New Zealand were set a monumental task at the start of their tour of Britain and France, with two matches in three days, the first against St Helens at Knowsley Road and the second against Castleford at Wheldon Road.
St Helens trailed 26-15 with 20 minutes remaining but got home 27-26 thanks to a try to gutsy forward, Paul Forber, a local St Helens lad, two minutes from the end.
The Kiwis still had a chance to snatch victory at the death, but five eighth, Kelly Shelford missed with his shot at goal after former Hunslet forward, Andy Bateman was caught off-side.
Winger, Mark Elia scored two tries for the Kiwis, while Shelford and St Helens’ winger, David Tanner landed five goals each.
St Helens were coached by English legend, Alex Murphy.
Castleford, coached by Australian, Darryl Van de Velde, led 20-9 at halftime in the match on the other side of the Pennines, with Kiwi centre, Kurt Sherlock, a former All Black, scoring the crucial try five minutes from time, to give the tourists a 22-20 victory.
Winger, St John Ellis, making his debut for Castleford after signing from Ryedale York, kicked four goals. (Six years later, Van de Velde, as chief executive of South Queensland Crushers, recruited Ellis for the club’s inaugural ARL season). Former Brisbane Souths’ halfback, Gary French scored a try for Castleford.
The Kiwis based themselves at York for most of the English leg of the trip, despite advice from British officials to make their base in Leeds, where they would be more accessible to the mainstream media.
Coached by Tony ‘Tank’ Gordon, and captained by Hugh McGahan, the Kiwis would go on to lose the Test series against Britain (coached by Mal Reilly) 2-1. The Kiwis won six of their eight club matches and also beat county side, Cumbria at Whitehaven.
New Zealand won both Tests against France, as well as two matches against regional selections and one against France B. A match against Provence-Cote D’Azur at Avignon, was cancelled because of the tourists’ late arrival at the ground, caused by a traffic hold-up.
Footnote: Former Sydney Morning Herald league writer, Brad Walter (now with the NRL) was nicknamed Kurt because he looked so much like Kurt Sherlock.
1 Kurt Sherlock
2 Brad Walter
3 Kelly Shelford.