Suffolk man's tale of Welsh legend

IT'S enough to make a true rugby fan green with envy.Picture your great grandfather, a future captain of his nation's team and Welsh rugby legend in the making, playing his first match in what was to become one of the most historic rugby games of all time.

IT'S enough to make a true rugby fan green with envy.

Picture your great grandfather, a future captain of his nation's team and Welsh rugby legend in the making, playing his first match in what was to become one of the most historic rugby games of all time.

Now 100 years on, Ipswich man Russell Williams is celebrating his great grandfather's achievement - and he has been joined in doing so by some of New Zealand rugby's biggest names.

Mr Williams, of Melville Road, is the great grandson of Bert Winfield who played fullback when Wales met the goliath of international rugby - New Zealand - on December 16, 1905.

The game is etched in the history books as one of the greatest clashes of all times and Mr Williams, Ipswich Borough Council's head of strategic planning and regeneration, had a rare chance to celebrate the centenary of the match in Cardiff.

Last month both nations clashed at the Millennium Stadium and, along with his brother and father, Mr Williams, 33, received tickets from New Zealand Rugby to be a guest at the game.

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He said: “The atmosphere was great - until just after half time when New Zealand scored for the second time.

“I'd never met my great grandfather but somehow it didn't matter. It's kind of part of you in some way that you don't understand.

“It was quite nostalgic to be there. The programme and the pre-match events had a big focus on the 1905 game.”

Prior to the match Mr Williams' grandmother Enid Williams, 95, who still lives in Cardiff and whose uncle Gwyn Nicholls was the captain of the team, was visited by four members of the New Zealand squad, including hooker Anton Oliver.

Along with the players, four New Zealand TV crews were also on hand to witness the meeting of the stars of today with the daughter of one of Wales' stars from the side that beat the seemingly unbeatable.

The meeting has since appeared on television in New Zealand and added another chapter to the family's link with a moment in sporting history.

Mr Williams said: “I'd never met my great grandfather but somehow it didn't matter. It's kind of part of you in some way that you don't understand.

“He played in lots of other games and captained the team but this game is what rugby during that era is remembered for.

“It's probably made greater by the fact Wales have only beaten the All Blacks twice since, in 1935 and 1953.”

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IT was a game that had all the hallmarks of being a great contest. New Zealand had never lost a test match and were storming through their opposition on a tour which would see them win 34 out of 35 games.

Wales had not been beaten at home in six years and were considered the best northern hemisphere team.

It was a clash of the titans and Bert Winfield was at the centre of the action.

Russell Williams said: “Wales were the best team in Europe. It was the greatest team in Europe against the team that had never lost Down Under.

“It was the first time that a national anthem had been sung at a sports international. It was a huge event.”

When the teams took to the field the stands of Cardiff Arms Park had long been filled to capacity and the media had been billing the game as one of rugby's greatest events.

The Western Mail described it as “the most fateful of all days in the history of rugby football”.

And so it was. Wales scored a try to go 3-0 (tries in those days were awarded three points) but in the second half New Zealand's Bob Deans came close to scoring an equaliser but it was disallowed by Scottish referee John Dallas.

Debate has raged ever since over whether Deans actually crossed the line but the result went to Wales and it has gone down in the history books of both nations as a historic marker in the evolution of rugby in their countries.

Mr Williams said: “It is a huge game for rugby in New Zealand - the first loss ever, this mega tour and they'd had a try disallowed.”

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