THE KING’S CUP PLAY-OFF MATCH: TWICKENHAM WEDNESDAY 16TH APRIL 1919.
MOTHER COUNTRY 3 v NEW ZEALAND 9
A century ago, in this deciding clash for George V’s King’s Cup, the Inter-Services and Dominions Rugby Tournament post-World War One, could the Mother Country reverse their earlier defeat by New Zealand at Inverleith, or would the men from 12,000 miles away who had come to fight for that King and all ‘his’ countries maintain their edge and build on the winning reputation they and their countrymen had built over the previous fifteen years?
The Services teams from Down Under finally clashed at Bradford after a snow-postponement, and the against-the-odds Aussie win helped the Mother Country in their hopes of forcing a play-off for the 1919 Kings Cup…
This was the match postponed from March 22nd due to three inches of snow on the pitch, and tournament results during the delay meant a New Zealand win would give them the cup given by King George However, in the glorious way of sporting competition, it was to be a huge upset. New Zealand suffered a one-point defeat as Australia dug deep and handed the ‘All Blacks’ their first beating of the tournament.
Both sides had been in action just four days earlier, but it was thought by some to be a formality for New Zealand that would give them the Cup. Others believed that the great effort by the Mother Country had tired New Zealand – their pack in particular – and that Australia had the forwards to fully stretch them on Bradford’s new Lidget Green pitch. Continue reading
As the King’s Cup tournament of 1919 drew towards its climax, the Mother Country and New Zealand travelled north of the border to Edinburgh’s Inverleith, for what turned out to be a terrific foretaste of the eventual final and produced the ‘Storey’ of the day…
From the pre-game joint team photograph, the splendid Blackheath forward Peter Lawless, MC proved the only player on the Mother Country side never to be capped. He served in the Artists Rifles, captained Richmond RFC and was to be a sports reporter for The Morning Post and the Daily Telegraph, specialising in rugby and golf. In 1945, reporting on the US advance into Germany he was killed by shell fire. His only daughter, Pamela Faulks, is the mother of award-winning Birdsong novelist Sebastian Faulks.
During the recent England v Scotland Calcutta Cup match held here at Twickenham we were lucky enough to be able to welcome British astronaut and rugby fan Tim Peake.
Tim’s fascination with flying began from an early age. His journalist father had an interest in historic aircraft and often took him to air shows. This early passion became a profession for Tim when, at the age of 22, he embarked on an 18 year long career in the Army Air Corps. As well as flying reconnaissance missions all over the world he became a flight instructor and test pilot.
“There are some experiences I had where I was genuinely taking the aircraft somewhere nobody had taken it before – speed or altitude.” – Tim Peake
The final match of the 1899 International Championship produced one of the great contests between these two historic protagonists. Ireland arrived in Cardiff having beaten England 6-0 at Lansdowne Road and Scotland 9-3 away at Inverleith and were focused on winning a second Triple Crown and a third Championship in six years. Wales had had a more mixed season. After a very convincing 26-3 victory over England on January 7th in which their young winger Willie Llewellyn had scored four tries in his first international, they were well beaten by a strong Scottish side in Edinburgh on March 4th in a match uniquely postponed four times due to frozen grounds. Their chief incentive on March 18th 1899 was to prevent Ireland from completing a clean sweep over their home nations rivals.
In the late 1960s the Rugby Football Union began making plans to celebrate its 1971 centenary year. As part of the programme of events a film was commissioned that would tell the story of rugby union, from its origins to the present.
William Webb Ellis, Are You Mad? began with a look at the formative beginnings of the game as an English pastime in the Middle Ages, before recreating the famous moment when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran at Rugby School in 1823. Interspersed are cameos from Bill Ramsey (then RFU Secretary) Budge Rodgers, Jim Telfer with preliminaries and match-highlights of the 76th Calcutta Cup Match between England and Scotland at Twickenham in 1969.
J. W. Telfer (Scotland) and D. P. Rogers (England) with referee C. Durand, 15/03/1969, Twickenham
Narrated by Brian Jackson, the 27 minute film also features celebrated aspects of grassroots rugby such as singing in the showers, post-match pint and finger buffet. Though it captures in microcosm the spirit of rugby union at the time it also features much that we would recognise today.
William Webb Ellis, Are You Mad? will be shown in the World Rugby Museum across the weekend of the England Scotland match.
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The Oxford English Dictionary defines a ‘national treasure’ as something that is emblematic of a nation’s cultural identity. The World Rugby Museum has at least one of these on its register in the shape of the world’s oldest international football trophy, otherwise known as the Calcutta Cup.
So called because it was crafted in the Indian city (Kolkata) by Indian silversmiths it contains in its shape and design echoes of a shared history between Britain and India and the early development and spread of team sport.