July 19 - 1930 Auckland beat British Lions

This was the 16th of the 21 matches the 1930 Great Britain team played in New Zealand and they had not found it easy going. The team bounced back from losses to Wellington and Canterbury to win the first test, then lost the next. By the time they reached Auckland with two tests still to be played the success of the tour was very much in the balance.

The tourists suffered their third loss to a provincial team when they met Auckland at Eden Park on 19 July. The home team looked the better side after the first 10 minutes or so and at no stage from that point on did the visitors look like winning.

Auckland fielded a very strong combination with 10 All Blacks: Vic Butler, the captain Fred Lucas, Lew Hook, Merv Corner, Swin Hadley, Bert Palmer, Laurie and ‘Bubs’

Knight. Rube McWilliams and Walter Batty. Percy Minns had been selected for New Zealand in 1928 but had not played because of injury; Frank Solomon was to become an All Black in 1931.

The British team was almost at test strength, with the notable exception of Spong, who withdrew on the morning of the match because of a hand injury. His replacement, Knowles had an unfortunate day and this handicapped the attacking movements of the British backs.

The tourists’ listless display in the Auckland game was due in no small measure to the travelling, they had undergone since the Gisborne game. They had been taken from Gisborne to Rotorua by car, but not enough vehicles were provided and the journey was a very cramped and uncomfortable one. This was followed by a train trip from Rororua to Auckland on the Friday, which failed to raise the spirits of an already weary team.

Spectators began to arrive at nine o’clock on the morning of the Auckland game, and a crowd of about 30,000 had packed into the ground when the match began. Tim O’Connor, who had captained Auckland against the 1888 British team, was introduced to the spectators before the kick-off and was given an enthusiastic reception.

The weather was fine and the surface of Eden Park was in ideal condition when Lucas kicked off into the sun and wind. After eight minutes Black opened the scoring when he put over a penalty from two yards inside halfway. Corner was clearing nicely to his backs and Auckland gradually worked into an attacking position. From a scrum Corner passed to Jamieson, who tried to break through instead of sending the ball on and was brought down in the British 25. Here the visitors were blatantly offside from a scrum, and Corner kicked a goal from in front of the posts to even the score.

The Auckland hookers, Palmer and Hadley, were securing a good share of the ball to give their backs plenty of attacking chances. From a scrum Corner ran on the blind

side and cross-kicked to the open, where Jamieson snapped up. He dashed for the corner as the defence came across and sent a nicely judged pass to Hook, who went over for an unconverted try. The score was still 6-3 at halftime.

Auckland took the initiative right from the start of the second spell, coming close to scoring on two occasions. Then Beamish broke away but was brought down in a diving tackle by Corner and had to receive medical attention. This amused the spectators somewhat as Beamish weighed 16st 3 lb to Corner’s 9 st 7 lb.

An intercept by Hook in the British 25 led to an Auckland try, the wing sending on to Lucas, who put Haslam over in the corner. Butler failed to convert. A classic try followed when Solomon broke away in his own 25. Several forwards handled before Corner joined in, transferring to Batty, who ran strongly before passing to ‘Bubs’ Knight. The ball went to Laurie Knight and on to McWilliams, who scored with several men in support. Corner goaled from in front.

Shortly afterwards, this attractive game was marred when there was a flare up among the forwards, Beamish and Laurie Knight appearing to be the culprits The referee issued a general warning but Knight, believing his brother ‘Bubs’ was being cautioned, remarked “Don’t go nipping at him, nip at me.” The referee then ordered Laurie Knight to leave the field, which he did, to rousing cheers from the spectators, who also hissed and booed the- referee for some minutes. When Aarvold realized what had happened he ran up to the referee and asked that Knight be recalled, but Moffitt was adamant. Prentice, who was acting as touch-judge, also pleaded for Knight.

Auckland gave up any ideas of winning the ball from the set scrums after Knight’s departure and played with two wing forwards, leaving only five men in the scrum. The idea was to force their opponents into errors and capitalise on them. However, a British attack brought play to the home 25, where Reeve made a dash for the line. He was tackled with two yards to go but regained his feet and passed to Bowcott who scored under a heap of players. Ivor Jones failed to convert.

With the game almost over, a sensational movement led to another Auckland try. From a scrum Corner threw a good pass to Jamieson and he sent on to Haslam, who passed to Lucas The Auckland captain did not pass to Minns, as the British expected him to, but sidestepped Bowcott and Aarvold before sending inside to Solomon who dashed on to touch down under the posts. Corner converted and the game ended in a clear cut 19-6 victory for the home team. The crowd swarmed onto the field to carry-off their heroes shoulder-high.

Hadley and Palmer gave the best hooking display encountered by the visitors to date, and there was a general feeling among rugby journalists throughout the country that these two should have been the New Zealand front row for the test series. Batty and McWilliams were right up to international standard, and the Knight brothers were equally impressive. Finlayson, the only non-international in the home-pack, was as good as any forward on the field. Solomon gave a brilliant exhibition of wing-forward play, encouraging the critics to wonder how Porter continued to hold his place ahead of the Aucklander.

Corner, who played an. almost faultless game, was the idol of the crowd and showed once again that he was the best halfback in New Zealand. Jamieson overshadowed Knowles and combined well with Haslam, and Lucas played much better than he had done in two tests. He outplayed Aarvold and was a constant source of annoyance to the British backs. Minns and Hook had few chances but made no mistakes. The four wings were fairly evenly matched, and some of the British team expressed the opinion that Minns would do well in British rugby when he took up his Rhodes scholarship. This prophecy proved correct for Minns won his blue at Oxford and played for the Barbarians. Butler was solid and dependable at fullback.

Apart from Black and Farrell, who played with plenty of vim, none of the British forwards came up to their usual level. They were outscrummed and outrucked, and lost the lineouts fairly conclusively.

Poole was overshadowed by Corner, and Knowles had a very bad day, making mistakes at vital times. Consequently the threequarters were handicapped and. the British backs never quite got going. Bassett was beyond reproach at fullback, his line kicking being even better than usual.

The teams dined together at the Royal Hotel that evening and Baxter heaped generous praise on the home team’s performance. “It is satisfactory to win well or to be – jolly well whacked and we were jolly well whacked…” said the British manager. “It is a satisfactory state of affairs as it saves so many ‘ifs” he added.

“The Visitors” R H Chester & N A C McMillan, Moa Publications, pub. 1990 p.169-170.

1930 British Lions jersey badge