October 27 1945
The “Kiwis” tour begins.
A New Zealand army rugby team had performed well in Britain after World War I so it was perhaps inevitable that something similar would be proposed at the end of the 1939-45 conflict. Lieutenant-General Bernard Freyberg, commanding the New Zealand Division in the Middle East and Italy is understood to have sounded out the prospects of an Army tour some two years before the War ended.
Gradually the tour arrangements went ahead, an itinerary was prepared while trials were being held in Italy, Austria and finally in Margate, Kent. Finally the team was selected and the 2nd NZEF Army “Kiwis” headed for Wales where the first three matches were to be played.
“THE TOUR’S OBJECTS.
General Freyberg made clear quite early his objects in sponsoring the tour:
(1) To help revive interest in Rugby in the British Isles, where it had been practically dormant during the War years.
(2) To aid charities of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as well as New Zealand War charities.
(3).By the experience gained from the tour the game would ultimately benefit in New Zealand.
(4) To play bright, open. football with the winning of the game the least important factor.
The “Kiwis’’ were successful in each of these objects. Their tour certainly helped in the revival of Rugby in the British Isles; charities benefitted by almost £40,000; they played bright, open football even when judgment whispered that play should be tightened up; and no one can deny that the return of the “Kiwis’’ has given Rugby in this country the greatest fillip it has had since 1937.
Swansea, at St. Helen’s Ground, Swansea
If you want to start a Rugby tour of the British Isles in the toughest possible way, let me recommend you to WaIes; and if history is correct, Swansea should give you all the thrills you want.
You can imagine how we all raised our eye-brows when the itinerary of the 2nd N.Z.E.F. tour, not only showed the first three games to be scheduled for Wales, but also that the initial match was to be against our historic ‘‘enemies,” Swansea. Many of us cut our Rugby teeth on Billy Wal1ac ‘s ‘‘Pot” that won the game against Swansea, 4-3, in 1905. The 1924 team put six inches on our chest measurements when they won 39-3. That, by the way, is one match you do not hear discussed in Wales. They are just as silent over that game as we are about the 29-0 score, against Wellington in 1937 by a certain touring team. The same team beat New Zealand, at Auckland, a little later (17-6). That hurt. In 1935, Swansea had a triumph over the All Blacks, winning 11-3. Yes, it certainly looked grim tackling Swansea ‘‘first-up,’’ particularly as ‘‘Charlie” Saxton couldn’t play. (Saxton had been injured in the Trials, a downward hit on the head injuring his shoulder muscles to such an extent that he was not actually quite right during the tour.) Then, too, Haydn Tanner came all the way home from Germany to lead the Swansea team, and that meant something to Swansea. Tanner is still the best scrum-half in Rugby to-day, despite his age.
Apart from Saxton, what was thought to be the strongest side was fielded by the ‘‘Kiwis,’’ as the programme called them; Some 20,000 Welshman stood and sang the Welsh National Hymn, ‘‘Land Of Our Fathers.’’ To hear it really thrills you—it is magnificent. Then everybody sat down and the fun started, How those Welshmen roared when their idol, Haydn Tanner, in the first five minutes, slipped around the side of the scrum and ran for the line. Allen watched Gwyn Griffiths, his opposite number, but Tanner made for Boggs, on the wing, and then sent a back-hander to Elvet Jones, and Swansea had scored (0-3). How that crowd did roar! But hundreds of New Zealanders— nearly all Servicemen—had their chance when Smith carved through the opposition and handed on to Sherratt. He beat one man, barged through two more and went over in a collar. Scott’s kick hit an upright, and the score was 3-3; but Scott made no mistake over the next one, after Arnold had shown surprising pace to score, following a break by Allen and Finlay (8-3). The Swansea forwards now took a hand in. affairs, and, with Haydn Tanner, kept the “Kiwis” occupied for the rest of the spell. The half-time score was 8-3. The “Kiwi’’ pack was really formidable in the second half, and some of the best wheeling of the scrum of the whole tour was seen. Maclean, was really grand, and his injury was a tremendous blow to the team—as they found out later It was following a screwed scrum that New Zealand’s next try came. Maclean and Young broke away down the left wing; the ball went to Woolley, to Finlay, who sent
Young over for Scott to convert (13-3). Then Scott kicked a fine penalty from five yards inside half-way (16-3). A few minutes later, Parkhouse kicked almost as good a one for Swansea (16-6). Then the ‘‘Kiwis” started playing the football that was to make them so popular later. They threw the ball everywhere, and wherever it went either a ‘‘Kiwi” back or forward would take it and carry on. Only deadly tackling ‘and good work by Parkhouse, kept them out. Then came a lovely try: Following a scrum, the ball went to Smith; he beat his man and made as if to pass to Sherratt. The opposition believed him, so Smith went “inside” and scored himself. No goal (19-6). Allen’s turn next. Edwards slipped as he received from a scrum; but Allen raced behind him, picked up and went on the blind side. With a typical dummy and side-step he left “the gate open” for Sherratt, and ‘‘big Jim” ‘scored his second try. Scott missed, and though the “Kiwis” kept on top in the next five minutes, the Swansea defence held the score at 22-6.”
From “Broadcasting with the Kiwis” by Winston McCarthy. Pub. 1947 by Sporting Publications. P.13,24-25.