FLASHBACK: December 1961


France and New Zealand played out a violent 5-all draw in the Third Test in 1961, with the draw enough to give the Kiwis a series win after having won the Second Test, following a 6-6 draw in the opening match.

While the brawling dominated media reports of the Third Test – played at Stade-de-Paris, St Ouen – there were moments of brilliance, none better than a set move by the French, which saw centre, Andre Carrere score a try between the posts.

But the move left France with 12 men, because co-centre, Gilbert Benausse had been hit with a ferocious front-on tackle by Kiwi fullback, Jack Fagan, just after Benausse made the final pass to Carrere. As heroic as the French were, they couldn’t stop 19-year-old Kiwi centre, Roger Bailey from scoring a try between the posts, which ensured a draw.

The Kiwis looked to have snatched victory when Ken McCracken got over the line, but Jacques Dubon kept the fiery winger (father of Jarrod) on his back, making it impossible for him to press the ball.

Writing in Miroir des Sports, Roger Bastide said he believed the Kiwis would have won, if they had concentrated on football.

“If only the Kiwi pack had left their grumpy aggression and niggly confrontation behind in the dressing room, scrum half Bill Snowden; the little red-haired stand-off, Jim Bond and centres Graham Kennedy and Bailey would surely (just because of superior numbers) had forced a win,” Bastide remarked. “Maori prop, Sam Edwards would be a perfect recruit for his mate, wrestling promoter, Alex Goldstein.”

The major confrontation of the match was between France’s dual international forward, Jean Barthe and New Zealand’s giant Maori prop, Maunga Emery.

“Emery was too pre-occupied with settling minor scores to show the leadership qualities he displayed in Bordeaux (First Test) when he was far more imaginative around the play-the-balls,” wrote Robert Barran in Miroir-Sprint. “It’s a shame such a high standard game should be spoiled by numerous brawls, with feet and fists much in evidence. Such a lack of self-control…..such a false idea of honour and what makes a real man. Generally, it appears that virility is more important than skill and that passion is an acceptable style of play.”

Barthe, who captained the side, was a man on a mission, keen to restore French pride after he missed the first two Tests through injury.

“I came here to Paris to restore my reputation, and that of the French Rugby League,” he said.

French prop, George Ailleres was courageous and his charging runs rook a lot out of the Kiwi defence.

Kiwi lock, Mel Cooke was dynamic.

“Cooke is a magnificent physical specimen and the epitome of a rugby league loose forward,” wrote Barran.

Kiwi manager, Colin Siddle was furious that his side had fallen into the trap of fighting, and kept the dressing room door locked after the game, barring the local media from entry.

French journalists had to go to the local hospital to interview a number of their players, with Barthe treated for a possible broken jaw, while Bernard Fabre was nursing a broken hand.

“That New Zealand captain, (Don Hammond), can’t have any teeth left after this, ” said Fabre.

Thanks to Roger Grime, and his book ‘Stormy Sixties’ for most of the information for this article.

French lock, Jean Barthe (number 13) and Maunga Emery face off with referee, Marcus Queroli trying to keep control

Kiwi lock, Mel Cook slings French fullback, Pierre Lacaze to the ground after Lacaze unloaded the ball.

One response to “FLASHBACK: December 1961

  1. French journalists had to go to the local hospital to interview a number of their players,

    Classic stuff. Sounds more a Paris train wreck

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