May 30 1908
Anglo-Welsh suffer second loss.
BRITISH TEAM v. OTAGO. VISITORS DEFEATED BY 9 POINTS TO 6.
SPLENDID WORK BY THE FORWARDS.
New Zealanders are very like the people of England in physique, morals, and sentiment, and we in the Dominion must consider ourselves bracketed with the British when people on the Continent speak slightingly of England as a nation of shopkeepers. This, to the present day at all events, is a libel, which we and England can fling back in their faces with this assurance: “We are a nation of footballers.”
One of those clean-played, willing, and pluckily-contested matches that have made, and are making, the history of Rugby football a shining monument to Anglo-Saxon manhood was played between the province of Otago and the British representative team at Carisbrook on Saturday afternoon before a very large number of spectators.
The sun shone so brightly during the earlier part of the day that the public looked forward to having the pleasure of his presence at the ground; but fate had arranged otherwise, and about 11 a.m. a typical sample of “football” weather, according to accepted traditions, began to brew.
The heavens were curtained with sombre tints; a boisterous wind sprang up, and, seizing the trees, shook them till they waved their branches in anguish. Liquid refreshment, in the form of iced rain, was in evidence, and was distributed on a lavish scale, and Dunedin, putting up its umbrella, went its way rejoicing to the match.
There was one vast oblong of emerald, empty, save for the goals, stilted and gaunt, and surrounding this tier on tier rose a mighty amphitheatre of black umbrellas, bobbing like an enthusiastic but somewhat funereal sea. Then the rain ceased, and the amphitheatre became a garden of faces. It was a wonderful crowd, some 15,000 strong, and the like of it for cheery good humour and feverish enthusiasm could probably not have been found outside Now Zealand. It compared favourably with a football crowd in England. It has been .said that the English take their pleasures sadly; but they do not. They take them as if they positively disliked them. An Englishman will hurry to a football match as if his life depended on it, but when he arrives at the gate he assumes an air of martyrdom, and takes his place in the crush as solemnly as if it was a funeral. Sometimes some brilliant piece of play surprises him into enthusiasm, but as a rule an English football crowd is rather ashamed of showing keen interest or intense enthusiasm, and it is only when you see them looking serious or bored, that you know they are enjoying themselves very much indeed.
Behind this crowd were the trees that rocked so, and a second glance showed that their waving branches bore human fruit in the shape of boys, who thus supplied themselves—and their parents—with something extra special in the way of thrill. Though there were thousands within who had no wish to get out, there were many without who wished to get in. The authorities do not encourage unfinancial spectators to hang on outside the fence and look over, and have adorned the top of the palisade with formidable spikes. However, where there’s a will there’s a way, and people did look over, and the spectacle afforded was, to say the least of it, weird. The keen interest taken in this exciting contest could be gauged not only by the number present, but the variety of callings that number represented. There were the navy, the army, the church, the press, law, medicine, teaching, and all trades and callings in constellations with their satellites. The crowd was not remarkable for containing people you expected to see, but for those whom you did not expect to see; and the fact of the presence of such a large number of ladies spoke volumes for the reputation which British and New Zealand sportsmen have won for Rugby football. In or out of uniform, a colonel—that is, a real colonel—can never be mistaken for anything else, and the public, though it had probably never before seen him in mufti, had no difficulty in recognising an eminent strategist who viewed the game with eyes eloquent of tactics. There were footballers of to-day; there were footballers of long ago, over whose grey heads many seasons had come and gone, and it was hard to say which were the keenest.
The harmony of the Kaikorai Band ceased suddenly. It was a quarter to 3, and in the midst of a deep hush the people stood on the tip-toe of expectation. Then arose a mighty roar of welcome as the blue jerseys of Otago dotted the green; and another stentorian shout swept citywards as the red, while, and blue of the British representative team followed.
Then became apparent the care and forethought that had been expended in the arranging of the ground for the spectators. The standing space was raised from the boundary to the outer fence all round, so that those standing in the rear could see equally well as in front, and many had occasion to be thankful to the experience of method of the Working Committee— Messrs Hamel and Cavanagh. In a central position was a large-lettered announcement that from hence telegrams could be despatched to all part of New Zealand, to Australia, and to Great Britain, and it seemed interesting lo reflect that London might possibly know the result of the game before North-East Valley.
There was some conjecture as to what the British team would think of the ground, and soon after their arrival it was passed round that they had taken a good look at it and had pronounced it to be the best they had yet seen.
Given a good high wind, and efficient players it is marvellous what capers a Rugby football is capable of; and the players certainly kept going. Sometimes the wind took a hand and made efforts to throw it on to the big drum that lay across the boundary in company with the trombone. Failing this, Borcas taking advantage of some stupendous kicks, caught the leather and hurled it at the gentlemen of the press, who sat at a long table on the grass. There was one casualty. In spite of leaden skies it was in many ways a memorable scene. The good points in the British play were applauded every whit as vociferously as those of Otago, but the populace went mad with delight for one ecstatic moment when Otago scored its winning try.
