with football tours in the British Isles, never go to Wales three times. Socially they’re grand people, but when it comes to Rugby, dodge them like the plague. They know this game of football, and the Monmouthshire lads had studied the ‘‘Kiwis’’ game and determined to play the type of game to beat it. Wellington played the same tactics—keep it tight and play to the forwards and the touch-line all the time. Don’t let it out to the backs or the “Kiwis” will pick up every dropped pass and capitalise on it. Destructive and unspectacular, you say? Well, maybe, but it proved effective.
There were seven changes in the team. It is ever so easy to be wise after the event. That’s an old saw; but there was one who was uneasy before the event on this occasion, and that was ‘‘Jim” Gasson, the Official Correspondent of the team. On the 25-mile drive from Cardiff to the ground (‘‘Jim” and I were in a B.B.C. car) he told me that he had a hunch we ‘d be beaten. His reasons were the expected heavy ground, and the playing of Dobson instead of Proctor against the solid opposition. On a dry ground and against backs who don’t crowd you, Dobson has no peer in the world. I’ll repeat that last bit—in the world. But Ron.. Dobson is not as solid as the 13½ stone Proctor, consequently he cannot stand up to the punishment of the hard (and clean) play of the Welshmen as Proctor does. In one respect, Gasson was right—we were beaten; but I still think we could have won the game 10-4 instead of losing 0-15.
The field had been swept of snow which was piled outside the touch-lines. The ground was slippery and against the Dobson type of game. Saxton tore a muscle in the back of his thigh half-way through the first spell, and was off the field for nearly 20 minutes, Thornton playing half during his absence. When. Saxton returned—a plague on this “no-replacement” rule—he was obviously in agony every time he tried to do anything, and was practically useless from a playing point of view. Two of the Counties’ tries came from interceptions through shallow back play on our part when we would have scored. The other try was a remarkable effort. On our twenty-five, Smith grubber-kicked towards our left-wing for Boggs. Boggs and Ross Johnson raced for the ball, and just as Boggs went to kick ahead, Johnson kicked at the ball to put it into touch—a speculator. But the ball did a most extraordinary thing—it curled around and’ went back towards the “Kiwis” goal-line. Ross Johnson pivoted like a cow-pony, raced after it and whipped it in to Rowlands who scored his third try. Hawkins “potted” an opportunist goal after 32 minutes of play in the first spell, and Southway converted Rowlands’ first try. The half-time score was 0-4.
Hawkins, who captained Newport against us, was the outstanding player on the field, a “shrewd-head” and a grand footballer Monmouthshire County would compare with, say, a Wellington Province team, with players from Taranaki, Wanganui, Manawatu, Hawke”s Bay, Wairarapa and Wellington. They can play this game of Rugby alright.
GOODNESS GRACIOUS ME!
Early in the tour, I had been asked to look after the playing gear of the team. Jerseys were difficult to get, and those that were obtainable were of a very poor quality, particularly after they had been washed. To see a jersey torn in a match was almost more than I could bear. A bag was packed with a few spare jerseys, shorts, stockings, etc., and taken to each game. Just before the start of this match, I was sitting in the stand, when I heard Colonel Andrews enquiring for me. Horror of horrors, I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten to bring the bag of spare gear! Goodness gracious me, and for a game in Wales, too, where they seem to take a delight in tearing jerseys. There was nothing we could do, because we were at Pontypool, and the gear was in Cardiff. All we could do was hope for the best.
Everything went well until just after Saxton had to leave the field with his leg injury. Then inside a few minutes both ‘‘Bill’’ Woolley and “Pat’’ Rhind had their jerseys practically torn off their backs; they were literally hanging around their waists. I called out to the Secretary of the Monmouthshire Club and implored him to help us out by getting them jerseys of any description. He did, too. He came back with two red—Wales—-jerseys. Rhind and Woolley looked a wee bit dubious about wearing them, but as it was those or none at all, they donned the Welsh International regalia. A little later Saxton returned to the field in time to take up his place at a line-out. Imagine his surprise when among the black jerseys of the ‘‘Kiwis,”. he saw two red jerseyed players. He called out to the ‘‘Kiwis” to push the other two back to their own side of the line-out, and he was actually holding the game up until they did get back when “Pat” Rhind spoke to him and explained the situation. Both Woolley and Rhind declared there was a ‘‘curse’’ on them for the rest of the game through wearing Welsh jerseys. To finish the story, I must add that as the players came off the field at the end of the game the Secretary was waiting with loving care to take his jerseys back. And he got them, too!“
From “Broadcasting with the Kiwis” by Winston McCarthy. Pub. By Sporting Publications 1947. P. 82-84.