Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
11 February 2015
This is a photograph taken at one of rugby's rarest events. It was a 'secret' test match played at Owl Creek Polo Field in Glenville, New York in September 1981.
The game was watched by the world's 'smallest' attendance at an officially sanctioned rugby test match. 30 'approved' rugby people watched the action (though obviously only on one side of the field.)
South Africa won the game by 38-7. The venue, date, & time of kickoff etc were all kept under wraps so as not to encourage anti-apartheid protests against the South African team. They had just come from a turbulent 3-test, protest ridden tour of New Zealand and were heading home.
In the picture to the right in the headband is the Springbok captain Wynand Claassen.
New Zealand's sevens team had won four gold medals in a row from 1998-2010 but on this day at Glasgow in the final New Zealand fell to Kyle Brown's South Africam by 19-12. A great rugby era had ended.
Rosslyn Park and England
4 internationals for England 1936
One of rugby history’s most colourful characters, Prince Alexander Obolensky was the son of Prince Alexis of Russia. The young prince was born in Leningrad in 1916 but was taken to England the following year, presumably to avoid the Russian revolution.
He was educated at Trent College and Brasenose College, Oxford. ‘Obo’, as he was known, was an elegant and speedy wing and his rugby prowess was quickly recognised. Late in 1935 he played for Oxford in the annual Universities match, the first of three appearances in that famous game.
As a 19-year-old, early in 1936, he played for England against New Zealand at Twickenham. England caused an upset by thrashing the All Blacks by 13–0. Obolensky scored two tries, one of which has become a classic. His diagonal run through the New Zealand defence, as he scored for the second time, can still be admired on newsreel film footage and on YouTube. That game thereafter became known by rugby writers as ‘Obolensky’s match’.
After he left Oxford University his form fluctuated and fell away. He won only four caps, all in the 1935–36 season, but his memory is ensured both because of his colourful family background and his extraordinary, if briefly flowering, rugby talent.
A world record in first-class rugby is still entered in some books under Obolensky’s name. ‘Obo’ toured South America with a 'Rugby Football Union' team in 1936 (presumably an English selection), and in a game against Brazil he crossed for 17 tries, still a record for one game, though perhaps the first-class quality of the local XV might be called into question.
When World War II broke out, Obolensky joined the Royal Air Force. He died when the Hawker Hurricane he was piloting crashed on landing in East Anglia. He was the first of 111 rugby internationals from all countries to lose their lives in the conflict.
What was different about the British Columbian winger Denny Veitch who played against the British and Irish Lions in Vancouver in 1966?