1st January 2018, 00:01
Happy Birthday International Rugby League
International Rugby League is 110 years old today. Here's the match report exactly as was written at the time.
On January 1st 1908, the first ever full Rugby League or “Northern Union” international between two fully fledged nations occurred in Aberdare - therefore becoming the birthplace of international Rugby League.
Around 15-20,000 people were present to see Wales beat New Zealand 9-8 in game 29 of a gruelling 49-game tour for the professional All Blacks or “All Golds” as they were derogatory called by the New Zealand media. Wales’ players that day had previously suffered abuse, being labelled traitors and mercenaries, for daring to turn their back on the amateur union clubs, chasing the professional cash and migrating north – including their captain Tom Llewellyn, who left Treherbert for Oldham. Wales' winning try scorer Dai "Tarw" Jones is pictured above.
Here is the full report as written on the day...
Wales v New Zealand. INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL MATCH AT ABERDARE. BY "MUDDIED OAF."
The Aberdare Leader, 4th January 1908
The International Match between Wales and New Zealand, under the auspices of the Northern Rugby Union, came off at the Aberdare Athletic Grounds on New Year's Day before the largest crowd of spectators ever seen at Aberdare, over 10,000 being present. The ground was in a fairly good condition, but was still hard owing to the frost. Among the audience were several prominent members of the Northern Union. The Aberdare Town Band was in attendance. The Welsh team entered the field to the strain of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau by the Band, as well as the cheers of the crowd, and they were followed by the New Zealand thirteen, who went through one of their Maori War Songs with gusto. The teams lined out under the charge of Mr. J. P. Smith, of Widnes, in the following order: Wales-Full-back, Chick Jenkins (Ebbw Vale); three-quarter backs, Dai Thomas (Halifax), Bert Jenkins, Louis Treharne (Merthyr), and Llewellyn (Oldham); half-backs, Dai Beynon (late of Pontypool) and Johnny Thomas (late of Maesteg); forwards, Dai Jones, D. B. Davies (Merthyr), Fitz Thomas (Warrington), O. Burgham (Ebbw Vale), H Rees (Penygraig), and Francis (Bradford). New Zealand Fullback, Turtle; threequarter backs, H. Messenger, H. Rose, and A. Kelly; five- eights, W. Wynyard and A. Wrigley; half, H. Wynyard; forwards, W. Johnson, M. Mackrell, D. Gilchrist, C. Pearce, T. Cross, and H. Wright. The linesmen were Messrs. J. B. Evans, Merthyr, and W. M. Evans, Ebbw Vale.
Wales started operations against the wind, and their forwards gained a large slice of territory. After a bit of scrummaging near the New Zealanders' line, Wynyard came away with a nice kick which was splendidly followed up by his confreres, but Chick Jenkins, the Welsh back, relieved the situation with a lovely kick. Afterwards Wales pressed, and were occasionally seen to combine effectively, but offside tactics lost them a good opportunity of scoring, and the All Blacks' found relief with a free kick. The New Zealanders then came away in a, body, mainly through the efforts of Messenger and Wrigley, and the Welsh defenders were compelled to touch down. Wales next obtained an opening through Johnny Thomas, the outside half, but the visitors made a mark from which Messenger was enabled to come away once more with a grand run, which would have ended in a score were it not for the fine defensive work of the Welsh backs.
The game became more and more interesting by virtue of its openness. Wales came away in a body and scored, but the point was disallowed on the plea of an infringement of the rules. The New Zealanders next indulged in plenty of huge kicking, from which Messenger enabled H. Rose, his partner, to screw kick to Kelley, the eight winger, who afterwards succeeded in drawing first blood for the visitors with an unconverted try. From the restart, the Welshmen attacked hotly, chiefly through the work of D. B. Davies (Merthyr), and Thomas (of Warrington), but only a minor resulted. Wales continued to press for all they were worth, and eventually Dai Thomas (Halifax, and late of Aberaman), equalised matters for Wales with an unconverted try amidst a veritable hurricane of cheers.
Directly after the drop out, Messenger essayed to kick a. goal from a mark, but the ball just grazed the uprights. Wales then took up the aggressive once more, but Messenger and Turtle showed them- selves to advantage in clearing their lines with precision. Llewellyn (Oldham) next broke away grandly for Wales, but was pulled up at the crucial moment. W. Wynyard, one of the visiting five-eights, scored another try for his side, which was majorised. The game continued to be fought out at a very fast pace, and the tackling by the respective sides was great. Wales came away grandly once more, and some beautiful passing between Bert Jenkins, Treharne, and Dai Thomas ended in the latter making a bee line for the line, but he over-ran himself into touch. Turtle next played a grand defensive game for the visitors. From some fine play between Beynon and Johnny Thomas, Wales were enabled to further press matters, but Dai Thomas was too well watched to create any mischief. Messenger next broke away from a free kick, and Chick Jenkins returned. Johnny Thomas also took a free-kick, but no material advantage came to either side. Wales obtained still another free-kick, but Gilchrist made a mark, which was responded to grandly by the Welsh forwards, who, however, experienced hard lines in not scoring. Half-time score: New Zealand, 1 goal, 2 tries; Wales, 1 try.
The New Zealanders restarted operations after the interval with a combined rush, which would have ended in a score had not one of their forwards fumbled. A free-kick to the visitors did not improve matters in the least, and Wales was enabled to reply with a magnificent forward rush which the visitors, however, checked, at the vital moment. Wales then shone in combined play, chiefly through the efforts of Johnny Thomas, the outside half, end from a repeated rush, one of the Welsh forwards succeeded in adding another try from a melee, which was again unconverted. Strenuous tackling, in which Messenger took the lion's share, robbed the Reds of another try. A penalty given to Wales also failed.
Bert Jenkins (Merthyr) next made a good but unsuccessful effort to drop a. goal. The visitors were kept strictly or the defensive for some time, but a magnificent break away by their forwards saw them reach the Welshmen's 25, but the latter subsequently found relief from a free-kick. Waters tried their level best to score after some repeated bouts of passing, but the All Blacks' defence was great. Dai Thomas next missed several chances of scoring for Wales. The New Zealanders, however, made an occasional raid on the Welsh quarter, but Chick Jenkins was safe, and he played a really fine game all through the match. Wales continued to press matters, and after a great deal of tackling, Dai Jones (of Merthyr, and late of Aberdare), succeeded in scoring the winning try, amidst thundering cheers, at the eleventh hour, which eventually won Wales the game by a single point. After some more play the visitors got away, but Cymru defended at its best once more, and kept the visitors out of their territory right up to the end of the game. Then the whistle blew announcing the result, which was:
New Zealand 1 goal, 2 tries (8 pts.) Wales 3 tries (9 points).