In the days of true amateurism this game had a delayed start whilst both teams waited for Newport’s J P Jones to arrive after missing his train from Pontypool!
The Rodney Parade pitch was soaked after 16 consecutive days on which rain had fallen but an entertaining match was played out in front of a crowd of about 8,000. A successful conversion was all that separated the two teams. Dix scored a try that was successfully converted by Carmichael early in the game. Newport replied later with a try from Melville Baker.
The Newport team contained twelve players who at some time would represent their countries. Ten Welshmen, English full-back Stanley Williams and J E C ‘Bird’ Partridge who once represented South Africa.
Defined forward positions were in their infancy and often at a scrum, the forwards would assemble in whatever order they arrived at the position on the field rather than take up specific roles. i.e. the first three to arrive would be the front row and so on. Australia had abandoned this concept in favour of specialist roles and it was the heeling at the scrum which Australian captain Dr H M Moran attributed their plentiful possession to.
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The Times of 21st December 1908 reported on the game as follows:-
"NEWPORT v. THE AUSTRALIANS"
"After a keen struggle at Newport on Saturday the Australians beat Newport by a goal to a try – five points to three. Although only a successful place kick turned the fortunes of the afternoon the Australians deserved their win. They were the more often in attack, but were checked on several occasions by the stoutness of the defence and in some degree by the conditions in which the game was played. The ground was enveloped in a mist and the turf was wet and heavy. Accurate passing was difficult and blunders were plentiful. The Australians made four changes from the side that lost to Wales. Dix took Carroll's place on the left wing, Wood came in at half-back for Ward Prentice, and among the forwards McCue and Craig gave way to Row and Middleton. Newport were weakened in the pack by the absence of Pritchard and Boots, two of their heavy forwards."
"In the first 20 minutes the game was full of interest, each side striving to gain the upper hand. Owing to some clever kicking into touch the Australians took up a strong position. A cross-kick by Wood enabled Russell to race up and force the Newport full back into touch. Then one of the Welsh three-quarters had his kick charged down, and the ball went to an Australian forward, who threw it out wide to Dix on the left. The Australian three-quarter gathered the pass and ran over the Newport line, Carmichael placing a great goal. After this reverse the Welshmen played with fine dash, and relied largely on the tactics of breaking away quickly from the scrimmage. Their forwards, using their feet well in the open, swept through the Australian backs, and after a sharp attack J. Jones made a fine opening for M. Baker to score, but Burt's kick from a difficult angle failed. From this point to half-time it was a battle between the Australian backs and the Newport forwards, and it was a case of honours being easy. At the interval the Australians led by two points, and that advantage they maintained to the end."
"In the second half the Australians clearly were the better side. Their forwards controlled the ball in the scrimmage, but the efforts of their half-backs to open up the game were neutralized by the quick tackling and spoiling of Vile at half-back, and the strong defence generally of the Newport men, Burt in particular being in great form. During the closing stages the chief point of interest was whether the Australians would score again or not , but they failed to do so. The Newport team were very strong in defence, but showed little combination behind, their backs relying on their kicking into touch and keen tackling. Apart from their one score Newport were rarely dangerous, and on the whole were fortunate not to be beaten by a larger margin of points."