June 28 1930
British team pushed hard in Timaru.
The 1930 Great Britain team had, after four wins been brought down to earth with successive losses to Wellington and Canterbury. But they had bounced back with a big win over Otago and a narrow victory in the first test. Two games later they faced a combined team in Timaru led by 1928 All Black Archie Strang.
“Match No. 11.
Otago Combined Teams at Timaru.
Combined Team’s good effort,—.Britishers almost rattled into defeat,
Britain 16 Combined Team 9
The selectors who were responsible for choosing the men for this game, Messrs T. C. McLauchlan, J. Wilson and J. Palmer, can feel reasonably proud that their choice was a good one, for this was proved beyond a doubt when the Combined team, led by capable Archie Strang, harassed the British side sorely and were a little unlucky to lose the match.
From one point of view this match proved to be one of the most interesting of the tour, for although no greater importance was attached to it than to the other provincial games, it led to the interchange of stupidities that have made intelligent people shudder ever since, namely, remarks by prominent New Zealand Rugby authorities bandied about in the press, and mixed with innumerable letters from “Disgusted” and other half-wits, all fiercely focussed on the question of rough play, and the terrible question of “Who began it?” Unless we can learn, as the Britisher have learned, to keep calm when something like rough play is begun, we had better buy, a whole lot of indoor games like ludo and concentrate on them. Rough play should be checked, but that is the referee’s job, and the selectors of the teams who play can aid the matter by dropping any man who can’t keep his fists and boots and teeth for their rightful uses. When the game is played, and won and lost, there should be an end of the matter. Airing or exposing something that is needing air is one thing, but the unlimited use of hot air is turning New Zealand into a country of addle-pated old hens. Imagine the spectacle of a New Zealand selector getting to his feet in Auckland after the Third Test, and at a dinner given to the teams, solemnly declaring that the visitors had been guilty of shepherding and obstructional tactics. Perfectly true, in all probability, they had. But to cast that stone so gaily, giving the impression that one’s own country had never been guilty of such a hideous sin, when in 1928 the All Blacks were thoroughly coached in the art of shepherding in the line-outs! Gentle shepherding, perhaps, but “over the edge” if the rule book be consulted. Plenty of instances of rough play by New Zealand teams have occurred in the last few years, yet the game has not suffered to any large extent, because after all there is the game to be played and a referee to control it, and players who go about seeking whom they may devour, are generally bad players from a football point of view.
The above may not seem to bear very directly on the game at Timaru, but the match gave rise to the whole unedifying wrangle which dragged along for weeks, about the roughness or non-roughness of the Combined, forwards, from thence to the ditto and ditto of New Zealand football, a particularly spicy one coming from across the Tasman, giving the “savagery of New Zealand footballers” a good able-bodied prod. It is hard to believe that anyone should be interested in the affair to such an extent as to be fiercely concerned one way or the other. An excellent way of explaining this interest is from the psychological point of view, the love of the morbid and bloody, the interest in battle, murder and sudden death which is a legacy of our immature status as human beings. And at that we must leave it for the present.
Part of the British side, eight players in all, was resting at Mt. Cook while the game was played, but the tourists fielded a good side.
Britain kicked off against the sun, having lost the toss, and attacked at once, Jennings being prominent in a Blue rush. Penalties began to be distributed after four minutes’ play, and- from a free kick against Ivor Jones, Strang landed an excellent goal from near half way.
Combined Team 3 Britain 0
The local wing forward, Whiting, flashed into action in leading a rush, but Britain saved. A penalty gained ground for the tourists, but the Combined backs had achieved that miracle, combination, and some nice rushes by them took play back, aided by their forwards who were jumping into their work with great élan. The spectators sat up and took notice when a brilliant bit of passing among the Combined forwards and backs let Strang over for a try at the corner, which he failed to convert.
Combined Team 6 Britain 0
Were the gods about to desert the British side now, after allowing them a last minute victory in the First Test? What sort of a team was this Combined one anyway? Reports have it that the Britishers had made no secret of their intention to rattle up a big score that day, because combined teams are rarely so except in name, and a good try-getting afternoon would give the backs a nice bit of exercise, not too strenuous but very pleasant. Now, six points behind, the Britishers were up against it, and would have to look to their laurels. Probably this desire to win, and that right speedily, became a little too easily transformed into a determination to win at all costs; and the game took an entirely new complexion. Rew was prominent in feeding his backs from loose play, and the British rearguard lost no time in trying to get through, but the Combined backs were tackling in deadly fashion. From a scramble in neutral territory, Poole sent Ivor Jones away and the clever Welshman beat his man passing to Black, to Prentice, who scored under the posts, Black converting.
