November 24 - 1945 'Kiwis' win first international

The 2nd NZEF “Kiwis” went into their first international against England unbeaten in six matches but still inexperienced. Only captain Charlie Saxton had been an All Black before World War II, though some others had played New Zealand provincial rugby pre-war. So it was a comparatively raw team that lined up against England, and at Twickenham, a stadium bigger than anything in New Zealand. Winston McCarthy recorded:

From “Broadcasting with the Kiwis” by Winston McCarthy. Pub. 1947 p.36-8

“7th Match

England, at Twickenham

Our first “International.” There was much speculation as to who could make the Test team. There is no doubt that Cook played himself into the team through his Ulster display. Scot was to have played, but it seemed to me that in the Leinster game he let Cook’s Ulster performance get the better of him. He did nothing wrong all day, but his line-kicking was safe and sound only. In other words, he made sure of the line, but chopped his distances down to 25 or 30 yards, whereas Cook was tearing off 40 to 50 yards with either foot. So Cook got the job— and a grand job he made of it, particularly with his prodigious kicking. One left foot kick of his from the half-way line and five yards from touch, landed in touch-in-goal on the full—a sixty-yard kick. When I chided him with it after the game, ‘Cook said “Yes, I misjudged it.’.’ Pity he hadn’t kicked, it properly!, The wings and centre picked themselves, as did Proctor. Allen and Saxton— although Saxton was still not quite right. With Stan Young not recovered from his injury, and Maclean definitely out, Rhind locked with Woolley. Arnold and Blake—well, there was no doubt about their positions. John Simpson had to go in some-where, so despite experiments as hooker and side-row man, he rightly got a job in the front-row.. Haigh was the hooker and McPhail was fit and fiery, so they completed the front-row. Even as early as this I was not satisfied with Jack Finlay in the back-row. Make no mistake, I’m not decrying his worth in any pack—he is the goods—but he was not playing the specialist role. in the back-row. But I’ll be fair and say that at this stage— apart from Young who was not well—the “Kiwis” had no one else to put in the back. All the’ same, wouldn’t it be annoying to have eight Finlays in the pack against you.

Twickenham thrilled me. It is just ‘the finest ground in world—there can’t be anything better.

This day the “Kiwi” forwards ‘‘went for the doctor.’’ In scrums and rucks they were supreme. In fact their glorious rucking—and I’ve never seen a team of forwards who could heel back from the, rucks like the “Kiwis” — really began this day. Saxton could not “find” Allen for a start but when they began to knit, we saw both at their best. ‘This day, Saxton passed he passed in 1939. It was thrilling to see those long, stiff-arm passes going 20 to 25 yards across the field. When necessary, he “dive-passed,” and did the crowd roar to see those- passes! Sherratt was first to score after 20 minutes, following some loose play on the left wing wing; he just gathered up a rolling ball and got near enough to the posts for Cook to convert (5-0).

The “Kiwis” threw the ball around in all directions, but always something seemed to go wrong. First Boggs went across on the right wing, but was called back. Then Smith sent Sherratt away but he, too, was recalled for a forward pass. Smith had a go himself but was hauled down. Boggs, all alone, kicked over the line, but Sykes just beat him to the touch-down. Sherratt was pulled down just in time by Marriott, and to even up, Sherratt threw the England right-winger down when it looked as if he might be dangerous. Then Cook’s little 4½’s made it 8-0 with a penalty. And that was the half-time score. If the “Kiwis” had played this match a fortnight or so later, I feel the half-time score would have been thirty points in their favour AIlen was magnificent. The forwards were grand, and Cook did everything he should, and a lot more.

The England forwards gave a surprising display early in the second spell, led by the Cambridge Captain, Erie Bole—a really good forward. Following one of their ‘‘Irish’’ rushes, Heaton kicked a penalty for off-side play (8-3); but there it ended for England. The “Kiwis” had only themselves to blame for not scoring more often. In fact, it can truthfully be said, that England had many a hair-breadth escape. The “Kiwis” next points came from a try that must go down among the classics. It was a try worthy of Maurice Brownlie. A scrum went down 10 yards outside the England twenty-five and right in front of the posts. England hooked as clean as a whistle, but before Hall could gather in the ball, Arnold shot off the right-hand side of the scrum and kicked it through Hall’s legs. He dribbled to the twenty-five, and there the ball was kind and bounced for him. He grasped it, and then English players came at him from all angles. He fended, he barged and he ran, finally going over by the left-hand post with two men holding him. It was a remarkable effort, particularly when it is realised that as he went over goal-line to score his magnificent try, players were only just beginning to break up from the scrum! Never, ever will I forget that try of Keith Arnold’s. Cook kicked the goal, and the “Kiwis” led 13-3. The final try was a typical Saxton effort. Receiving from a scrum about the 10-yard mark in England territory, Saxton “bolted” on the blind-side. He held the ball until the fullback became interested, and then he “unloaded” to Sherratt, who galloped on to score his second try. Cook made the final score 18-3.

New Zealand enjoyed a 2-1 advantage in the scrums, and almost as great a margin in line-out play; but even though we won handsomely, I was far from satisfied. There was too much mis-handling. Proctor, steady as a rock, and than whom there is no better defensive inside back anywhere, repeatedly tried to break through. This earned him censure from the critics; but with E. K. Scott and Heaton “sitting on ‘Johnny’ Smith’s doorstep” all day, it was shrewd play on Proctor’s part to endeavour to draw the bloodhounds off the brilliant centre. I came away from Twickenham convinced of three things—

(1) that Smith was the greatest back New Zealand has produced in nearly 20 years;

(2) that Cook, Allen and Arnold, must be coming “All Blacks; and

(3) that the team that beat the “Kiwis” would have to be very good indeed, despite faults obvious this day.

I should have added a fourth—that Twickenham would look grand in any City in New Zealand; but how would we fill those 80,000 seats?”

From “KHAKI ALL BLACKS” by Mike Whatman. Pub. 2005 by Hodder Moa Beckett Publishers Ltd. P. 35.

At the start of their tour the “Kiwis” were an unknown quantity and had to prove themselves e g:

“During the early stages of the tour the travel and accommodation arrangements were not exactly luxurious by the standards afforded present day players.

Second-class rail travel was interspersed with being conveyed by army truck, with accommodation in inexpensive hotels, or often in the Spartan facilities of services barracks.

It was Pat Rhind who once recalled the team’s arrival at Twickenham for the first International against England. ‘There we were in army trucks passing through the Twickenham carpark, our attention diverted by the sight of men in tweeds and ladies wearing expensive camelhair coats grouped around the open boots of Bentleys, Rolls Royce and Jaguar cars, partaking of sandwiches and glasses of champagne.’

‘Shit,’ exclaimed one of us, probably ‘Killer Arnold’. ‘Look at the bastards, and here we are crammed in trucks, and we’re providing the bloody entertainment!!’

But these discomforts improved when the team was allocated their own bus and superior hotels were made available. Early success and ‘large gates’ had loosened the purse strings!”