Ireland grace Twickenham for the first time
February 12, 2010
England's Adrian Stoop (right) led his country for the second and last time on this day in 1910 © Getty Images
John Birkett Dai Gent George Hamlet Barry John Dickie Lloyd Edgar Mobbs John Rutherford Adrian Stoop
Whether or not it is true that nobody remembers who came second - there are a fair few sporting events that suggest otherwise - there is little doubt that it can be something of a dampener on historic memory.
So while the first ever international match played at Twickenham, the victory over Wales in mid-January 1910, remains one of the more famous contests in English rugby history, no such distinction has attached to the second match, which was played 100 years ago this week.
On February 12, 1910 Ireland came to Twickenham for the first time. After breaching the Welsh line at the first attempt, inside a minute, England found the Irish defence considerably less permeable. In fact they did not score at all. Nor did the Irish, but most accounts reckoned that the visitors had rather the better of the 0-0 draw. Their forwards, led by veteran skipper George Hamlet, who was in his ninth season of international rugby and winning his 24th cap, dominated the scrums, made constructive use of the wheel and were destructive in the manner of Irish forwards for much of the succeeding century.
England also finished with 14 men as wing Edgar Mobbs, destined to die in the First World War and be commemorated in the annual Mobbs Memorial match between East Midlands and the Barbarians, went off for the last 15 minutes. That Ireland did not win owed much to a man who could have been playing for them.
England fullback Bill Johnston, one of a remarkable succession of Bristol players to hold the position, was Irish-born. A debutant against Wales, he enhanced the solid impression made on that occasion with a brave defensive display, frequently halting Irish footrushes by diving among their feet - a requirement of old-style fullback that helps explain why his eventual tally of 16 caps would remain an English record until overtaken by Bob Hiller in the early 1970s.
For other England players, this match represented an end. Three of the outgunned pack - Dyne Smith of Richmond, Harold Morton of Blackheath and Leonard Chambers of Bedford - would not be seen in international rugby again. Nor would Leslie Hayward, the centre chosen after Cornishman Bert Solomon declined the invitation earned by a brilliant display against Wales. Cheltenham's first cap, Hayward was deemed a failure on debut and summarily discarded.
It was also the end for scrum-half Dai Gent, the diminutive Llandovery native who had despaired of ever displacing Dickie Owen from the Wales team and chosen to play for England. Even so his contribution to the game was only just beginning, as one of the most distinguished journalists of the following half-century, intrepid enough to follow the 1950 Lions to New Zealand when closing in on 70 and sufficiently lucid a decade later to pen a vivid account of the first ever Twickenham Test for the match programme that marked the 50th anniversary.
Most remarkable of all was that it was Adrian Stoop's final match as England captain. He would return for the final match of the year, against Scotland, after England had taken a partly experimental team to Paris to play the as yet little-regarded French. Mobbs led them in Paris, but when Stoop returned to the team that would clinch both Calcutta Cup and Championship the captaincy passed on to John Birkett. Stoop is widely remembered as a brilliant, innovative captain and in that season was leading Harlequins, newly ensconced as Twickenham's tenants, to new levels of success and brilliance. Birkett played under him for the Quins. Yet the fact remains that Stoop captained England only twice.
For the Irish there was a significant beginning. Dicky Lloyd, making his debut at half-back, came close to stealing victory with a drop-goal. It would have been in keeping with the rest of his international career had he hit the target. To Welsh journalist Townsend Collins, Lloyd was 'a genius, one of the superlative half-backs. He was the completely equipped player, but excelled as a kick. Opposing captains might tell off their wing forwards to suppress him, but he would circumvent them. Other men have kicked as quickly; no player of modern times has been more accurate…usually he was the man of his side and the man of the match."
Lloyd was to play 19 times for Ireland, the last in the first season following the First World War, and create records that would outlive him - he died in 1950. His 69 points with the boot in a total of 75 made him Ireland's most prolific kicker until Tom Kiernan, who played many more matches, overtook him in the 1960s. His seven drop-goals - in his day worth four points - remained a record for all international rugby until Michel Vannier dropped his eighth in 1961 and were still in the Five Nations record book, equalled by Barry John in 1971, until overtaken by John Rutherford in 1987.
The result itself launched a Twickenham tradition, as international rugby's unmatched venue for drawn matches. There have been 23 in all - more than any other two international grounds. (Lansdowne Road is next with 13 followed by Murrayfield on nine) over the last 100 years. Twickenham has, it is true, staged more Tests - England v Wales last week was the 256th - than anywhere else, but not remotely enough to explain this preponderance.
Around one in every 27 international matches over the last 100 years has finished in a draw. Twickenham produces draws just under once every 11, two and a half times the average. Lansdowne Road's average is below one in 16, Murrayfield's one in 26, the Cardiff venues one in 27. Only one match of the 83 at Parc des Princes was drawn while none of the 47 at Lancaster Park, Christchurch, have been.
It is also the only ground to have staged more than one scoreless draw in that period - the stalemate against Ireland in 1910 being succeeded by those against Scotland in 1930 and Wales in 1962.
'Field of draws' doesn't have quite the right ring, but it is Twickenham's title to claim without challenge over the past century. Statistical quirk, or a significant phenomenon saying something about the long-term character of England teams? A debate, perhaps, to last the next 100 years.