When for­mi­da­ble All Blacks put on a show for sell-out crowd

Gloucestershire Echo - - NOSTALGIA -

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ON De­cem­ber 6, 1905 Chel­tenham Rugby Foot­ball Club played host to the All Blacks on the in­au­gu­ral visit to this coun­try by a tour­ing side from New Zealand.

The game was the 24th of a 35-date tour and when they ar­rived in the town the All Blacks had not lost a match.

Ac­com­mo­da­tion for the New Zealan­ders was ar­ranged at the Syd­ney Arms Ho­tel in Pittville Street.

There were no chang­ing rooms at the Ath­letic Ground in Al­bion Street where the game was to be played, so both sides changed into their kit at the ho­tel, car­ry­ing their boots so as not to dam­age the studs on the cob­bled road.

Chel­tenham Sil­ver Band led the two sides to the match venue along streets lined by throngs of peo­ple, many of them dis­ap­pointed at not be­ing able to buy a ticket for the sold-out game.

Bring­ing up the rear of the pa­rade were club of­fi­cials and lo­cal dig­ni­taries.

In­side the ground al­most 8,000 spec­ta­tors waited in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the great­est sport­ing oc­ca­sion staged in the town.

Ge­of­frey Unwin, the Chel­tenham cap­tain, gave a team talk that recog­nised the for­mi­da­ble chal­lenge his men had be­fore them.

He said: “Al­though we have a great task ahead of us to­day. I would rather we scored one try than lose by five tries to nil. We will adopt a pos­i­tive at­tack­ing at­ti­tude against the colo­nials at all times.”

Few if any in the town had seen the All Blacks’ Haka be­fore, which was led by their cap­tain David Gal­la­her. The Chel­tenham side replied with Bri­tish re­straint and three hearty cheers.

The vis­i­tors won the toss and a game of fran­tic play en­sued.

The Echo de­scribed the All Blacks as: “a per­fect lot of ter­rors, pos­sessed of grand physique and won­der­ful pace”, while The Times re­ported: “The New Zealan­ders were wiz­ards at the run­ning game. In­deed, even their for­wards were gifted passers”.

Al­though the vis­i­tors won by 18 points to nil, no shame was at­tached to the home side’s de­feat. Quite the op­po­site.

A spokesman for the All Blacks said Chel­tenham’s style of play was nearer to their own than any side they’d played on the tour.

To put the re­sult in per­spec­tive, Glouces­ter and Bris­tol lost to the tourists by more than 40 points.

After the match the two sides walked to­gether back to the ho­tel, then they trun­dled along the Prom by chara­banc to Chel­tenham’s then new Town Hall for a civic re­cep­tion where the great and the good gath­ered to cel­e­brate the pres­ence of the il­lus­tri­ous vis­i­tors.

After the high tea, which com­prised salad, pressed beef in jelly, York ham and ox tongue, fol­lowed by hot but­tered muffins and Earl Grey tea, came the speeches.

Coun­cil­lor James Agg-gard­ner pro­nounced: “Al­though we are sep­a­rated by many thou­sands of miles of land and sea, we are still all kith and kin, speak­ing one lan­guage, ow­ing allegiance to the same flag and of­fer­ing af­fec­tion to the same monarch”.

For the All Blacks David Gal­la­her replied: “It is not so much the en­ter­tain­ment or the hos­pi­tal­ity that we will re­mem­ber, but the ac­tual warmth of per­sonal wel­come from the fine peo­ple of Chel­tenham.”

The Echo de­scribed the vis­i­tors as “pos­sessed of grand physique” but com­pared to to­day’s top play­ers, how­ever, they were tiny.

Rang­ing in age from 17 to 29, the 27 man squad in­cluded H D Thom­son who was un­der 11 stone. Nine play­ers were 12 stone or un­der, with seven 13 stone or un­der.

One player, G Ni­chol­son was over 6ft, while the short­est, J Hunter stood 5ft 6in. The heav­i­est was Fred New­ton who weighed in at 14 stone six pounds. You can see from the photo, right, that he was lean and toned, but de­spite this he was called Fatty by other play­ers, though not nec­es­sar­ily to his face.

The Chel­tenham RFC of­fi­cials

The match pro­gramme

Fred New­ton

All Blacks cap­tain Dave Gal­la­her

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