Brisbane Brothers’ legend, Peter Gallagher captained Australia to a memorable 17-11 win over Great Britain at London’s White City Stadium, to keep alive the Ashes series, after the home side won the First Test 16-11 in Leeds.
The London match was fast and open, and enthralled the crowd of 17,445 at a stadium which hosted the 1908 Olympics and was best known for athletics and greyhound racing.
The score was 2-2 at halftime, although Australia looked more dangerous, with centre, John McDonald making two clean breaks, one on the left side and one on the right. Both times wingers, Johnny Greaves and Johnny King, whom he served with the ball, were caught by the defence.
Australian five eighth, Tony Branson made an impressive Test debut, setting up Australia’s first try for fullback Graeme Langlands, courtesy of a fine break and a perfectly timed pass.
Britain took the lead twice in the second half, only for Australia to hit back.
The Courier-Mail’s Jack Reardon wrote that this fighting spirit was a tribute to Gallagher, who sported a broken nose after the game thanks to an ill directed high shot by teammate, Branson.
Gallagher was only the third Queenslander since World War II, to captain Australia against Britain. The others were Bill Tyquin (1948) and Brian Davies (1958).
Bundaberg’s Noel Gallagher (no relation to Peter) remembered little about his Test debut with the courageous forward admitted to hospital afterwards with concussion.
Gallagher was on the receiving end of a vicious head tackle by British forward, Frank Foster just before halftime and received ambulance attention. Gallagher carried on with the game and it was not until he was bathed and dressed that he showed signs of collapsing.
Lock, Ron Coote, making his Test debut, scored a magnificent try and pulled off a classic cover defending tackle on flying British centre, Ian Brooke.
Coote’s performance was so breathtaking, that Reardon wrote that legendary lock, John Raper should stand aside for the Third Test, even if he recovered from the back injury which forced him out of the White City side. Raper’s St George teammate, Billy Smith also missed the London match because of injury, with his replacement, Johnny Gleeson from Brisbane Brothers, turning in a stellar performance.
“I think Australia can retain the Ashes if the selectors leave this team intact,” wrote Reardon. “This win was one of the best I have ever seen (by a Test side).”
Prior to the Test Australia had won four games and lost five, including the First Test.
Halves Tommy Bishop and Roger Millward were Britain’s most dangerous players at White City.
Both sides were ‘housed’ at Crystal Palace prior to the Test. The match was broadcast live into Queensland on radio stations 4BK, 4BH, 4KQ, 4QR (ABC) and regionals. 4BC gave progressive scores.
In the build-up to the Test, the London based national newspapers virtually ignored the match. Afterall ‘league is a northern game, old chap’. A crowd of only 10,000 was predicted, so officials were delighted with the eventual turn-out.
Footnote: Rugby Union’s New Zealand All Blacks were touring the UK at the same time as the Kangaroos, and on the same weekend as the league Test the All Blacks beat England 23-11 at Twickenham in front of a crowd of 74,000. It was the first union Test televised in color. The All Blacks received plenty of newspaper space.