February 16 down the years
Ringer takes the blame
Paul Ringer gets his marching orders
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Flanker Paul Ringer became the pariah of the valleys after his sending-off, the first at Twickenham for 55 years, cost Wales the championship. Dusty Hare's three penalties for England outscored two Welsh tries in a 9-8 cliffhanger, but it was Ringer's dismissal in the 13th minute - for an attempted charge-down that flattened England's fly-half, John Horton - that was the moment that changed the game. Even though replays suggested the referee's decision was harsh, Ringer's career never recovered from the indignity, and he played only one more Test. The comedian Max Boyce even penned a song in his honour - "Blame Ringer".
England's first international against overseas opponents. The match, against the New Zealand Maori at Rectory Field, Blackheath, ended in 7-0 win for the hosts, but was mired in controversy. The referee, none other than the secretary of the RFU, Rowland Hill, twice awarded tries to England despite Maori players touching the ball down for five-yard scrums, before Andrew Stoddart (of cricket fame) appeared to stop the game after his shorts were ripped in a tackle, only for Frank Evershed to steal a third touchdown in the corner. The incensed Maoris were then made to apologise for their outrage - in a letter drafted by Rowland.
Willie-John McBride became the most-capped player in world rugby. His 56th cap for Ireland, against England at Twickenham in 1974, overhauled the previous record held by his great rival and All Black legend, Colin Meads, and he celebrated the feat by helping his side to a 26-21 win, a points tally that remained an Irish record against England for 32 years. By the time he retired in 1975, he had played 63 times for Ireland and a further 17 for the British Lions, whom he led to a memorable triumph in South Africa the previous summer.
A six-try onslaught set England up for a crushing 45-11 victory over Ireland at Twickenham. Martin Johnson's men had needed a 16-point margin to climb to the top of the world rankings, but racked up a staggering 42 in 35 frenetic minutes either side of half-time. Ireland had arrived with genuine aspirations after beating England in Dublin in October, but were unable to keep pace. "England would have the beating of New Zealand at Twickenham at the moment," said the Irish skipper Mick Galwey. "This was a totally different side from the one we beat in the autumn."
A celtic hoodoo is broken. A 26-point salvo from David Humphreys fired Ireland to a 36-6 Six Nations win, and their first at Murrayfield for 18 years. The Man of the Match, however, was Ireland's captain, Brian O'Driscoll, whose rollicking running and fevered defence set a pace that the Scots could not match. ''It was a long time coming,'' said O'Driscoll. ''To put the ghosts of Murrayfield to rest with a scoreline like that is very satisfying."