Friday, 1 November 2013

Book Review: All Black and Amber – When Newport beat New Zealand

50th anniversary of Newport RFC’s famous win

West of the Loughor, one match result dominates: Llanelli 9, Zeland Newydd 3 [1972]. But east of the Usk it is Newport 3 New Zealand 0 [1963] which is best remembered. Steve Lewis – whose last biography was of the Black and Amber’s Ken Jones – has produced a fulsome recollection of this last one, timely because the year 2013 sees the 50th anniversary of that famous victory.

The searing 80 minutes of actual play at Rodney Parade that day are well documented, with 15 solid pages of match reporting. But the author has produced a steady build-up of events and personnel right up to the moment when referee Gwynne Walters blew his whistle for kick-off. Indeed, he has taken pains to put his book into historical context: the hard winter that preceded a flow of sing-along numbers from the Beatles, the accession of Pope Paul VI, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Profumo affair and William Hartnell assuming the mantle of Dr Who.

It may have been “only a rugby match” but one that has deservedly entered folk lore in the Eastern valleys. There is a detailed account of the myriad preparations: food shop strategies, reluctant school closures and days off taken authorised and unauthorised.

Then the players. Rarely can fifteen men [there were no replacements in those days] have had their lives dissected in such detail. Interviews with all 13 of the team still alive has produced anecdotes galore, including Dick Uzzell and the soda syphon and the same player returning to St Luke’s college in Exeter to find a note from the principal requesting his immediate presence.

Space has been found for details also of the opposition that day. It was only the third All Blacks’ match in a long list of 36 but never again on the tour did they lose. The pre-match haka is dissected line by line. There is plenty of space too for THE dropped goal that won the matches - not quite Uzzell’s only successful effort, we are told.

When Newport defeated the All Blacks on that never-to-be –forgotten day, it was the first time that particular group of men had ever played together and it was something never to be repeated.  

Fall-out on the day was such that readers in the public library complained the crowd noises disturbed their research. But overall the match has taken a deserved place in the annals of the town and the author has provided an account both detailed and enjoyable.

“All Black and Amber – When Newport beat New Zealand” by Steve Lewis is published by Lolfa @ £9.95   ISBN 978 184771 738 2

Review by Barri Hurford


Post a Comment