Thinking and talking about rugby every day for 50+ years
7 December 2014
Isn't it amazing what you sometimes find in a box of old 'stuff' at your place. This is one such piece of rugby memorabilia.
In amongst a box of old clippings and papers I found the programme of a 1973 rugby day which Australia would prefer to forever forget but Tonga will always shout to the heavens over!
That year Tonga celebrated having completed 50 years of organised rugby in the 'Friendly Islands.' To celebrate there was a tour to Nuku'alofa by a 'International Invitational' team, there was also a tour by the New Zealand Maori team and Tonga's test team flew out on a two-month tour of Australia and Fiji.
Wow! What a year!
There was a mix of results for the Tongans; they shared a win each against the Invitation team (Which was curiously 'co-captained' by 37 year old Colin Meads and 44-year old Uaisele Latukefu); Tonga beat the New Zealand Maori team by 11-3 in the only test match and Tonga were then well beaten by the Wallabies in the first test in Sydney by 30-14.
But instead of fading meekly ahead of the second test the Tongans ran out onto Ballymore in Brisbane and were all fired up. They scored a superb 4 tries-to 2 victory by 16-11. Australian rugby was stunned. The result hastened the end of several test careers while some others quietly decided to accpet invitations to join professional rugby league.
Apparently the score would have been much more if the touring team's goal kicking had have been better.
[It was considered then - and still is - Tonga's greatest test victory. (Right up until their Rugby World Cup win over France in Wellington in 2011]
By all accounts the Tongans were very popular in Australia. One writer wrote warmly about their off-field appearance at social functions; 'with their crimson blazers, shell necklaces and cream sarongs, with taovala belts showing their rank in Tongan society.'
That was nice, although to call one of the players a 'golliwog halfback' the same writer's words would not not have gone down so well these days!
Wales 13 NZ 8 in Cardiff; Their first win over the All Blacks for 50 years. But as of 2014 they had never beaten NZ again in over 50 more years!
Canterbury, Marlborough, Waikato, Auckland and New Zealand
6 internationals for New Zealand 1946–49
Fred Allen was one of the truly giant personalities of New Zealand rugby in the 30 years after the end of World War II. After being ﬁrst recognised as a star of the famous New Zealand Army team (the Kiwis) which toured Britain in 1945–46, he gained selection and the captaincy of his country in 1946. He was also made captain for two All Black tours, to Australia in 1947 and to South Africa in 1949, though he was dropped – at his own behest – for the ﬁnal two tests in 1949.
After his playing days were over, Allen continued to make a remarkable contribution to New Zealand rugby.
He became coach of the Auckland team and took it through one of the province’s greatest eras. Under Allen’s guidance, Auckland defended the Ranfurly Shield 25 times, then a record, between 1960–63.
From 1964 Allen progressed to selecting and coaching All Black teams. He and Charlie Saxton, his captain from the Kiwis 20 years before, formed a formidable managerial team behind the 1967 All Blacks in Great Britain. That side was unbeaten and is remembered as one of the best international teams to have visited Britain.
He retired as All Black coach in 1968 having had team which played in 37 games for 36 wins.
In his later years Allen continued to be a highly respected and recognisable personality in the game in New Zealand. He was knighted in 2010 and died in 2012, aged 92.
In which town or city was the first international rugby match played in Wales?