All Blacks' non-try hands Wales historic win

16 December 1905

A great rugby rivalry was born when a last-minute try to All Black Bob Deans was disallowed, handing the Welsh victory. The incident remains a source of debate amongst rugby fans of both nations.

The Welsh hero that day was wing Teddy Morgan. His try 10 minutes before halftime saw a crowd of 47,000 at Cardiff Arms Park erupt with joy. For Welsh fans this game was memorable for the staunch defence of the home team. For All Blacks fans it will always be infamous for Deans’ ‘try’.

This game was part of New Zealand’s first fully representative tour to the Northern Hemisphere. The team, known as the ‘Originals’, popularised both the haka and the ‘All Blacks’ nickname. The loss to Wales was their only defeat in 35 matches. One newspaper described the game as ‘the hardest, keenest and most vigorous contest ever waged between two representative teams on the football field.’

Following a sustained period of attack late in the game, it was claimed, Deans grounded the ball over the try line but was dragged back into the field of play by Welsh defenders before the referee arrived. In the absence of television replays, there was little the Scottish referee, John Dallas, could do. In a manner not dissimilar to events after the All Blacks’ defeat in the same city in the 2007 Rugby World Cup, some blamed the referee. While player Duncan McGregor noted laconically that ‘the referee was not too good’, manager George Dixon was more critical: ‘No referee who is commonly 30 or so yards behind the play … can be classed A1’.

Deans was adamant that he had scored, and said so in a telegram to the Daily Mail:

Grounded ball six inches over line. Some of Welsh players admit try. Hunter and Glasgow can confirm. Was pulled back by Welshmen before referee arrived.

Others blamed defeat on the effects of a long tour. By the time the All Blacks reached Cardiff they had been away from home for 20 weeks. The New Zealand captain, Dave Gallaher, accepted defeat in what he described as a ‘rattling good game, played out to the bitter end’. He concluded with the well-worn sports cliché that ‘the best team won’.

The Welsh media was ecstatic. The Western Mail declared: ‘One can imagine every Cymro (Welshman) in New Zealand holding his head higher than ever.’ The South Wales Daily News declared that ‘there has never been a Welsh side which, from forward to fullback, showed such uniform excellence as the 15 men whose names will live as having defeated the hitherto all-conquering New Zealanders.’

The increasing dominance of the All Blacks in encounters between the two teams has seen the significance of the moment fade. Wales won three of its first four matches against the All Blacks, the last of these in 1953. The All Blacks have won all 25 subsequent matches between the two countries. Their closest winning margin has been a single point, in Cardiff in 1978 and 2004.

Image: 1905/06 All Black team (DNZB - Te Ara Biographies)

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