May 18 down the years
The despised Olympic champions
The programme for the rugby part of the Olympic Games, Paris, May 1, 1924
The programme for the deciding match at the 1924 Olympics ©

The United States defeated France 17-3 in Paris to win the last Olympic Gold Medal awarded for Rugby. The Americans, with a team based heavily on Stanford University in California, met France at the Stade Colombes. The US led 3-0 at the break and scored four more tries after the interval as heavy tackling derived from American Football intimidated and exhausted the French, winning 17-3. The French team took it well. The crowd did not. An American reserve was assaulted and both his team-mates and referee Albert Freethy, who a few months later would issue the first sending-off in international history when he dismissed All Black Cyril Brownlie, needed police protection. The Star Spangled Banner was howled down as the medals were presented.

England played on New Zealand soil for the first time. Mike Weston's tourists opened their five-match visit with a 14-9 win against Wellington. For the winners, Roger Hosen kicked two penalties, drops a goal and converted Simon Clarke's try.

A hat-trick of tries from J J Williams set the British & Irish Lions on the way to a 41-13 win against Wairarapa-Bush in the opening match of the tour to New Zealand. But the game was overshadowed by a cowardly punch at a lineout which left Lions prop Nigel Horton in hospital with concussion and cuts. A bitter wind and icy rain turned the match into an endurance affair and the referee admitted had so many spectators not travelled so far to see it, he would have called it off. Players had to have frozen laces cut off their boots at the end and to make matters worse there were no hot showers.

Neil Back became the first Professional Rugby Players' Association Player of the Year. Newcastle centre Jonny Wilkinson was Young Player of the Year.

A shocker for England as they lost their first tour match in South Africa, beaten 22-11 by Orange Free State. It was a bad start to the reign of Jack Rowell as coach. "It's beyond belief," he said. "I can't remember when I last lost by four tries to one." On the same day in Perth, Ireland kicked off their tour with a rousing 64-8 rout of Western Australia.

relief all round at Twickenham as Worcester Warriors beat Cornwall 25-20 in the RFU Championship play-off to secure an immediate return to the Premiership. The Pirates had failed the Premiership's convoluted and obscure facilities test and a legal case threatened had they won but been refused promotion. But a year later that is what happened with London Welsh.

Two of New Zealand rugby's all-time greats, Wilson Whineray and Colin Meads, made their All Black debuts in a 19-3 victory against New South Wales at the Sydney Sports Ground.

In the light of the disappointment at the breakdown of the IRA's ceasefire earlier in the year, Hugo MacNeill and Trevor Ringland, respected players from Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities, were the driving forces behind the staging of the Peace International at Lansdowne Road where the Barbarians beat an Irish XV 70-38.

All Black great, Jeff Wilson, announced his retirement from rugby. He played 60 times for New Zealand scoring 44 tries. He also represented New Zealand at cricket - appearing for the Black Caps in four one day internationals in 1992-93 before concentrating on his rugby career and then three more times in 2005 following his retirement from rugby.


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