Referee, Paul Cowell took the extraordinary step of calling aside rival captains, Wally O’Connell (Australia) and Welshman, Dai Davies (Salford) for a dressing room, halftime lecture during the Kangaroo tour match at the Willows Stadium.
Even more extraordinary was the intervention of Australian team manager, Bill Buckley, who vigorously defended his side’s tackling and bluntly told Cowell – who hailed from Warrington – to concentrate on the Salford players.
Buckley was fired up by the fact Australian forward, Jack Holland had twice been kicked, while on the ground. Australian journalist, W F Corbett wrote that the double kicking of Holland was “one of the most blatant acts I have seen in rugby league football. A Brisbane or Sydney referee would not have had the slightest hesitation sending off both Englishman concerned.”
Australia won the match 13-2, with Canberra five eighth, Johnny Hawke scoring two tries, and Jack Rayner one, with Rayner’s try the best of the match. It came after fullback, Clive Churchill made the extra man on the blindside, and put winger, Johnny Graves away. Graves ran 50 metres before finding second rower, Duncan Hall in support. Hall drew the last line of defence and put Rayner over.
Lock, Noel Mulligan was Australia’s best forward, while Churchill was the star back, with his accurate, long kicking game causing Salford all sorts of problems.
W F Corbett backed Buckley’s halftime stance, saying the accusations of roughness against the Australians were a surprise and unjustified.
“Some of the English players and members of the public resent the Kangaroos’ rocking tackle, which is good fair football,” Corbett wrote. “The Englishmen seem to have forgotten the tackling art. There were only a couple of low tackles by Salford players. Practically every effort to stop an Australian runner was a clutch at the neck, or a stiff arm. But the Australians have not become hot headed. They are carrying on with powerful, ethical tackles and playing football. That is one of the major reasons they have won six games in succession.”
But the Manchester Guardian league writer thought otherwise.
“Several Australians, particularly the forwards, were often rough and clumsy, and made unpleasant use of head tackles and swinging hand-offs,” he wrote. “Imagination boggles at what might happen if the teams are given as much licence in the Test series. It is time officials, referees and players combined to stop this ridiculous, unsportsmanlike behaviour.”
The crowd of 16,627 certainly thought the Kangaroos were the villains, often booing the Australians and chanting their displeasure.