• The 1953 Welsh Victory

    As I await Sunday morning’s test match between Wales and the All Blacks, my mind goes back to the last time that Wales won against the men in black – 68 years ago, in 1953. I was then 14 years old, and I was allowed to stay up (or, rather, to be woken up) to listen to Winston McCarthy’s commentary on the match.

    The match was a close-fought affair. The two teams each boasted star players – Bleddyn Williams and Ken Jones for Wales, for example, and for the All Blacks, Ron Jarden, my own particular hero. As the tour started, one commentator had opined (rather unkindly) that the backline was “weak from the scrum out to Jarden, and then back again”; the forward pack, on the other hand, was reckoned to be pretty good.

    As the match reached its closing stages, the All Blacks had a narrow lead (or perhaps the scores were even?) and they had spent much of the second half camped on the Welsh line. They were unable, however, to engineer what would have been the conclusive score, and this failure was (perhaps unfairly) attributed to the inability of the first five, Laurie Haig, to set the line alight; Haig, of course an amateur, was a coal miner and – it was suggested – his unaccustomed freedom on tour from his usual hard work had led to him putting on weight and slowing down.

    In any event, the game reached its climax when a Welsh forward suddenly found himself in possession close to the touchline and briefly unchallenged; in a panic as to what to do, he hoofed the ball diagonally across the field to where the two great wings, Ron Jarden and Ken Jones, were stationed.

    The New Zealand defenders had to turn and run back for the ball. Jones, however, was able to run on to it, it bounced kindly for him, and he scored for the Welsh to win the match. My recollection of this vital episode was no doubt originally formed in my mind’s eye by the radio commentary and has undoubtedly been since confirmed by the many times I have seen the video recording of it.

    It is hard to believe today that, at that time, the Welsh were regarded as our greatest foes; they had a winning record against us at that time of two to one and the 1953 match was a sort of unofficial World Championship final.

    I was distraught at our loss, which seemed to me to be the greatest possible catastrophe. That sentiment was widespread; I seem to recall our teacher on the following day treating me and my class mates gently, and not requiring too much of us, as if he was sharing our grief.

    How amazed I would have been if I had been able on that morning to look forward over the next 68 years!

    Bryan Gould
    29 October 2021