Australian prop, John O’Neill suffered a broken cheekbone after being head butted by Bob Blackwood in a violent Kangaroo tour match against Cheshire side, Widnes at Naughton Park, with the tourists leading just 8-7 at halftime, before going on to win 25-10.
Blackwood was immediately sent from the field by referee, Harry Hunt, with many of the home fans giving Hunt a hard time as he left the field for the half-time break. Blackwood went on to achieve cult hero status among many league fans in Widnes.
Widnes were coached by Vince Karalius, who earned the nickname ‘Wild Bull of the Pampas’ during his decorated playing career, which included five Tests against the Australians, who he loved to terrorise.
Widnes’ two former Welsh rugby union props, John Warlow and Jim Mills employed niggling tactics early in the game, and the Australians fell into the trap, returning fire instead of concentrating on football. It was Mills who set up the first try, for centre, Tom Warburton. This spurred the Australians into action with second rower, Bob McCarthy scoring from a Tom Raudonikis grubber kick. Then McCarthy burst through the ruck to set up centre, Bob Fulton for a try
Australian vice-captain, McCarthy incensed local fans when he stood on the chest of halfback, Reg Bowden late in the first half. Mind you, Bowden had tried to tackle McCarthy off the ball. Still, that didn’t hold water with Hunt, who sent McCarthy on his way.
There were ugly scenes late in the game when a spectator swung a punch at Australian trainer, Alf Richards, with Richards threatening to throw a bucket of water over the man. Australian prop, Bob ‘Bear’ O’Reilly acted as peace maker between Richards and the feisty fan.
Australia had started the tour with a 15-12 win over Great Manchester club, Salford, with Fulton scoring three tries. Salford did well, considering it was their third match in six days. But, of course, the Aussies were fresh off the plane.
The next match was equally tight, with the Kangaroos beating West Yorkshire club, Wakefield Trinity 13-9, a match notable for the international debut of 18-year-old Australian centre, Steve Rogers, who played for Cronulla that season after being signed from Southport based Queensland club, Gold Coast Tigers.
Australia led 11-4 at halftime, and looked set for a big win. But Wakefield coach, the legendary Neil Fox, revved up his men and they came out breathing fire, with five eighth, David Topliss scoring soon after the resumption.
Rogers scored a first half try, running onto a pass from fullback, Graham ‘Wombat’ Eadie, although Rogers appeared to lose the ball in a desperate last ditch Wakefield tackle.
Next stop was the woollen milling town of Dewsbury, and local fans showed their displeasure as the match degenerated into an ill-tempered affair. Several full beer cans were thrown at the Australians as they left the field when referee, Gerry Kershaw from York, signalled fulltime, with one of the cans striking Australian skipper, Langlands on the top of the head.
“One charming character dived into the fray and spat into Arthur Beetson’s face,’ wrote Geoff Prenter in Rugby League Week. “Beetson, the villain of the piece to Dewsbury supporters, wheeled to chase the man, but was blocked by police. Afterwards the crowd gathered around the Australian team bus and hooted the Kangaroos as they headed off to the inevitable reception.”
Kershaw heavily penalised the Australians, and team co-manager, Charlie Gibson, from Sydney, described him as incompetent and weak. “We will not play under him again on this tour – we would rather forfeit,” Gibson said.
Australia led only 7-3 until the final eight minutes with classy Dewsbury centre, Nigel Stephenson causing the tourists the most headaches, with his elusive running.
The Kangaroos scored four tries to nil in the next game – against Castleford – with the West Yorkshire side kept in the hunt by the goal kicking of Sammy Lloyd, who kicked five penalties, one from half way.
Eadie scored the try of the match – a 60 metre effort, running onto a short pass from Gerringong centre, Mick Cronin.
Referee, Kevin Allat from Huddersfield dismissed Australian forward, Gary Stevens and Castleford’s Great Britain star, Brian Lockwood after a brawl, in the 60th minute.