January 1 1927
Maori lose to Pontypool in their final match.
On January 1, 1927, at Recreation ground, Pontypool, the home side won 6-5 in the Maoris final game. John Billot records as follows: “Everyone said Pontypool’s defence would let them down in this New Year’s Day match. After Cardiff had been toppled by the non-stop wave of Maori attackers, how could Pontypool hope to stop them? But one man did. Full-back Cliff Ford played like a Welsh version of the great Maori tackler George Nepia, of the 1924 invincible All Blacks. Ford’s fierce tackles saved three or four tries and he took particular pride in cutting down the dangerous Albert Falwasser.
So the Monmouthshire Club, in their first match against a touring team, gained a thrilling victory and the 8,000 spectators who watched the tussle were to return at the end of the year to see yet another famous success as the “Pool” defeated the New South Wales Waratahs 6-3 in December. Pontypool became the only Welsh Club to register two tries against the Maoris, and with a little more luck, the home side could have doubled this quota. In the first 20 minutes they crossed the visitor’s line four times without being granted a try. Ben Butler, in particular seemed to have scored, but the referee ruled a dropout.
The tourists also missed their chances. Dick Pelham, in the centre, lost a try when he held on too long. Later, he knocked on with only the full-back in front of him, though whether he would have eluded the fearless Ford is another matter. The first Pontypool try came just before the interval. From a scrum inside his own half, Rowley Cullis, the clever outside half broke away. He twisted and swerved, sold a dummy one way then the other, all the time thrusting deeper into Maori territory. Finally, he flung out a long pass, over the heads of a group of players, and safely into the grasp of international wing, Cliff Richards, who raced along the touch line to score at the corner.
The Club went further ahead through a spectacular interception in his own 25 by skipper Harry James. He dashed away on a long run that had the crowd wild with excitement. Pat Potaka, the full-back, closed on him. The Maori gathered himself for the tackle, and then uncoiled like a spring a perfect example of timing and determination as he crashed into James. The crowd gasped, but at the moment of impact the home captain swung the ball clear, passing to Ira Thomas. With Potaka and James rolling on the turf, the centre darted off to score wide out. 6-0.
Still the Maoris attacked, and a brilliant combined move gave Falwasser yet another chance. It was the sixth occasion for him to attempt to beat full-back Ford. This time the wing somehow managed to round his opponent and almost unable to believe his escape, Falwasser slanted to the posts for a try. After that achievement the labours of Hercules would be nothing for Falwasser. Potaka missed the simple conversion kick, but was given a second chance because defenders charged too soon, and added the goal points.
It was written of Falwasser’s try: “In his spectacular run for the line, with his head thrown back and the ball lodged under his left arm, he was characteristic of Jack P. Jones, the famous Pontypool and Welsh international centre.” In the Western MaiI the rugby critic commented “when Falwasser, failed time and again at the last ditch, at length found his way over with a brilliant try, which Potaka converted, there can have been few spectators who did not think that the home defence so solid thus far, must fall before the terrific onslaught of the Maoris. Their sheer force. it, seemed must break through.” But the heroic defence did not crack, and Pontypool joined Llanelli as the only Welsh victors against the Maoris. Pontypool 6, Maoris 5.
It was the Maori’s final match of the tour, and their seventh defeat in 31 games.
Maoris: W. P. Potaka: A. Falwasser, R. Pelham. L. R. Grace: D. Wi Neera, H. Kingi: W. Mete. J. R. Bell (capt.): J. Manihera, W. Rika. P. Matene, T. Dennis, T. P. Robinson, S. Gemmell, 0. Olsen.
Pontypool: Cliff Ford: Harry James (capt.). Ira Thomas. Don Cormack. Cliff Richards: Rowley Cullis. Billy Werrett: Ben Butler, Cecil Pritchard, Bill Matthews, Billy Morgan, Lester Hodder. Joe Williams. Haydn Williams. Elijah Oliver.
Referee: Cap. A. S. Burge (Penarth)”
From “Maori Rugby 1884-1979” by Arthur H Carman. Pub. 1980 by Sporting Publications. P. 220-231.