January 18 down the years
Fights flights and Allison Blunderland
Thirty-four year old hooker Sam Tucker became the first player to fly to an international. Dismissed by selectors as too old, he received a desperate and unexpected call-up two hours before the match after injuries hit. Told by btelex to rush to the ground, he headed to Bristol aerodrome, jumped into a plane for the first flight of his lifeand reached Cardiff by 2pm. By all accounts he was the difference between the sides as England recorded a 11-3 win. Tucker retained his place for the rest of the Five Nations.
Bristol City AFC's Ashton Gate was the stage for the most unusual England-Wales match of the entire series. The players were shrouded in fog to the frustration of a crowd of 25,000. "For quite half the game one could only conjecture what was taking place by the plaudits of the unseen crowd on the other side of the ground," noted the Daily Mirror. "It was most aggravating to watch; a movement would be initiated near at hand and couple of transfers could be followed, and then the figures would disappear into the mist. Anon a shout would be heard, and half a dozen players looming into sight would flit past, and what followed could only be guessed by the shouts of approval or groans of disappointment." Wales won the so-called "phantom-match" 28-18 thanks to two tries from centre Rusty Gabe.
Wales, with an all-Pontypool front-row and centres Ray Gravell and Steve Fenwick among six new caps, tore France apart 25-10 at Parc des Princes, Paris. The famous Pontypool front-row was united on the international stage for the first time as Graham Price and Charlie Faulkner made their debuts alongside hooker Bobby Windsor. "Out of the many pulsating moments, which included an incredible try by Price when the big prop chased and outpaced the French cover for 70 yards for his last-minute try, the most crucial was when Bevan smashed Taffary into touch when a score seemed a certainty."
In a kit mix-up Wales had to take the field against England at Twickenham in plain red shirts - the national jersey with Prince of Wales feathers having been confused with shirts worn in the Final trial match. Terry Davies kicked a controversial penalty after 70 seconds - a second later hit an upright - but the Man of the Match was "twinkle-toe Cliff Morgan … who turned in the greatest display of defensive rugby by a fly-half seen at Twickenham". In contrast the Daily Mail rather cruelly described England fullback Fenwick Allison as "having an afternoon which can be summarised as 'Allison Blunderland'". In a surreal end to the day more than a dozen spectators were among those arrested later in the evening as mounted police had to disperse crowds in Leicester Square.
England registered their first-ever victory at Cardiff Arms Park. The famous Ronnie Poulton, later to lose his life during World War 1, dropped a goal in their 12-0 win, the first in five attempts.
A cross-code move as St Helens announced they had signed Welsh international lock forward George Parsons from Abertillery, ending a year-long pursuit. The Welsh board seemed to have been aware of this and the previous season had dropped Parsons while he was en route to Paris with the side but failed to give any explanation for the decision.
As Wales won in Paris, England, full of bullishness beforehand, went down 12-9 to Ireland in Dublin after leading 9-6 at the break. "I honestly thought we would put 20 points on them," said England coach Mike Burgess. "Then the Irish played some magnificent pressure rugby and we cracked. Just once. End of story."
A memorable day in Dublin as Ireland beat Australia 9-6 to record their first win over a touring side. At half-time that seemed unlikely as the scores were tied at 3-3 and Ireland faced a second half playing into the teeth of a gale. Noel Henderson try after a 50-yard run settled the match in front of 30,000 spectators.
Wales blew their chance of victory in a 6-6 draw with England at Twickenham when awarded a kickable penalty two minutes from time. Clive Rowland looked to in-form kicker Keith Bradshaw to slot the point but he just shook his head. "It was his first game for Wales and he was clearly unhappy about the kick. What could I do," said Rowland. So he turned to fullback Graham Hodgson, who had missed four kicks and had been playing in agony for an hour with ripped shoulder muscles. Almost inevitably Hodgson, his arm swinging limply at his side, sliced the kick.
Cardiff Blues powered into the Heineken Cup quarter-finals after recording a remarkable victory at Kingsholm. The Welsh side played for 53 minutes of a fierce encounter with 14 men after their international wing Tom James was sent off for head-butting Gloucester hooker Olivier Azam. Gloucester could not make their advantage count as substitute lock Bradley Davies powered over for the winning try four minutes from time. "It was a silly thing for Tom to do. It was more a defensive gesture than an aggressive one," Blues coach Dai Young said. "He (Azam) went for the Hollywood, which is something we want to take out of the game. When I was playing, you didn't see hookers going down as quickly as that. We don't want to see players out there looking like soccer players."
Scotland held the All Blacks to a 0-0 draw at Murrayfield, the last scoreless draw to date in a major international. New Zealand's policy of grinding down the Scots in the pack failed and it was the home side who finished stronger.
Rob Andrew, with a drop goal and six penalties, kicked England to a 21-18 win against Wales. His performance landed him a guest appearance on the Wogan Show a couple of days later. Wales scored the only try of the match.