Combined Team 6 Britain 5
Nothing daunted, the home team fired away in good earnest and Hollow marked in a good position when he British forwards were trying to clear. He kicked a nice goal, and the scores were now
Combined Team 9 Britain 5
Not a bad showing for a team which had not played together, and half time found them still on top with the scores unchanged.
Hollow drove the visitors back again with a nice kick after the resumption, but the British lions were feeling like a meal, and they came back with a mighty rush, ball at toe. For an infringement in the scrum, the Combined forwards were penalised, and Black kicked a penalty goal.
Combined Team 9 Britain 8
Nine-eight is all the score that many teams have won games with, and luck was against the plucky Combined team in not allowing them to retain their lead. Shortly after, following a British back movement, the local side was penalised for obstruction, and Black kicked another penalty.
Britain 11 Combined Team 9
From a mêlée near the British line, when the Combined team was going in great style and hammering away with attack after attack, the ball shot back to Bassett, and D. Callanan shot after it as though from a gun. Callanan appeared to touch down before Bassett, and the referee was “far, far away.” The resourceful full-back managed to smother all semblance of a try by picking up Callanan with the ball by the time the whistler appeared over the horizon. Scrum five yards out. Hats off to the heady policeman for the shrewd move! The British backs clinched the argument when Novis got possession, making a good run and cross-kicking to Jennings, who although injured at the time, dashed over for a try in a good spot. Black made no mistake with the kick, and the game ended with the scores
Britain 16 Combined Team 9
Out of twenty-five points scored, tries converted and unconverted tries made up thirteen points, and the rest came from three penalties and a goal from a mark. Thus Britain crossed their opponents’ line twice and had one try scored against them.
In the British. backs Bowcott and Bassett were the pick, and played great football, Hodgson and Ivor Jones leading the forwards in their stern tussle. The Combined forwards played well to a man, and Whiting gave a remarkable exhibition of wing forward play. The Ashburton man played a true sporting game at cover, showing how the position can be filled without cribbing or “cheating.” He showed great speed off the mark, and his defensive work was grand.
Archie Strang covered himself with glory, and his game was described at the dinner after the match, by F. D. Prentice, British captain, as “One of the best I have ever seen in my life.” In 1928 in South Africa, Strang played four games on end at half-back and earned great praise in that position. His showing in the Combined team’s game earned him a place in the Third Test at Auckland at five-eighths.
Altogether it was only the slight superiority in the British back line that enabled them to bring off a lucky win. A good many players were injured in the game, among them being A. Gaffaney, the local centre three-quarter who had his shoulder hurt, R. Jennings, Hodgson and Bassett. Hodgson’s injuries kept him out of the Second Test, it being found that the ligaments of his ankle were badly sprained. Jennings suffered a fracture of the outer end of his shoulder, and since he got this before scoring his try, he deserves praise for lasting to the bitter end. At the same time the rule prohibiting the replacement of players has been shown to be an unnecessarily rigorous one.
Rew, the bustling English international, was spoken to by the referee, and at the time there was an idea current that he had been ordered off. The referee, Mr A. E. Budd, denied this after the game, in a statement to a representative of the “Southland Daily News,” and made it plain that he had merely cautioned Rew. The game was played at a pretty fast clip, and Referee Budd had forgotten to go for a few runs in preparation for it. Otherwise he ruled fairly and squarely, and was complimented after the match by an official of the South Canterbury Referees’ Association.
Both teams dined together after the game, and the hard knocks that had been exchanged were speedily forgotten in good fellowship and tolerance.
The British players trained and rested at Timaru till Thursday, July 3, when they left for Christchurch, arriving there that night.”
From: “”With the BRITISH RUGBY TEAM in NEW ZEALAND 1930” by G T Alley. Published by Simpson & Williams Ltd, Christchurch. Pp 105-110.