February 16 down the years
World War Three ... so blame Ringer
Enough is enough ... and Paul Ringer heads to the stands © Getty Images
Flanker Paul Ringer became the pariah of the valleys after his sending-off, the first at Twickenham for 55 years, cost Wales the championship. Dusty Hare's three penalties for England outscored two Welsh tries in a 9-8 cliffhanger, but it was Ringer's dismissal in the 13th minute - for an attempted charge-down that flattened England's fly-half, John Horton - that was the moment that changed the game. In isolation the decision might have appeared harsh but the referee's patience had already been exhausted. Within a minute of the start Ringer and John Scott were exchanging blows and in the seventh minute Roger Uttley claimed Ringer kneed Hare in the back. Three minutes later David Burnett, the Irish referee, summoned both captains and told them he would have to act were they not able to control their players. "It was like World War Three but in them days referees didn't tend to send players off, no matter what they did," said Wales prop Graham Price. "It was all going on and then eventually all the players had a warning." Ringer's career never recovered from the indignity, and he played only one more Test. The comedian Max Boyce even penned a song in his honour - Blame Ringer.
England's first international against overseas opponents. The match, against the New Zealand Maori at Rectory Field, Blackheath, ended in 7-0 win for the hosts, but was mired in controversy. The referee, none other than the secretary of the RFU, Rowland Hill, twice awarded tries to England despite Maori players touching the ball down for five-yard scrums, before Andrew Stoddart (of cricket fame) appeared to stop the game after his shorts were ripped in a tackle, only for Frank Evershed to steal a third touchdown in the corner. The incensed Maoris were then made to apologise for their outrage - in a letter drafted by Rowland.
Simon Hodgkinson kicked 17 points - taking him to 164 in 11 matches - as England beat Scotland 21-12 at Twickenham. He admitted to his pre-game nerves. "I hate the 48 hours beforehand. There is no escape. What do you do locked away in your hotel room? I'm confident in my style, my ability, but there is always a nagging doubt that it's going to be an off day." Nigel Heaslop's try just after half-time was the crucial score, and before the start Will Carling used the Grand Slam defeat 11 months earlier as inspiration. "Remember," he told his side, "they took our dream away."
Willie-John McBride became the most-capped player in world rugby. His 56th cap for Ireland, against England at Twickenham in 1974, overhauled the previous record held by his great rival and All Black legend, Colin Meads, and he celebrated the feat by helping his side to a 26-21 win, a points tally that remained an Irish record against England for 32 years. By the time he retired in 1975, he had played 63 times for Ireland and a further 17 for the British Lions, whom he led to a memorable triumph in South Africa the previous summer.
A six-try onslaught set England up for a crushing 45-11 victory over Ireland at Twickenham. Martin Johnson's men had needed a 16-point margin to climb to the top of the world rankings, but racked up a staggering 42 in 35 frenetic minutes either side of half-time. Ireland had arrived with genuine aspirations after beating England in Dublin in October, but were unable to keep pace. "England would have the beating of New Zealand at Twickenham at the moment," said the Irish skipper Mick Galwey. "This was a totally different side from the one we beat in the autumn."
Weather causing postponements is not unusual, but blanking out the entire fixture list is more so. Country-wide snow and frost caused all matches to be scrapped. Rugby League was similarly affected with all professional games called off.
A celtic hoodoo was broken. A 26-point salvo from David Humphreys fired Ireland to a 36-6 Six Nations win, and their first at Murrayfield for 18 years. The Man of the Match, however, was Ireland's captain, Brian O'Driscoll, whose rollicking running and fevered defence set a pace that the Scots could not match. ''It was a long time coming,'' said O'Driscoll. ''To put the ghosts of Murrayfield to rest with a scoreline like that is very satisfying."
In days of old replays in the prestigious County Championship were not uncommon. It took two of them before Cumberland beat Yorkshire 21-6 to progress to the semi-finals.