"From Battlefield to Football Field. After revealing once again their great fighting qualities staunchly at the side of Britain in some of the bitterest fighting of the War, peace has happily brought the New Zealanders - these same brave soldiers and valiant comrades - to battle anew, this time on the pleasant pastures representing the Rugby fields of the Mother Country."
"The tour of this country by the New Zealanders, sponsored by the Forces Authorities, was a happy inspiration which is giving the greatest pleasure to the peoples of both Islands. It has always been a widely-acclaimed fact that the New Zealahders are the greatest exponents in the art of Rugby football. Certainly they have invariabjy sent to these shores players of outstanding and unquestioned greatness, revealing the highest qualities of the complete Rugby footballer."
"The swift passage of years does not dim the memory of many epic and unforgettable matches which former New Zealand sides have played in Wales. To those who were on the Cardiff Arms Park forty years ago, for instance, and saw Dr. Teddy Morgan's solitary try give Wales the victory in a never-to-be-forgotten struggle, their memories of the game and its thrilling incidents must live to-day as clearly as if the match had taken place this season."
"Or who will forget the closing minutes of the game at Newport in 1924 when a thrilling converted try by the New Zealand wing Svenson gave his side victory with the closing movement of the match when it looked certain that Newport were to be the victors over what proved to be, afterwards, an unbeatable side. How many minds this afternoon will travel back those twenty years and reconstruct afresh those thrilling moments?"
"Or turning almost to the present to recall the last New Zealand touring side before the War, perhaps our memories will slip back most readily to Cardiff Arms Park again on a December afternoon in 1935, when in another epic struggle - less grim perhaps than in 1905, but truly a very great game packed with excitement - Wales, with Wilf Wooller at his greatest triumphed by 13 points to 12."
"How precious and happy are the memories conjured up by our guests to-day!"
"In the name of Rugby football and the Newport Athletic Club we welcome the New Zealanders to Rodney Parade to-day, sincerely greeting them as valiant comrades, great Rugby players, true sportsmen and gentlemen on and off the field."
"OUR VISITORS TO-DAY - PREVIOUS NEW ZEALAND VISITS."
"For the fifth time, Newport to-day are opposed to a team representing New Zealand. They were opposed to the Maoris in 1888 and again in 1926, and against the famous "All Blacks" in 1905, 1924 and 1935. Although unsuccessful on each occasion, Newport put up a tremendous fight, particularly in the 1905 and 1924 games."
"The Newport teams against former "All Blacks' " sides were as follows:-"
"1905. - R. B. Griffiths, W. Thomas, C. C. Pritchard, S. Adams, Alby Davies, Gos Jones, W. S. Martin, T. H. Vile, C. M. Pritchard, J. G. Hodges, G. Boots, E. Thomas, W. H. Williams, W. H. Howell, E. Jenkins."
"1924. - F. Baker, G. Andrews, E. Kitson, W. T. Jones, A. Stock, J. J. Wetter, E. Howdall, Reg. Edwards, J. Whitfield, T. Roberts, T. Jones, G. Hathaway, J. Collins, W. Friend, J. V. Waite."
"1935. - W. Legge, W. Hopkins, R. Allen, A. M. Gear, J. T. Knowles, J. H. Dunn, J. C. Hawkins, J. R. Evans, T. J. Rees, W. Travers, R. H. Williams, J. C. Wright, J. C. Jerman, E. J. Wright, V. J. Law."
"Captain of the last Newport team who met the New Zealanders in 1935 was J. R. Evans, who was killed in action in this War. John was a great player and an inspiring leader, and his influence in Newport Rugby is sadly missed."
"ABOUT THE NEW ZEALANDERS IN BRIEF."
"They choose to be known as the "Kiwis" and not the "All Blacks"."
"Their tour opened in Wales with victories over Swansea by 22 points to 6, Llanelly by 16 points to 8, and Neath by 22 points to 15."
"They conform to their traditional formation with three three-quarters, two five-eighths and an inside half."
"Saxton, their captain and inside half, has been suffering a shoulder injury and has only been able to make rare appearances in his side."
"They can assemble an exceptionally heavy pack, three of their forwards being over 16 stone, with S. Woolley as the "giant", of this hefty trio."
"In Scott and Cook they have two full-backs between whom it is difficult to choose. R. Allen and J. B. Smith are "stars" in their back division, with J. Sherratt a resolute try-getting wing."
"RECORD TO DATE FOR TOURING XV.:"
"P. 12 W. 11 D. 1 L. 0 Pts. for 187 Pts. agst. 66"
"In last six matches only 11 points have been scored against the Tourists - a tribute to the manner in which they have stiffened their defence."
"They are unbeaten to date, having drawn one game in Ireland and won the remainder of their matches."
"Their victory against the brilliant Cardiff side on Boxing Day stamps them as a great side worthy of the best New Zealand traditions."
"They play spectacular Rugby and are tremendously fast."
"The safety of their handling by backs and forwards, their capacity for positioning themselves for the taking of passes from all angles, and their ability of turning opponents' mistakes to their own advantage are outstanding features of their play."
"Col. A. H. Andrews, the tourists' Manager must be exceedingly pleased with the side's performances. We congratulate him not only on his distinction in rugby management but also on his achievements in the war, which have already won him the O.B.E."
"Major C. K. Saxton, the side's Captain is a popular leader and efficient half-back. Played for All Blacks against Australia, 1938. Hails from Southland; Wholesaler by trade; 31 years of age, lOst. 61bs. in weight, and 5ft, Sin. in height."
