Captain Brian Price recalls the day Newport beat the All Blacks
WELSH rugby legend Brian Price’s CV takes some beating and he places the victory over New Zealand with Newport right up there with the very best.
This Wednesday he and members of the Black and Ambers side who beat the mighty All Blacks on October 30, 1963 (also a Wednesday) will meet to celebrate the 50th anniversary of their magnificent achievement.
A dinner is being held at Rodney Parade to honour their 3-0 victory which came thanks to centre John ‘Dick’ Uzzell’s famous 17th minute drop goal.
Two members of that side, back row forward Glyn Davidge, who was widely regarded as the man of the match that day, and hooker Graham Bevan, have died.
It was the only time the All Blacks’ colours were lowered during a gruelling four-month tour that saw them win 34 of their 36 games, only Scotland managing to hold them to a 0-0 draw as they brushed aside Wales, England, Ireland and France.
Led by peerless prop, the late Wilson Whinneray, considered by the eminent rugby writer Terry McLean as the All Blacks' greatest captain, the magnitude of Newport’s superb victory over a side containing legendary names like full back Don Clarke and steely forwards of the calibre of Colin Meads, Brian Lochore and Waka Nathan does not diminish with age.
Price was Newport’s skipper that day and he holds it dear among his most treasured rugby memories in a career that saw him beat South Africa with the Barbarians, tour Australia and New Zealand with the Lions and lead Wales to a Triple Crown and Five Nations championship in 1969.
“It’s difficult to say if it was the pinnacle of my career – getting picked as an uncapped player for the Barbarians side which beat the Springboks in 1961 and taking away their unbeaten record on the last match of their tour was special, as was winning your first cap for Wales and then going on to captain your country.
“The great thing about the New Zealand game was that victory over the All Blacks with Newport also had the distinction of being one that was achieved while playing with your mates, the people you played with week in, week out.”
The build up to the clash is almost as vivid to the 75-year-old second row as the encounter itself.
“I remember the most difficult thing leading up to the game was that we were having selection problems – particularly in our front row,” Price said.
“Des Greenslade had retired and we were struggling to find a decent tighthead prop to replace him.
“We tried swapping Nev Johnson from the loosehead but that didn’t work and neither did bringing in England international Peter Wright from Blackheath. In the end we plumped for David Jones who I think came from Cross Keys.
“I remember we had problems in the back row too because Brian Cresswell picked up a knee injury just before the game and Keith Poole came in at the last minute.”
Price, who 32 caps for Wales and also won the Triple Crown in 1965, added: “Dick Uzzell was nursing a hamstring injury which we had to keep quiet in the build up and he was only passed fit two hours before the game after having an injection from the club doctor, but it was pretty dicey and it was a big decision to play him.
“On the left wing we had Peter Rees, who was an aggressive type of player, but we went for the quicker Dennis Perrott because of the style we wanted to play by putting Don Clarke under pressure with our kicking.”
The match was only the third game on that tour after the Kiwis had eased past Oxford University and battered Southern Counties 32-3 in Hove.
“The game itself, I remember we got the three points early in the game but I never thought that was going to be the end of the scoring,” Price said.
“We were doing very well in the forwards although we were never in control but we were holding our own.
“Glyn Davidge was superb, frustrating them at the rucks, doing marvellous work on the floor, but he paid a heavy price – he was covered in bruises for a fortnight afterwards.
“Some said our tactics were negative but we were out to stop them from gaining any momentum and from preventing Clarke from getting any penalty kicks at goal.
“I remember Brian Jones and Uzzell were superb in defence and we had five kicks at goal that day, all long range, while they didn’t get one shot.
“As for our drop goal, I remember Stuart Watkins cross-kicked, Bob Prosser passed to Dick Uzzell who stepped back inside and his ‘dodgy’ drop goal wobbled and scraped over the bar!
“I remember the atmosphere was terrific with almost 25,000 people at Rodney Parade and it was chaotic at the final whistle in the pouring rain.
“The supporters were chanting and shouting and we came out on to the balcony to applaud them.
“Wilson Whinneray came into our dressing room afterwards and said to us: ‘Congratulations boys. There’s no doubt about it, you were the better side on the day.
‘I just hope you all get selected for Wales so we can have another crack at you.’
“What a man! Wilson was a terrific man and a terrific player.”
The celebrations lasted long into the night as Newport joined Swansea (1935) and Cardiff (1953) as the third Welsh club side to beat New Zealand.
Those amateur days are a far cry from today’s game at the highest level. Although Price enjoyed a few celebratory drinks that night, he had to be up early in the morning to go to school for he’d just started a new job as a physical education teacher at Caldicot Comprehensive.
“I think we ran out of beer at the club that night. It took a while for what we’d done to dawn on me. In fact it did when I arrived at school the next day when everyone clapped me at assembly!
“It’s great that the Friends of Newport Rugby have organised this event. Although many of see each other regularly, this will be special and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Newport: Ray Cheney, Stuart Watkins, John ‘Dick’ Uzzell, Brian Jones, Dennis Perrott, David Watkins, Bob Prosser, Nev Johnson, Graham Bevan, David Jones, Ian Ford, Brian Price (capt), Alan Thomas, Glyn Davidge, Keith Poole.
New Zealand: Don Clarke, William Davis, Ian MacRae, Pat Walsh, Ralph, Caulton, Earle Kirton, Kevin Briscoe, Wilson Whineray (capt), John Major, Ian Clarke, Ron Horsley, Colin Meads, Waka Nathan, Brian Lochore, Kel Tremain.
Referee: Gwynne Walters (Gowerton)
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