December 30 down the years
The blinkered stubbornness of the establishment

RFU bashing has been around for decades but critics had a point when they slammed the board for staging the County Championship final at Twickenham between Christmas and the New Year for the first time. Fewer than 3,000 fans turned out to watch Middlesex beat Northumberland 19-6. Northumberland's long trip south was made worse when British Rail failed to provide a buffet car on the seven-hour trek.

Stan Hodgson, who played 11 times for England between 1960 and 1964 was awarded an MBE for "longevity" after he was still playing for Durham City RFC at the age of 59. His 44-year career with the club began in 1945 and he eventually hung up his boots in 1989 aged 61.

The Barbarians were forced to call-off what would have been their first engagement of World War Two. Their game against Cardiff, for which they originally selected an all-international XV comprising representatives from all four of the Home Unions as well as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, was cancelled owing to snow and frost.

After 240 minutes Hertfordshire finally pipped Berkshire (5-3) in a second replay to qualify for the County Championship quarter-finals as winners of the Southern Division Group. The sides had played two drawn play-offs in the weeks before this match at Croxley Green. "It was by no means a great game," the Times reported, "it had probably by now become a chore." A week later Hertfordshire lost 6-0 to Cornwall.

New Zealand beat Swansea by a dropped goal to a try - 4-3 under the scoring system then in vogue, but a scoreline of 5-3 to the Welshmen under today's values.

There was a rare scoreless draw in the Battle of the Roses match at Otley, where a young Brian Ashton, future England coach at the 2007 Rugby World Cup, featured at scrum-half for Lancashire. It was by all accounts a desperately dull affair - the Times rugby correspondent certainly did not enjoy his day out. "A most disappointing contest was best summed up by a Yorkshire supporter who started the game by shouting cheerfully 'Come on Yorkshire', and ended it moaning plaintively 'Come on anyone'."

The touring Wallabies warmed-up for their Test with England by defeating the Combined Services 14-3 at Aldershot in their 18th match of the tour. Fly-half Laurie Weatherstone dropped their first goal of the tour and lands a penalty.

Colin Meads was awarded the Distinguished Companion of New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year's Honours announcement. Meads played 55 Tests for the All Blacks between 1957 and 1971, becoming a legend as the enforcer in their granite-like second-row and serving New Zealand as both an administrator and coach following his retirement from playing.

Wales captain Mervyn Davies ruled himself out of the 1977 Lions tour. "I've had a good run for money and been away from home a great deal in the past seven or eight years. I need to ease up and devote more time to my wife and family." As it was, he would never have gone anyway, his career cut short by a brain haemorrhage during a club match later in the season.


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