FLASHBACK: January 1938

France ‘tackled furiously’, but it was not enough to stop the touring Kangaroos wraping up the two Test series with a 16-11 result at Marseilles in front of a crowd of 24,000.

The stadium at Marseilles was rated by the Australians as the finest they had experienced on their tour of Britain and France, a new municipal edifice with a fine concrete grandstand.

The French 13 included nine new men, after France had lost the First Test in Paris earlier in the month.

The changes bore fruit, with France scoring first and then leading 9-8 mid-way through the second half.

“The crowd on the concrete galleries, that tier back like the Los Angeles stadium, remained to give an ovation to both teams as they were leaving the field,” reported Australian Associated Press.

It was the first time either rugby code had been played at the stadium, and Kangaroo tour co-manager, Harry Sunderland enthused about the coverage the league game was getting in the French national media.

Even though the Test series was complete, the Australians still had a heavy program, playing a Cote Basque side at Bayonne six days later, winning 33-8 in front of what was then a record crowd for the Parcanglet ground. (Gate takings 55,000 Francs).

The referee was ‘Mr Peel’ from Bradford, and he was assigned to control the remaining games, with the French referees still coming to terms with the rules of a code which had only been launched in France in 1934.

The Australians went down 14-0 to a South of France Selection at the new, Stadium Arnaud in Toulouse 48 hours later, with the crowd of 14,000 cheering wildly as their heroes decimated the tired tourists, who had only got off the train from Bayonne two hours before kick-off.

To make matters worse, Australia lost halfback, Percy Williams to a broken collar bone in the first minute.

The referee, Mr Peel, heavily penalised South of France and had a running battle with their halfback, Silvain Bes. Mr Peel made Bes take off his ring 10 minutes before halftime and then 10 minutes from full time sent the player off, for constantly disputing his decisions.

Five days later Australia defeated a Villeneuve Sporting Association selection 26-3 at Villeneuve-sur-Lot. Hundreds of cars and buses brought a record crowd from surrounding farming areas, with the region famous for its prune production. The Kangaroos regarded this knowledgeable crowd as the most appreciative of the French leg of the tour.

Harry Pierce scored three tries for Australia, but was sent off by Mr Peel 10 minutes from the end, after he ‘retaliated’ in a melee.

At 6 o’clock that night, the Australians boarded a train, traveled all night without sleepers, changed trains in the small hours and reached Lyon only three hours before their match against South East France.

The local side looked smart in their fresh, clean jerseys, while the Kangaroos looked a bedraggled mob, wearing muddy outfits from the Villeneuve clash. Centre, Jack Reardon scored two tries for the tourists.

Australia had played 10 matches in January, starting with the Test in Paris on New Year’s Day, and then a match against Roanne the following day, which they won.

Australian captain, Wally Prigg was presented with a bouquet of flowers by rival captain, Camatan before kick-off, with Camatan kissing Prigg on each cheek. Five eighth, Max Rousie was Roanne’s star.

A week later Australia defeated South West France 12-11 at Bordeaux in front of an excited crowd of 15,000. Gendarmes were necessary to escort English referee, Dobson through an angry section of the crowd after the match.

The following day, Australia defeated Albi 47-3 at Albi in quagmire conditions, and followed up with a 53-2 thrashing of Catalans in Perpignan, in front of a crowd of 8,000.

After World War II, Catalans would prove a power house of French League and in 1948 had the honor of beating the Kangaroos 20-5.

Max Rousie.

Max Rousie.

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