FLASHBACK: October, 1956


French referee, Monsieur Huc sent two players from the field in an International at Marseilles, and then wanted to recall them, but one had disappeared into the bowels of the stadium, and could not be found.

This was just one of the sidelights of a wild match between France and a Rugby League XIII from Britain at Stade Velodrome, with the French playing the better football, only to lose 18-17.

The players given their marching orders after a toe-to-toe fight were Andre Audy (France) and Welshman, Ray Price (RL XIII). A little later, Huc wanted to bring them back on (it could only happen in France, and remember, there was no sin bin in those days) but Price had disappeared, so Audy had to kick his heels on the sidelines, because not even in France, could the referee show such bias to one side.

France, who had won the Test series in Australia in 1955, led The Rugby League XIII 10-0 after 26 minutes, with tries scored by Andre Savonne and rugby union convert, Robert Medus. France should have led 13-0, but Gilbert Alberti, who had set-up Savonne’s try, wanted to do it all himself, and was tackled.

This was the turning point. On the counter attack, Price launched his three quarters and Mick Sullivan got over for a try, with Welshman, Billy Boston crossing soon after. France led 10-8 at halftime.

France went further ahead 12-8, thanks to a penalty to Audy, but Britain took the lead for the first time when Jeff Stevenson scored a soft try, with Eric Fraser landing the conversion.

French lock, Pierre Rouqeirol scored the try of the match, producing a magnificent step off the right foot to bamboozle the cover, after he had been put into the clear by Audy. Audy converted and France led 17-13.

This is when play got tougher and more brutal, with several skirmishes breaking out, before Audy and Price were dismissed.

In the end it was an intercept try to Stevenson which gave the British side victory.

Blows continued to be exchanged. It wasn’t pretty and the match ended in confusion, with the crowd of just over 9,000 whistling their displeasure. Abel Michau, writing in Miroir-Sprint, said British forwards, Jack Wilkinson and Don Robinson had to make the choice whether to be boxers or rugby players.

Francois Montrucolis attacks for France against a Rugby League XIII at Marseilles in 1956.

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