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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 2 (May 1, 1935)

The Battlefields of Sport. — Honours Easy

page 49

The Battlefields of Sport.
Honours Easy.

On the level field of turf, under the soft light of the September sky, the rain steadily falls. It comes with a gentle persistence, the inevitability of the breaking of a long drought. The great, clay bank to the north is packed with people, black with umbrellas, one great patch of overcoats and turned-down hats. They have been there, some of them, for six or seven hours, patiently waiting in the relentless rain. For this Rugby match is to decide the Rugby championship of the world.

Twice these teams have met in international strife. At Dunedin, New Zealand won by a margin which seemed comfortable to those who did not see how sheer luck favoured the home team. At Auckland, the Springboks succeeded by a potted goal. The crowd may not know of the circumstances of that Dunedin win, but it knows that it was gained by a try granted after a debatable force-down.

“Boy” Morkel leads his great team from the corner of the ground where the dressing-sheds stand, a man mountain, with his seventeen stone supporter, Royal Morkel close behind him. The Springboks look immense in their green jerseys as they hurry out into the drenching rain to find the ground far better than they expect. At their best on dry ground, they have had a wonderful tour with only two defeats, that first test loss and a failure against Canterbury where a potted goal turned the scale. The All Blacks, shoulders hunched, trot along behind them and take their places with the rain in their faces. And then Fletcher, that fine Auckland forward, kicks off and the game has begun.

There is a muffled roar from the crowd as the All Blacks, as fit as possible after their training camp preparation on the other side of the harbour, dash into action. It is frenzied attack, but the first thrust is parried. Not for long, though, for those leaping forwards pounce on Gerhard Morkel, “the greatest of full-backs” and drag him over. Bunched, the black jerseys rush the ball over the line as the crowd goes delirious with delight. For once the Springboks have been caught napping and many a match has been lost that way. There will be a score in the first minute, but no, as Belliss hurtles through the air Van Heerden beats him to the ball. There is a scrum, and Ifwerson, the pivot of the New Zealand back-line, gets the ball and flashes it to Roberts, but the half-back misjudges in a kick through, and a force-down brings relief. Another scrum and again Belliss goes away, head down, shoulders up. Roberts dashes behind him and as the ball comes off his toes snaps up and sends the leather to touch near the goal-line. Then the whistle, a silence, a roar. A penalty to the All Blacks. It should be worth three points, but no, Fletcher fails to get the necessary distance and seven minutes of hot assault end with easy relief.

For the first time now, the South Africans get past half-way. It spells the turn of the tide of war. The green forwards are gradually asserting superiority in the scrums, they are using their extra weight well. But as they break through they fail to control the ball in the rushes. The greasy oval eludes them, slides off boot and leg and is sent back by the waiting foemen. The New Zealanders expend themselves in individual efforts against the green phalanx; by quickness and initiative they break through, but behind the opponents are quick backs with sure hands, most of all Gerhard Morkel. He anticipates everything, misses nothing and regains the ground lost by cool, sure kicks. Again and again the All Blacks check the attack, they pounce on the ball as a gap appears and break through. Each time Morkel undoes their work. He almost steers the ball over the posts from a penalty when Belliss gets offside and he keeps Kingston, the soundest of full-backs short of the class of genius, very busy. There is another chance to score when the nimble Zeller marks on the twenty-five line as the All Blacks rush out, but he dawdles over the kick and it is charged down. The Springboks, like the All Blacks, are too eager, and control is sacrificed for speed. It aids the defence, which is erratic enough. Mark Nicholls (playing his first “international” and still in his teens—he will go far that boy) is smothered, the solid Steel is caught. He misses his kick and the situation is bad when the whole opposing pack tear down the line into a gap; but again over-eagerness checks the attackers and they lose the ball right on the line. It has been a bad moment and the crowd sighs relief. At last, after almost ten minutes of hot attack, New Zealand works out and on neutral ground the Greens get a free-kick which Richardson kills by leaping in the air.

The rain begins to flood down now, and with it the Springboks go tearing into action. The New Zealand backs, one by one fail to find touch and each time the ball is sent soaring back over the heads of the assailants towards the New Zealand line. But for once Gerhard Morkel fails and Ifwerson, quick in action, drives the Greens back to half-way. Roberts is playing gamely stopping rushes, but he incurs a penalty now and Morkel fails to get the ball up. There is a fumbling counterattack by the All Blacks, out of which Siddels, the wing three-quarter comes to life. He picks up, kicks, traps Gerhard Morkel and opens the way for Fletcher to send the ball to Fea. At last the backs have a chance. But Fea's pass is dropped and Steel, who ultimately gets the ball, is hemmed in. This flash is followed by disaster. There is fighting between some of the forwards as the two packs battle it out, and the Springboks win. Gradually they make way downfield, Roberts