‘Bloodbath’. ‘Toughest Game Ever’. ‘Killer Game’
These were some of the headlines, the day after Wales beat England 12-7 in a World Series rugby league Test at Brisbane’s Lang Park in 1975.
The World Series tournament was played in Southern and Northern Hemisphere legs and this was the first match for the two British sides on their Australia – New Zealand tour.
England were hot favorites, but were expecting a tough match, after only beating Wales 12-8 at Salford in late February, during a triangular tournament, which also included France.
Few anticipated the bloodbath that was to follow.
The Welsh had been fired up by claims from English coach, Alex Murphy that none of their players would make a Great Britain team.
Wales, coached by Les Pearce, scored two tries to England’s one and deserved the victory.
The try scorers were black winger, Clive Sullivan (who had captained Britain to World Cup victory in 1972) and five eighth, David Treasure. Dual rugby international, David Watkins kicked three goals.
Inter-change back, Tommy Martyn scored England’s only try, with fullback, George Fairbairn landing two goals. (Fairbairn is a Scot., but was ruled eligible for England on residential grounds, given there was no Scotland league team at the time).
Australian referee, Don Lancashire, who controlled the infamous ‘Battle of Brisbane’ Test at Lang Park in 1970, again showed remarkable constraint, but had had enough by the 78th minute, when he dismissed English centre, Les Dyl for kicking.
There had been high shots from the start, from both sides, but things really turned ugly, when, just before halftime, a scrum erupted into an all-in-brawl. England hooker, Mick Morgan was carried off, but returned after the break. He was carried off two more times before the end of the game. As the fulltime hooter sounded, England captain, Roger Millward was carried off on a stretcher.
Wales certainly had the men to dish out punishment, headed by former Armed Services Boxing champion, Tony Fisher; second rower, Colin Dixon and ‘Big Jim’ Mills.
The English were no shrinking violets, boasting hardened internationals like George Nicholls; Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton; Eric Chisnall and dual rugby international prop, Mick Coulman.
Mills said the game was so bitter, several of his Widnes’ club teammates, who played for England, did not speak to him for months.
The Welsh put so much into the grudge match, they had little left in the tank when they faced Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground four days later, going down 30-13.
The photographs featured here have been supplied by former ‘Courier-Mail’ sports photographer, Jim Fenwick, as part of a ‘grant’ he made to the Queensland Rugby League History Committee, of which I am chairman.
1 England’s George Nicholls and Mick Coulman tackle Welsh hooker, Tony Fisher at Lang Park in 1975.
2 Welsh centre, Eddie Cunningham takes England’s Derek Noonan high at Lang Park
3 England’s George Nicholls tackled by Welsh prop, Jim Mills. Also in the picture (from left) are Mick Coulman, Steve ‘Knocker’ Norton (England); Kel Coslett, Bill Francis (Wales); Dave Chisnall (England); Tony Fisher (Wales) and referee, Don Lancashire.