December 28 down the years
Johnson escapes despite gouging, punching and stamping

Martin Johnson escaped with a five-week suspension for a string of offences in a Heineken Cup match earlier in the month including kneeing, punching and stamping. The lax punishment meant he was able - by one day - to play in the Six Nations. "It's fortuitous obviously, but England's schedule was absolutely nothing to do with it," said Commodore Jeff Blackett, the Royal Navy's chief judge-advocate, who chaired the Rugby Football Union disciplinary committee. Yes, of course

Connacht blew the Magners League title race wide open as a gutsy performance proved too much for reigning Heineken Cup champions Munster. The Galway side won 12-6 thanks to four penalties from Man of the Match Ian Keatley, their first win over their provincial rivals since 1986 and their first home win since 1979.

Edinburgh Academicals had to cancel their match with London Scottish owing to a frozen pitch. The teams put on an impromptu soccer match to entertain the holiday crowd that had turned out.

Unseasonal anger at Twickenham as accusation flew the holiday match between Combined Services and French Armed Forces only took place to please "the military VIPs" who had turned up. The pitch was frozen and the newspapers said it was luck nobody was hurt. The French won 17-9 in one of only two first-class games to go ahead.

Leicester beat the Barbarians for the first time in their annual Christmas encounters. In front of 10,000 spectators they won a one-sided match 29-3.

The Maori avenged their 1888 defeat by beating Cardiff 5-3 at the Arms Park. Pat Potaka's conversion from near the posts was the difference between the sides.

The Barbarians, fielding a XV of current or future international players, overwhelmed Leicester 20-5 at Welford Road in the annual Christmas match.

The Barbarians were spearheaded by the Headingley half-backs Bernard Gadney and Dick Auty in a 34-0 win against their former club, Leicester. Auty's elusive sidesteps left his opponent Jack Taylor (later a noted international referee) clutching at thin air.

Warwickshire, the reigning county champions, supplied 11 of the Midland Counties XV that lost 16-5 to the Springboks at St Andrew's, Birmingham City FC's ground.


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