The game itself:-
What better way to celebrate the first Christmas after the end of the Second World War than a fixture against the touring Kiwis. Later to be dubbed by John Billot in his book 'All Blacks in Wales' as "the team with instant appeal". A newly developing Newport side was pitched against a similarly unfamiliar Kiwi team made up of touring New Zealand servicemen under the banner New Zealand Army.
Two hours before the kick-off the crowds were streaming towards the Athletic Grounds and the "gate" was estimated to be around 16,000. Receipts were £1800. There had been rain during the week and in front of the grandstand sand had been liberally scattered. It was obvious that the ground would cut up badly. The Newport team had not "rested-up" as there were fixtures on 24th December and 26th December, before the game on 29th December. Racing Club of France had just been beaten 16pts to 8pts and also Newbridge by 13pts to 5pts, so there was an air of quiet confidence in the town. Unfortunately, the club were to be without the services of their oustanding wing-forward, R.T. (Bob) Evans, who had broken a fibula in the game against the Frenchmen and he was in plaster from foot to thigh. Replacing him at such short notice meant a call-up for Wally Talbot, then playing outstanding rugby for Ebbw Vale, and later to become Chairman of that club. Also missing was Bunner Travers who stood down because his famous father, George, had died on Boxing Day.
There was a sensational start. J.B. Smith kicked off for the Kiwis and both sets of forwards scrambled for the ball. A loud blast from the whistle of referee and Newport had been penalised. At the dinner afterwards Ivor David said, "It was for obstruction." Fullback Cook took the kick and within a minute Newport were 3pts down. The Newport team attacked from the restart and a fine run by Tom Tamplin established a footing in the Kiwi 25. Ross Johnson, Roy Simpson and Alf Panting almost scored before Jim Hawkins forced his way over from a scrum near the line. Ralph Morgan's attempt at the conversion was just wide. This score came after 10 minutes and both sides now made every attempt to move the ball to the wings. Defences were sound however and some fine tackling, especially from the Newport full-back Morgan and the Kiwi centre Smith, saved certain tries.
After 20 minutes Newport suffered a severe blow when hooker Jack Bale was forced to leave the field with a broken rib. There were no replacements in those days, so it meant that the Black and Ambers played the rest of the game with only 14 men. The pack was superb and captain Hawkins an inspiring leader, snapping at their heels and exhorting his players to greater efforts. No further scores came but the second half was crammed with excitement and incident. Peter Davies, the youngest member of the pack, was to be accorded the plaudits of the Kiwi captain, Finlay, for his outstanding display and Alf Panting was also singled out for praise. Most critics thought that Newport had deserved to win. For Jim Hawkins and several of his team, that day was soon to come!
Five of the Kiwis later went on to win full international caps with the All Blacks.
Anecdote: The actual match programme used for some of the illustrations shown above included the following eye witness summary of the game as hand written notes, the author is not known at present: "Saw this game with Capt. Thomas (Dockmaster) Newport and Arthur Harris. A very hard game which Newport should have and deserved to win. Bale the hooker sustained broken rib after quarter hour and Newport were a man short for the rest of the game. Big crowd - ground full. Cook a grand full back but the New Zealand backs were not sure of themselves and did not have a centre capable of breaking through. Jim Hawkins played a masterly game and was outstanding . The Newport threes were not fast enough to score, even though they broke through often. They lacked the speed but not the will. All Newport forwards were grand. Morgan was as good as Cook."
Footnote: Bob Evans made a quick recovery from his injury and was one of the stars in the Monmouthshire team which won a sensational victory over the Kiwis. Seven Newport players besides Evans were in that team - Tyssul Griffiths, Billy Williams, Ross Johnson, Hedley Rowland, Frank Morris, Ernie Coteman and the capain Jim Hawkins. The latter was the architect of victory with his tactical control, and a crowd of some 25,000 who were at Pontypool Park will remember 27th February 1946 with some affection!
o - o - o - o - O - O - O - o - o - o - o
The Times of 31st December 1945 reported:-
"NEWPORT HOLD KIWIS TO DRAW"
"GREAT WORK BY DEPLETED PACK"
"Newport, although they were a man short for 55 minutes of the game, held the New Zealand Army team to a draw at Newport on Saturday, scoring a try (3 points) to a penalty goal (3 points)."
"Bale, the best of their forwards until he retired, had a rib fractured and so the home pack were badly outweighted. Yet they got an equal share of the ball from the scrums, and in the loose they were untiring. Their fierce rushes and their relentless tackling alike helped to keep the opposing backs in check, and repeatedly they put the finishing touches to the defensive work of their backs. The big, strong-running New Zealand backs were difficult to bring down, but there was usually a forward or two at hand to help. The New Zealanders, in spite of the early penalty goal, were put off their game by the aggressive spirit of the Newport pack, who played heroically, especially during the last minutes when they were sorely tested."
"NEWPORT.- D. R. Morgan; W. E. Williams, Ross Johnson, A. H. Rowland, B. R. J. Simpson; J. C. Hawkins, A. H. Panting; W. Talbot, F. Morris, J. Bale, T. Tamplin, G. Rogers, W. G. Jones, P. Davies, A. R. Taylor."
"NEW ZEALAND ARMY TOURING TEAM.- H. E. Cook; E. G. Boggs, J. B. Smith, J. Sherratt; R. L. Dobson, A. N. King; I. Proctor; J. G. Simpson, F. N. Haigh, D. S. Bell, J. Finlay (captain), S. W. Woolley, R. D. Johnstone, G. B. Nelson, S. L. Young."