When the whistle blew for time the people streamed over the barriers till the ground was black with them, and the teams, muddy and breathless, made their way to the dressing rooms amid wildly cheering crowds.
The general arrangements, as previously indicated, were creditable in a most marked degree to those responsible, but it may be stated that in the opinion of many there were hardly enough ushers in the grandstand, and it is to be hoped, for the sake of public convenience, that more of those officials will be in evidence in the match between Britain and New Zealand on June 6.
The behaviour of the public, it may be hardly necessary to state, was most orderly, and the services of the posse of police, commanded by Sub-inspector Norwood, were happily more or less of a sinecure.
As a result of (he heavy rain on Friday night and the shower before play commenced, the ground was soft, and it was badly cut up before the game had been in progress for more than 10 minutes. At the end of half an hour, by which time play had taken place all over the field, the grass had been pretty well all swept off, and in many parts it was very slippery. As the day wore on the ground became worse, and if was difficult for the players to keep a footing. The ball was soon reduced to a condition that made it almost impossible to handle it, which was a great disadvantage to both sides. There was a strong wind blowing across the ground from the south-west.
The teams were constituted as follows; — BRITISH TEAM (Red and White). Full back: R. B. Griffiths. Three-quarters: R. A. Gibbs (Captain). H. H. Vassall, J. Ponty Jones, F. E. Chapman. Halves: G. Williams, J. Davey. Forwards: R. Dibble, W. Oldham, E. Morgan, F Jackson, T. Smith, H. Archer J. A. S. Ritson, J. C. M. Dyke.
OTAGO TEAM (Blue). Full back: W. J. Kindley. Three-quarters: J O’Sullivan, R. Bennet, E. J. Dwyer. Five-eighths: R. I. Dansey. J. M’Leod. Half back: A. Eckhold. Forwards: A. M’Donald (Captain), S. Casey, P. Fitzpatrick, F. Ivimey, H. Paton, A. Patterson, G. M’Kenzie, L. M. Tansey.
The Otago team averaged 12st 3lb. The backs scaled 11st 7lb on the average, and the forwards 12st 2lb.
The weights of the British team were not published on the programme. The manager informed our representative that the men had not been weighed since they left the ship. Pursuing his inquiries further, our reporter could obtain no definite information as to the men’s ship weight, except that the vessel lurched a bit as some of them left her side.
Punctually at 2.45 p.m. the teams took the field. The Otago men were out first, and gave the visitors a rousing cheer as they came through the gate.
Note: Because the newspaper account of the run of play is very lengthy a shorter version has been inserted.
“Otago fielded a strong combination, of whom Bennet, Eckhold, McDonald, Paton and Casey had already played for New Zealand, while Paterson and Ivimey were later to do so. Nevertheless, the visitors were expected to win.
Reggie Gibbs, who captained the tourists in Harding’s absence, won the toss from McDonald and elected to play with the elements in his favour. The game developed into a forward struggle, but while the ball was still dry the British backs, especially Vassall, looked dangerous.
The game was well into the late stages of the first half before Dyke opened the scoring with a penalty goal from the Otago 25-yard line. The visitors were soon on attack again from a scrum in midfield. Otago were forced back and the visiting forwards broke away, headed by Dibble and Archer. The ball was kicked over the Otago line, where Archer fell on it for an unconverted try.
The locals then worked their way into Anglo-Welsh territory for Fitzpatrick to score from a brilliant forward rush making the score 6-3 at halftime.
Early in the second half, Paton equalised when Dyke, playing as a rover, was caught offside in his own 25. Sensing victory the home forwards resumed the attack and, from a rush headed by Paterson and Ivimey, took play to the British line The ball was spun along the backline to Dwyer, who scored wide out. Paton missed the conversion and the game ended shortly after in a 9-6 win to Otago.
Vassall had a fine first game for the tourists, being well supported by Gibbs and ‘Ponty’ Jones. Jackett had apparentlv still not recovered from the injuries suffered at Wellington, and Griffiths, who played fullback on the day, was obviously out of his element. Dyke should have played fullback instead of being used as a wing forward. Jackson stood out in the British pack, as did Dibble, Oldham and Edgar Morgan.
McDonald, Casey, Ivimey and Paterson showed their class in the Otago pack, which was skilfully held together by Paton in the set scrums. Eckhold was solid at halfback, but Dansey, the well-known South Island representative and New Zealand Universities star, did not live up to his reputation. All Black Bennet was also disappointing at centre, but Macleod, the second five-eighth, and Dwyer, on the wing, were most impressive.”
From “The Visitors” by R H Chester & N A C McMillan, Moa Publications, pub. 1990 p.83.
The teams were greeted with vociferous and long-continued cheers as they left the ground.
THE REFEREE. Dr Crawford, of Invercargill, was referee He gave his decisions promptly, and acted in a most impartial manner.
NOTES ON THE PLAY.
