Scandal, drama and injury to the All Blacks

Scandal, drama and injury to the All Blacks

Martyn Williams admitted the famous chin-stop was a “surreal” moment

Cheating, national scandal, timing disasters and thrilling drama… Wales v New Zealand rarely disappoints.

The history of matches between two nations that bleed rugby – and much of the red has been spilled over the years – is almost a history of the game itself.

Since the “Match of the Century” in 1905, which gave rise to the tradition of singing national anthems before sporting events, they have struggled.

Now Justin Tipuric’s side are the latest to attempt to lift the millstone around their necks and bring a 69-year losing streak to an end.

There is bitterness that the wait has gone on for so long, not least after the most publicized allegations of cheating in Welsh rugby history.

Cardiff in 1978 hosted what was as close to a World Cup final as time allowed. The All Blacks had defeated the British & Irish Lions the previous year and Wales were the Grand Slam champions.

It was New Zealand’s first visit to Cardiff since the infamous incident on the night of Keith Murdoch sent home in shame after punching a hotel doorman. Still today, All Blacks players, staff and fans stop at the Angel Hotel, opposite the Principality Stadium on Westgate Street, for a pint of remembrance.

Keith Murdoch returns to New Zealand
Keith Murdoch became a recluse in Australia until his death in 2018

In 1978, Graham Mourie’s tourists scored the only try of the game but Wales had dominated and led 12-10 as the clock inside the cauldron of the old Arms Park ticked down to the final minute.

Little did they know that the New Zealand players, gearing up for their biggest challenge of the tour, had hatched an escape plan the night before.

Andy Haden, the All Blacks’ lock and manager, later wrote: “With Wales in front I knew there could only be a minute or so left. I went to Frank Oliver, my lock partner… and told him the plan in four words: ‘I’m going to dive’.”

Sure enough, Haden lunged from the line-out just as Wales hooker Bobby Windsor threw the ball.

Wales’ players were confused when England referee Roger Quittenton awarded a penalty and Brian McKechnie scored the winning point.

Quittenton would later claim he had penalized Geoff Wheel for an infringement, but the Kiwi intent was clear and the blatant injustice would rage.

Geoff Wheel and Andy Haden
Andy Haden admitted in his autobiography that the All Blacks hatched a plan to cheat

Windsor described the match as the worst day of his career. He added: “I knew straight away it was a hoax. When we later found out they had planned it the night before, it really got to me. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.”

It would be 26 years before Wales would come so close to ending the losing run.

In contrast to 1978, few expected much from a young Wales side in 2004 who had done little to impress despite scoring a record 37 points against the All Blacks in defeat at the World Cup in Australia the previous year.

Under new head coach Mike Ruddock and with a rising young star, Gavin Henson, in their ranks, Wales played with abandon and led at half time through trials by Tom Shanklin and Mefin Davies.

New Zealand, jolted into action, had Joe Rokocoko, the most potent player on the planet at the time, to thank for two wonderful solo tries. But for once Wales refused to back down and could have produced a shock if not for some disastrous timing.

Wales, back to within a point after Henson’s kick, thought it was injury time to get on the stadium clock, which actually showed the correct time on the referee’s watch.

With seconds remaining, Stephen Jones kicked the ball away and Wales never had another chance.

Test shooter Shanklin said: “It’s actually more painful and frustrating now, looking back, than it was at the time. We’d been through a few tough years so I was actually quite pleased we hadn’t been clubbed and put on. an amazing show.

“But when you look back, you now realize how close we came to making history. But the win was that the autumn campaign set us up for another piece of history with the Grand Slam the following year.”

How to answer the Haka has troubled oppositions throughout the history of the game.

In 1905 the Welsh crowd’s chant was Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau as a response to the Haka the first time a national anthem was sung before an international sporting event.

It had the desired effect. New Zealand captain Dave Gallaher later wrote that he had never experienced anything like it in his life and they lost the only match of their 35-match tour.

But a century later, the Welsh Rugby Union’s (WRU) attempted response to the Haka backfired disastrously.

New Zealand rugby players performing the Haka
The All Blacks were furious that the WRU insisted they broke with tradition by performing the Haka before the anthem

In 2005, the WRU asked to play the anthem after Haka as part of the centenary celebrations of the match. New Zealand agreed – as a one-off.

So when the WRU asked to do the same again a year later, the All Blacks were not impressed. Both sides dug in their heels and 74,000 expectant fans inside the then Millennium Stadium, as well as the Welsh players, watched in confusion as footage of the All Blacks performing the Haka in their dressing room was shown on the stadium’s giant screens.

“Playing them in 2006 will always stick with me,” said former propexternal link Adam Jones.

“For some reason the powers that be decided it would be a good idea to try and convince the All Blacks to do their Haka before we responded with our national anthem.

“They put 40 points on us that day, and [then Harlequins team-mate] Nick Evans told me that the incident ensured that they wanted to destroy us.”

Learning from the experience, two years later Wales conjured up a titillating response that remains etched in the minds of every onlooker.

It was Warren Gatland’s first game in charge of Wales against his native New Zealand and he challenged his senior players to understand the significance of the traditional Maori challenge. It was Martyn Williams who came up with a wonderfully simple but devilishly clever answer.

“Gats explained that if you turn first, psychologically the All Blacks already have one on you,” the former flanker said.

“It was a bit of a throwaway comment, but I said, ‘well, what if we just don’t turn around?’. Let’s line up on the 10-metre line, so we don’t obstruct the kick-off. , and we’ll just stand there.”

What followed was 80 seconds of sporting theater that was proof that rugby doesn’t need pyrotechnics or pipe music, just a stony display of sheer determination.

Wales had positioned themselves perfectly, so it was the All Blacks, who had gathered on the halfway line, who were forced to retreat.

“It felt like we were there forever and it just got louder and louder the longer we stood there,” Williams recalled.

“It’s one of those moments that everyone remembers. It was great theater and actually the boys from New Zealand said afterwards they loved it too.”

Did it work? Wales lost the game 29-9.

This weekend, another New Zealander is trying to end that wait. If Wayne Pivac’s team do, it will undoubtedly add even more sporting drama to a game already rich in history and infamy.

#Scandal #drama #injury #Blacks

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