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Reliving victory over the All Blacks 1905-style


Category: Wales

Date: 20.10.2005
Printable version


Ahead of the much anticipated Wales v New Zealand clash on 5 November, rugby legend Gareth Edwards retells the amazing story of a famous victory for Wales over the All Blacks 100 years ago in a special BBC Wales programme - Match of the Century: Wales v New Zealand 1905 (BBC ONE Wales, Monday 24 October, 10.35pm).

 

To celebrate the centenary of this remarkable match and as part of the build up to BBC Wales' exclusive live coverage of Wales Autumn internationals, Edwards puts himself in the boots of his 1905 scrum half equivalent 'Pocket Hercules' Dicky Owen to relive the day that changed the history of rugby and Wales itself.

 

Edwards pieces together the story of the Wales v New Zealand 1905 match from Owen's perspective.

 

He recreates Owens journey from West Wales, illustrating the match-day experience in the early years of the 20th century and the reality of daily life in the communities of industrial South Wales.

 

He arrives at the Arms Park in the brand new and booming city of Cardiff for the "greatest game of rugby ever played".

 

Those who join Edwards on the journey include Welsh coach Mike Ruddock, All Black legend Sean Fitzpatrick, rugby historian Professor Gareth Williams, BBC Wales Scrum V Live commentator Gareth Charles and Dicky's grandson Philip Owen, from Pontarddulais.

 

Interwoven with the narrative of the momentous day is an exploration of the bigger impact of Wales' controversial victory over the All Blacks.

 

Edwards explores how a single rugby match proved to be one of the most significant flashpoints in Welsh history.

 

It was the first meeting between Wales and New Zeland and the beginning of a special relationship between two small countries who have used rugby to punch above their weight on the world stage.

 

In 1905 they were perfectly matched. In addition to their Pocket Hercules, Wales glittered with the talent of Gwyn Nicholls, Percy Bush, Rhys Gabe, Teddy Morgan and Bert Winfield and had achieved three Triple Crowns in swift succession.

 

New Zealand arrived in Cardiff unbeaten on their epic tour of the British Isles. England, Scotland and Ireland had all surrendered.

 

And after a 47,000-strong crowd responded to the curious sight of the first Haka they had ever witnessed with a spontaneous rendition of Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau, the match produced a controversy that persists to this day.

 

Edwards re-examines the debate surrounding New Zealand's 'try that never was'.

 

For Edwards, it is also a personal journey of discovery as he finds out more about the life and times of a player who has fascinated him since he first pulled on a Welsh jersey.

 

"As a youngster I would listen to the old men describing the players of the 1905 generation," he explains.

 

"I always had a thing about Dicky Owen, the Welsh scrum half the day that Wales beat New Zealand. He played in my position - in fact it was his 35 caps that I had to beat to become Wales' most capped scrum half.

 

"And, of course, the more caps that I had, the more I really wanted to know about him."

 

The experiences of the 1905 scrum half reflect the excitement of Welsh rugby in its first golden era and provide the perfect snapshot of Welsh life at that time.

 

Working class 5ft 3ins Richard Morgan Owen - often referred to as Wales' greatest scrum half before Edwards claimed the title - was a Swansea-born steelworker and later a publican.

 

Also known as the Mighty Midget and The Bullet (because of his lightning passes), Owen looked like a scrawny man-boy but no-one took advantage of his Lilliputian build.

 

His mercurial skills were matched by an outstanding rugby brain. Owen was ahead of his time in his obsession with the possibilities of the game.

 

The try Wales scored to win the match came from a move Owen had created on the training pitch in the preceding week.

 

Yet there was a dark side. Some say he seemed weighed down by his genius - later photographs show a haunted expression.

 

In 1932, he took his own life in the Swansea pub he kept.

 

But on that misty December afternoon in 1905, little Dicky Owen sealed his place among the legends.

 

And one glorious Welsh victory ensured rugby became a signifier of national identity for the next 100 years.

 

Match of the Century: Wales v New Zealand 1905, BBC ONE Wales

 

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Category: Wales

Date: 20.10.2005
Printable version

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