As the two teams came on to the field Otago appeared to be on the light side and no doubt the Britishers had the advantage in actual weight, but their strongly defined jerseys of red and white, as compared with the sombre dark blue of Otago, gave the team a heavier appearance than may possibly have been the case in reality. All the same. Britain’s representatives are not yet in real playing trim. They are on the big side, and must train down somewhat. As a combination they are evidently capable of big things, but on Saturday the nature of the game was such that their backs never got a chance of showing their merits. It was at once evident that the great crowd of spectators was not going to witness one of those brilliant exhibitions of the passing game which make Rugby so popular. The match started as a forward game, and as such it remained until the call of “no side.” Not that the game was slow, by any means. Quite the reverse. The bail travelled up and down and across the field continually, and the enthusiasm of the onlookers was never allowed to flag. It was rarely possible to anticipate what was going to occur, the ball coming out from the pack in most unlooked for places and shooting away in the direction least expected. Olago did not start off too well, appearing to lack confidence. For the major part of the first spell they were badly beaten in the scrum, whilst on the line-out too, the Reds had all the advantage. Britain’s opening attack was very determined, and could they have maintained it throughout the two 40-minute spells, instead of only for the first half of the first spell, the final result might have been different. Of course, great things were expected of Vassall, the famous three-quarter, and a great shout went up when, very early in the game, he got possession and streaked for the line. Otago’s a full back grassed him beautifully, and that was practically the only opportunity that was afforded of observing the sprinter’s powers. England’s first score was made exactly 12 minutes after the kick off. A free kick was awarded for off-side play on Otago’s part. Dyke, who took the kick, elected to drop-kick at goal instead of having the ball placed. The decision was justified by the result, a splendid goal resulting. Even with this reverse Otago did not seem to shake themselves together, for just a few minutes afterwards play was again back in their territory, and, to the dismay of the crowd, a rush of Red forwards went clean through to the line, and Archer was observed to dash across and fall on the ball, thus raising the visitors’ score to 6 points. A section of the spectators appeared to take exception to this try, being evidently under the impression that the Red forwards who started the rush which ended in the try being scored were off-side. Such, however, was not the case. The ball was, in the first instance, kicked against an Otago man, thus putting everyone onside. There was no question about England’s ability to score if the least opening was given them, and it was very gratifying to the Otago supporters to observe that their representatives rallied and entered into the game with great heart. The nature of the play seemed to change entirely. Britain hardly had another look in. The Blue pack, once they commenced to play in earnest, gave one of the finest exhibitions of aggressive forward play ever seen in Dunedin. They came through time after time with almost irresistible force. The marked difference in Otago’s loose rushes as compared with those of Britain was that Otago’s were concerted and participated in by usually half a dozen men all keen on the trail, whilst those of Britain were more spasmodic and generally confined to two or three men. The try by Fitzpatrick, with which Otago opened its account, was the direct result of this feature of the Otago rushes. The Otago backs played on the defensive the whole time, and never attempted to force the game. They very wisely left the attack to their forwards. Britain put up a very determined fight, but they were no match for the swift onslaughts of the opposing forwards. Their backs were continually hampered by the speedy following up of the local men. Dyke was responsible for Otago’s second score by holding on to the ball in his own twenty-five, and being penalised accordingly. Paton’s kick was true and sure. The scores were thus equalised, and the great crowd yelled and cheered to the echo, and when, later on, Dwyer swooped across the line and scored near the corner flag the excitement was renewed with even greater force. By this time a strong cross wind was blowing, and Paton’s kick was foredoomed to failure. The tendency on the part of the visitors to play off-side was somewhat too pronounced, and Dr Crawford might, at times, have been more strict in dealing with these infringements without in any way endangering his reputation for impartiality as a referee.
On the day there is little question that the better team won. The honours of the day go undoubtedly to Otago’s magnificent forward combination. Without exception our forwards played a great game, keen, swift, and sure, they were always “there,” and deserve great praise for their magnificent dash. The formation of the British team was entirely different, from that of Olago, playing as they did four threequarters, and the “three-two-three” system in the scrum. The British backs did not make great use of their opportunities for passing, but they had ample chances of stopping rushes, and in this they showed great ability arid also readiness of resource. They were never at a, loss as to what to do, and proved themselves very sound on defence. The refereeing of Dr Crawford, of Invercargill, was quite satisfactory. When Otago kicked off there was only a light southerly wind blowing, and this was against Otago in the first spell. As the afternoon advanced, however, the wind increased in force, and during the second spell a nasty cross wind blew, making matters somewhat unpleasant for spectators, and not improving Britain’s chances. Several mishaps occurred during the progress of the match, the most serious being to T. Smith, a British forward, who sustained an injury in the groin. Both Smith and M’Leod (Otago) were hurt at the same time, and play was stopped for some minutes. Both men resumed their places amid hearty applause, but it was evident that Smith’s injuries interfered with his subsequent play to some extent. The spectators were quick in their perception of the points of merit, and applauded friend and foe quite impartially but very enthusiastically.”