The try that caused an outcry
March 10, 1934
Vivian Jenkins scored a memorable try for Wales against Ireland
© PA Photos
Wales romped to victory over Ireland back in 1934 with three tries in the space of four minutes towards the end of a match that, for long periods, Ireland had dominated. Vivian Jenkins shocked the rugby purists of the day by becoming the first full back to score a try in the Home Nations (later Five Nations) Championship. "It was not the done thing", he recalled in later life. Indeed so, for 28 more years passed before a full back scored another try in the Championship.
France were excluded from the Championship after 1931 until 1947 and both teams had already been beaten by England, so the Championship was not at stake. Wales had picked a new pack of forwards against Scotland and had performed well to win 13-6. It was felt that more of the same would see them safely past the Irish challenge. Cliff Jones, at fly half, and Jenkins, a centre turned full back, were the threats behind the scrum.
Ireland were led by No.8 Jack Siggins, who later managed the 1955 Lions tour to South Africa. Among their pack was prop Charles Beamish, the third of four brothers, all of whom were outstanding golfers and rugby players. All four became high ranking RAF officers. George, the second brother, played for and captained Ireland, and was knighted in 1955.
In the event, Jones and Jenkins kicked poorly in the first half and the Welsh pack failed to repeat its Murrayfield performance. Beamish, Siggins and hooker Victor Pike were prominent in blunting the Welsh attacks, and Ireland were regularly on top in attack themselves. The Times reported, "In the first half one noted five near things in the region of the Welsh goal-line and scarcely one Welsh attack that was not pulled up before the Irish 25 was reached."
Daniel Langan, Ireland debutant full back was "magnificently steady...and desperately unlucky to have his one mistake punished by a try." Langan might also have considered himself unlucky to break his collarbone in the closing minutes of the match, never to play for Ireland again. Teenage centre, Aidan Bailey, also threatened for Ireland, coming close to scoring in the second half after intercepting a pass.
Despite ample Irish endeavour, however, Cliff Jones was "the outstanding player on the field" according to The Times. "It said something for the Irish defence that they kept him out so long as they did." The correspondent went on to ponder how good Jones might be playing behind a properly functioning pack. He was at the heart of Wales' most penetrating moves prior to the late scoring spree.
Albert Fear crossed for Wales' second try © PA Photos
When the deadlock was finally broken, it was dramatic. Jenkins fielded a punt on his own 25 and, instead of kicking for touch as was expected of a full back, he raced upfield into open space on the left, like the centre he had once been. Idwal Rees took a pass on the outside, drew the defence in and passed to wing Arthur Bassett who looked set to score, but was bundled into touch a few yards short. The ball went loose before Bassett was in touch. Jenkins had followed play upfield and was able to pick up and complete the try, which he then converted from wide on the left.
From the re-start, Wales played with greater freedom, starting a passing move well inside their own half. When Rees hoofed upfield towards Langan, the Irishman was undone by an awkward bounce and Rees was able to re-gather and pass to the supporting Albert Fear before being brought down. That Jenkins missed the conversion of Fear's try mattered little. A minute later Cliff Jones was through the Irish defence again, sending Bun Cowey away at speed for a spectacular final try which Jenkins managed to convert to a five pointer.
According to rugby historian, John Griffiths, Jenkins' try "caused an outcry among some sections of the rugby fraternity. Instead, they claimed, Jenkins should have followed the coaching manual and booted the ball into touch when he first received it." The job of a full back was to tackle, catch safely and kick to touch. It was not until the laws were changed in 1968, restricting direct kicking into touch to within the defending team's 25, that the role of full backs became more attacking.
Jenkins was to become the outstanding player in his position of the pre-war period. He was vice-captain of the British Lions to South Africa in 1938 but his tour was marred by injury and he played only one Test. He played first class cricket for Glamorgan on and off between 1931 and 1937 and was later a sports writer with the News of the World and the Sunday Times.
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