The Spike: or, Victoria College Review, October 1908
The Teams Compared
The Teams Compared.
Most or those who are interested in the game have heard all that is to be said concerning the respective merits of the teams. Scores speak louder than words. But, if this is to be a record of the trip it is perhaps necessary to recapitulate. There is, of course, only one explanation of our defeat. The scores, 39 points to 9, and 26 points to 11 declare unequivocally that Sydney University had the better side. But friends at home cannot judge from the figures why the 18,000 people who saw the first match and the 8000 who witnessed the second, were delighted with the games and with, the play on both sides. The Sydney papers, which treated our team with great fairness, not to say generosity, were unanimous in saying that the margin of defeat was less than the scores indicate. "For practically two-thirds of the time" says the "Referee" of the first match "the football was tit-for-tat, full of bounce and buzz and interesting bits, with New Zealand backs, as a division, superior in attack, and Sydney forwards superior all round. In the end the Kiwi was shattered by the rushes but he had already shown some dainty movements." The same comment applies also to the second match. The loss of Nuku as an active factor during the first spell of the opening match deprived the New Zealand side of its best opening-maker. But this could not have affected the result. As long as our forwards had their full measure of dash our backs were enabled to take advantage of the loose rushes from which the ball could be snapped. But as soon as our forwards began to flag, the magnificent opposing vanguard swooped down with a combination and skill which was not to be denied. Then it was that we called for a Roland or an Oliver, a Bogle or a Hitchings, to go down to the onslaught. Our back defence was not so strong as our attack and this told its tale in the last minutes when our scrum was being hoisted where Sydney listed.
The Sydney forwards were in fact an exceeding good lot. James and John Hughes, and Bullock have since been picked to represent the State in England. They are big strong, hefty men, keen on the leather and able to handle the ball like backs. The other forwards, too, are fast and good. Both R. G. Waddy (who goes to Oxford as Rhodes' Scholar) and J Fitzhardinge, hold their running "blue," and McKeown, Reynolds, and Hammond completed the octette which dealt us two strenuous defeats.
Of the Sydney backs W. F. Matthews, captain and scrumhalf was the star performer. He played to his team all the page 26 time, passed well, made frequent openings, and kicked magnificently. It was delightful to see the way he nursed his forwards with the touch-line, and his in-field kicks were so high that they would have been difficult to field without the rush which had time to accumulate underneath. Luddy and Roe were both prominent in the three-quarter line, while Nigel Barker the famous sprinter, gave several exhibitions of his speed. C. A. Verge at full-back played excellent games in both matches.
It is a difficult matter to criticise backs who had never played together in the same respective positions, and this was the case of every man in each University match. O'Leary filled a difficult position with credit on the first day, but he showed some hesitation in taking the ball in the second match. H. B. Young of Canterbury College proved a reliable three-quarter and, in the last match, an effective wing forward. Rhodes of Canterbury should develop into a strong player. At fullback in the last match he played an excellent game. A. Adams of Otago fame played at centre in the second match and the team had the advantage of his sound judgment. Goodbehere scored two pretty tries in the first match. His defence was not strong, perhaps due to the fact that he was slightly injured. Goodbehere has played better games for Victoria College. Dansey, the captain, was on the whole disappointing. He did brilliant work at times, but was not consistently good, especially when watching the blind side. Lomas and Nuku the Otago five-eighths were a source of great strength to their side, and had Nuku not been injured the scores would probably have been closer. Nuku made the cleverest openings we saw in Sydney. Lomas handles the ball beautifully and passes with great judgment. W. A. Gray of Auckland is a clever little half, but his compatriot Robinson did not seem to get into his stride, due, no doubt, to his much travelling.
The New Zealand forwards, though out-classed in the scrum, could have done much better in the second match had they been in consistent training. Tansey, Lynch and Collyns, three of our best forwards were unable to last out die second spell, and the opposition took full advantage of the fact. J. H. Lang a scrummer of Otago was perhaps the most solid of our forwards and he showed great facility for getting into position for defence when he was not leading the van. He was well backed up by W. Grace who is young and should improve. Potter is also a promising player. Fenwick and Wilson played well in the front rank, but they never had weight enough behind to give them a chance of securing the ball. Ongley (five- page 27 eighths), and Brosnan and Wigley (forwards), did well in the games they played, and will all benefit from the experience gained on the tour.
After these remarks it is not proposed to give a detailed account or each match, though something must be said of each.