November 21 down the years
Another defeat, another coach under fire
Martin Johnson with the post-match blues after the loss at Twickenham © Getty Images
Martin Johnson received a dreaded vote of confidence after a 19-6 defeat by the All Blacks in front of a capacity crowd left him with a record of eight losses from 14 matches. "Johnson has made mistakes with his selection policy as well as sticking with his coaching staff, some of whom are clearly passed their sell-by date," noted the Daily Star Sunday. But the Sunday Express was a little more upbeat. "The wounded pride of England's rugby team won them back a measure of honour yesterday. The angry desire to prove their critics wrong rewarded the crowd with some passion and pride to cheer."
A historic day for Welsh rugby in a season the national team scored, to date, the last of their three wins over the All Blacks. Welsh centres Bleddyn Williams and Jack Matthews masterminded Cardiff's 8-3 giant killing of the All Blacks at the Arms Park in front of a crowd of 56,000. Before the game Williams was frank about what his side had to do, telling them, "We have got to try things; if we fail, we fail, but we have got to be different". Following Williams' death in 2009, Scrum.com's Huw Richards wrote, "Cardiff's win supplied one of the great images of his or any career, face glowing with triumph as he was chaired from the field."
Wales coach Graham Henry notched the first victory of his tenure with a 43-30 victory over Argentina at Stradey Park, but it was far from simple. Argentina, coached by Henry's compatriot Alex Wylie, put Wales under enormous pressure at scrum time and battled back from a 26-6 deficit to trail by just a point at half-time. But Wales clung on for victory with Henry praising his side's resilience for holding out against the physical Pumas. "The players were superb and I was proud of their courage and character in what was a difficult match," he said. "The Argentines are a very good side and they are the best scrummaging team in the world"
Around 12,000 turned out for rugby's first testimonial game with Ieuan Evans receiving around £100,000 for his day out. Stradey Park witnessed a GB XV beat and International XV 68-57 with Evans scoring two tries. The real crowd-pleaser - and attraction - was Joan Lomu who flew in specially for the game.
Australia remained on course for a Grand Slam with a 16-12 win over Ireland but it was the dire refereeing of Brian Anderson that dominated the reports. The Daily Express said he was "erratic" and added that "every controversial decision went the way of the Wallabies". Anderson failed to take action after "an almighty punch-up that made a Sydney bar-room brawl a very tame affair" and allowed Australia's try even though the crucial pass had come with the player on the floor.
Wales not only had to cope with a 23-6 loss to Australia at Cardiff but were left red-faced after David Campese was attacked by a fan at the final whistle. "I guess Welsh fans were pretty upset at losing," he said. "But you should not show bad sportsmanship. The guy tried to trip me up, so I told him what I thought. Wales rugby is supposed to be resurgent, so they had belter look at things off the pitch as well."
Saracens were beaten by a last-minute drop goal on their Heineken Cup debut, losing 19-16 to Colomiers. South Africa's World Cup winning captain François Pienaar scored the team's first try in the competition, but David Skrela's late drop goal sealed the points for the French side who were the beaten finalists the previous season.
Oxford and Cambridge Universities warmed up for their annual showdown with impressive wins in London. Cambridge defeat Blackheath 15-8 at Rectory Field and Oxford beat Harlequins 11-7 at Twickenham.
Major R V "Uncle" Stanley, former England selector and founder of the Major Stanley XV, whose team played an annual fixture against Oxford University, died aged 82. Known as 'Uncle', his last day was spent seeing his side beat the Dark Blues 19-9.
On the final match of their tour of England and Wales, Fiji lost 8-6 to Wales Under-25s in Cardiff, wasting three try-scoring opportunities.