June 22 1940
Wartime match in Wellington.
There was a war on in 1940, but rugby continued, though very much affected by the number of players on active service. Club competitions continued where possible and the military ran their own matches. Representative teams from the provinces and from the military were selected and played. In 1940 Army teams from the 2nd Battalion Wellington Regiment, 28th (Maori) Battalion, Southern Command, Northern Command and Central Command were all involved in first class fixtures.
The Central Command played eight first class fixtures in 1940. Military postings being what they are, 58 players were required to make up those eight sides, including six pre-war All Blacks, Ron Bush, Jim Watt, Charlie Saxton, “Snow” Bowman, Bill Carson and George Purdue. Another two players, Jack Finlay and Pat Rhind became All Blacks after the war. Watt, Bowman, Carson, Rhind and Finlay were in the Central Command team that played Wellington on June 22 1940.
“ARMY AT PLAY
MATCH WITH WELLINGTON
Rugby manoeuvres on a grand scale were carried out at Athletic Park on Saturday afternoon, the display giving rise to much enthusiasm in the ranks of onlookers, of whom there were close on ten thousand. It was Army’s first visit to Rugby headquarters for a match there, and not only was the occasion relished but the experience was such that it has created a demand for more. The soldiers did not win, but they went exceedingly close. The result really mattered little; it was the performance which counted —lively, entertaining football all the way, with the trend of play fluctuating the whole time. Meeting the Army invasion was a strong Wellington detachment, which carried out its operations surprisingly well against the powerful-looking military force. In points Wellington succeeded by 19 to 17.
Fitness counts with the troops as it does in football, and the condition of the two teams accounted for a hot pace being maintained throughout. Fast, enterprising backs, with threequarters capable of making electrifying bursts, did not have the speedy action all to themselves. The forwards were going “great guns” all the way, Wellington’s set battling back well when it seemed that —after the change-over, giving the Army the wind—the strength of the soldier pack would become overpowering. Great dashes had the spectators on their toes, especially when Watt and Sherratt, the Army’s fine wing-three-quarters, sped for the goal-line. But the crowd was equally enthusiastic about the spirited combined rushes, with the ball either at toe or in hand, and about the wonderful place-kicking by the Wellington full-back, Taylor, which really settled the issue. It was a match thoroughly worth while, and to those who witnessed it a wonderful break from the cares of the times. All but one or two of the participants were seasoned Rugby representatives, and they let themselves go to the full in turning on bright football. Not a man could be singled out as being not up to the occasion. In the Army pack a particularly energetic figure throughout was J. Finlay, and Bowman and Rhind were also always to be seen. McPhail, Carson, Lockwood, Northover, and Armour, too, kept at it, and such was the Army pack work that something exceptional was required of the Wellington forwards and they supplied it. Kenny, Kemp, Todd, and Cassidy flashed out frequently in the loose, and supporting them as well as carrying through with heavy work in the tight were Gunn, McNicol, McCarthy, and Hegglun. They were a fine lot, all round.
Taylor, at full-back, played a splendid game, his kicking being first-class. Veitch was the king-pin of the Wellington attack, and Thomas fitted in well enough to enable Gillespie, Thurston, and Wright to show their capabilities as three-quarters. O’Halloran had the edge on his vis-a-vis, Moorhead, who, nevertheless, did. Well and served a dangerous Army back-line sufficiently to give it a conspicuous part in the play. Bradley was solid, ahead of Barton who did much towards getting [the three-quarters under way, Watt, Natusch, and Sherratt showing a lot of dash when opportunities offered. Behind them, Jack was capable in the last line. Barton played as a five eighths through Jones being on the injured list, and Natusch went in as centre. The teams were piped on to the field, by Sergeant A. C. Tait.
Indications of a lively match were given from the start of play, with Wellington, aided by the brisk breeze, doing much of the attacking and often compelling the Army to force. Wright was almost over ten minutes or so after the start from a movement begun by Todd, but was forced out at the corner. A little later Wright came into the picture again, this time successfully, by going into the first five-eighths position for a scrum near touch and dummying Bradley to go through the gap to the line. Taylor goaled. Taylor goaled from a penalty in front a few minutes later, giving Wellington an eight-point lead and slightly reducing the enthusiasm of the crowd. It was a pro-Army crowd and it was subdued by the apparent prospect of easy victory for Wellington. But it sparkled again when Natusch, from a muddling movement near the Wellington twenty five, suddenly broke clear and raced over for a try under the bar. Finlay goaled and the score was 8-5 at the interval.
The real excitement began with the start of the second spell, and except for a short time when both teams were blown by the pace, it continued, until the finish. Slashing run succeeded slashing run, the points see-sawed from side to side, and even with only thirty seconds to go, Army still tried everything they knew to score another try and win. Taylor kicked another goal and Barton reduced the lead with a penalty to Army in turn. A try by Sherratt made the points level, and a little later Barton sent his team into the lead with another penalty. Then Kemp came into the picture to take a pass and go over close to the posts and Taylor goaled, giving Wellington a 16-14 lead. A brilliant movement by Barton and Sherratt, with Sherratt scoring the try wide out, gave Army a lead of a point. But Taylor’s boot was again decisive with a lovely penalty shot from wide out and Army’s desperate assaults at the finish were not successful. The scores were:— WELLINGTON 19 ARMY 17.
Mr. B. Matthews was referee.”
Wellington. J M Taylor, A Wright, J B Thurston, J Gillespie, L R Thomas, R C Veitch, C O’Halloran, E L Todd, R J Kemp, F J Cassidy, S McNicol, J G Gunn, A C McCarthy, T F Hegglun, A C Kenny, C M Ongley (rep.).
Army (Central Command). A E Jack, J M Watt, R S Natusch, J R Sherratt, H L Bradley, D G Barton, V Moorhead, A H Armour, J E Lockwood,A W Bowman, W N Carson, P K Rhind, L N Northover, N J McPhail, J Finlay.
Referee. Mr E J B Matthews (Wellington).
Wellington 19. A Wright, R J Kemp tries. J M Taylor 3 pen, 2 conversions.
Army (Central Command) 17. J R Sherratt (2), R S Natusch tries. D G Barton 2 pen, J Finlay conversion.
The two teams met again on September 21 1940, Wellington winning again 22 – 15.