Rugby murder and a rubbish heap
Gareth Edwards in action for the Lions during their win in Cape Town on this day in 1974 © Getty Images
Willie-John McBride's Lions opened their Test series against South Africa with a 12-3 win in Cape Town. Fly-half Phil Bennett landed three penalties while scrum-half Gareth Edwards kicked a drop goal in conditions that resembled a wet afternoon in west Wales. Although it was 3-3 at the break, a strong wind was with the Lions in the second half and they made full use of it as the home side wilted. In the Daily Mirror Chris Lander wrote that it was "rugby murder against a nation that has clearly fallen behind the world's major powers as a result of four years isolation from sporting competition".
Wales and England met on foreign soil in the quarter finals of the inaugural Rugby World Cup. Wales won an uninspiring Monday afternoon match 16-3 at Ballymore in Brisbane which left the 12,000 crowd "either dozed off in boredom or jeering in derision". The headline in the Daily Express pulled no punches: "England's failures on the rubbish heap again. Bob Templeton, former Australian coach, was horrified at the standard of play. " The game was a disgrace , " h e said. " The All B lack s could play both of them at the same time and eat them for breakfast. It was one of the worst games I have ever seen and says nothing for the standard of sport in Britain. Mark Ella added: " England were diabolical. They were just hopeless."
England, led by Paul Dodge, crashed out of their tour of New Zealand with a 42-15 defeat - their worst in 114 years - by the All Blacks in the final Test in Wellington. It was brutal end to the trip as four England players and three Kiwis were left needing stitches, and one (wisely unnamed) England player told the Guardian: "I was physically frightened". "Players carried on running fights all afternoon," reported the Daily Express, "and it turned into a general brawl in the first minute of injury time."
Six years before Willie-John McBride was leading the Lions to one of their most famous victories, the boot was on the other foot as the Spingboks won a close match in Pretoria 25-20. The defeat was made even worse by the loss of Barry John who broke his collar bone when tackled by Jan Ellis ; he took no further part in the tour.
John Dawes was named as the coach for the following summer's Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand. "I have been out there twice before as a player so I know what to expect," he said. "There is no compromise in New Zealand rugby."
The Lions eased to a 22-12 win over Queensland but many reporters were bemoaning the schedule which had left the side heavy legged. George North was having none of it. "If you are tired, you shouldn't be wearing the jersey. It's as simple as that. If you can't get up for an occasion like this, you never will. When it comes to fitness, it's just a case of putting one foot in front of the other and keeping moving forward."
Phil Bennett played a captain's part landing four penalties in a 12-7 win against Otago that kept the Lions' unbeaten tour record intact.
While all eyes were on the Lions in Australia, England's next-best XV beat Argentina 32-3, helped by a controversial decision by Argentina coach Santiago Phelan to rest many key players for the Rugby Championship. In Osaka, wales handed out seven new caps as they struggled to a 22-18 win over Japan, coming back from 11-6 down at the break. In Durban, Scotland's woes continued as they lost 27-17 to Samoa.
Fred Allen's All Blacks in South Africa gave a convincing display whilst defeating South Western Districts 21-3 - five tries to nil - at the Olympics Ground in Oudtshoorn.
In New Zealand, John Carleton scored four tries for the Lions and Dusty Hare kicked ten goals in the 52-16 win against West Coast in Greymouth.
Former All Black fullback Ben Blair signed for the Cardiff Blues. The ex-Crusader proved to be a major success for the region, with his strong running and superb goal-kicking helping them to the Anglo-Welsh Cup title and Heineken Cup semi-final in 2009 as well as the European Challenge Cup title the following year.