1951 French rugby league tour of Australia and New Zealand

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The 1951 French rugby league tour of Australia and New Zealand was the first ever tour of Australasia by any French sports team in history. Puig Aubert captained the France national rugby league team who played 28 matches in total in both Australia and New Zealand, winning 21 of them[1] in what is regarded as the high point in the history of rugby league in France. The Australian Test series resulted in a 2-1 victory to France, however the tourists then lost their match against the New Zealand Kiwis. Welcoming the team home to Marseille, more than 150,000 people turned out for a street parade.[2]

Touring squad[edit]

The French side was coached by former internationals Bob Samatan and Jean Duhau, and was captained by Puig Aubert. France had just claimed the 1950–51 European Rugby League Championship before embarking on the tour. The squad's average age was 26.5 years. The backs' average weight was 11.1 stone (70 kg) while the forwards' was 14.5 stone (92 kg).[3]

France's captain Puig Aubert had been offered a large contract to play in Sydney but returned to his homeland where he was voted French sportsman of the year.[4]

Australian leg[edit]

The tour's Australian leg featured games played in every mainland State capital except Adelaide, drawing a total of over 450,000 spectators.[5]

Wednesday, 23 May
15:00
Monaro 12 - 37 France
Tries

R Alexander
D Stewart




Goals
M Preston (3)

[1] Tries

G Comes (2)
M Lopez (2)
M Andre
R Contrastin
G Genoud

Goals
P Aubert (7)
M Lopez

Manuka Oval, Canberra
Attendance: 5,000
Referee/s: A Nichols

Saturday, 26 May
14:30
Newcastle 8 - 12 France
Tries
B Carlson
F Threlfo

Goals
F Threlfo

[2] Tries
R Perez
F Rinaldi

Goals
G Comes (3)

Newcastle Sports Ground
Attendance: 21,480
Referee/s: H Gillard

Wednesday, 30 May
15:05
Western Districts 24 - 26 France
Tries
R Trudgett (3)
J Birney

Goals
O Kennerson (6)

[3] Tries
A Beraud (2)
M Andre
M Bellan

Goals
P Aubert (7)

Grinstead Oval, Forbes
Attendance: 5,950
Referee/s: K Rowan

Saturday, 2 June
14:30
Sydney 19 - 19 France
Tries
G Willoughby (2)
N Mulligan

Goals
J. Graves (4)
B Purcell

[4] Tries
E Brousse
V Cantoni
J Crespo

Goals
P Aubert (5)

Sydney Cricket Ground
Attendance: 44,522
Referee/s: George Bishop

Wednesday, 6 June
15:10
Riverina 20 - 10 France
Tries
N Biscaya
P O'Connor

Goals
L Koch (7/11)

[5] Tries
M Andre (2)

Goals
P Aubert (2)

Albury Sports Ground
Attendance: 4,129
Referee/s: Noel Hedditch

1st Test[edit]

After five matches against New South Welsh teams, the French side played the tour's first Test match against Australia in Sydney. The two countries had played four tests against each other previously, with Australia winning all of them.

Monday, 11 June
14:00
Australia Australia 15 - 26 France France
Tries
H Crocker
J Graves
G Willoughby

Goals
J Graves (3/9)

[6] Tries
V Cantoni (2)
R Contrastin
G Genoud

Goals
P Aubert (7/9)

Sydney Cricket Ground
Attendance: 60,160
Referee/s: Tom McMahon, Jr
Australia Posit. France
(c) Clive Churchill FB Puig Aubert (c)
Johnny Bliss WG Vincent Cantoni
Gordon Willoughby CE Gaston Comes
Noel Hazzard CE Joseph Crespo
Johnny Graves WG Raymond Contrastin
Frank Stanmore FE Charles Galaup
Keith Holman HB Jean Dop
Duncan Hall PR Paul Bartoletti
Kevin Schubert HK Gabriel Genoud
Denis Donoghue PR Louis Mazon
Brian Davies SR Elie Brousse
Harold Crocker SR Edouard Ponsinet
Noel Mulligan LF Rene Duffort
Vic Hey Coach Bob Samatan

All of the French players selected for the Test had played in at least one tour match so far except their five-eighth, Charles Galaup who had only recently arrived in the country. The Australian team featured nine players from the Sydney team that drew with France nine days prior, in addition to four Queenslanders.

Puig-Aubert opened the scoring with a Penalty kick. At one point France led 16-0, but Australia came back, starting with a penalty kick by Graves. The half time score was 16-2.

Australia came back strongly in the second half. However, the game ended with the French celebrating their first ever rugby league victory against Australia. France's captain Puig Aubert was presented the Commonwealth Jubilee Cup after the match by the Governor General of Australia, William McKell.[6]


Wednesday, 13 June
Northern Division 12 - 29 France
[7]

Attendance: 6,000
Referee/s: R Campbell

Saturday, 16 June
Queensland 22 - 22 France
[8]

Attendance: 25,867
Referee/s: J Hoffman

The Queensland team for this match featured Brian Davies, Denis Flannery, Harry Griffiths, Ron Griffiths, Noel Hazzard, Neville Linde, Ken McCaffery, Rex McGlynn, Des McGovern, Alan Thompson, Harold 'Mick' Crocker, Bernie Drew, and Ron Davis in his only appearance for the Maroons.


Tuesday, 19 June
Central Queensland 14 - 38 France
[9]

Attendance: 4,598
Referee/s: H Gilbert

Sunday, 24 June
North Queensland 17 - 50 France
[10]
Townsville Sports Ground[7]
Attendance: 11,000
Referee/s: W Morrison

The Northern Queensland team featured Bob Banks.


Wednesday, 27 June
Wide Bay 19 - 44 France
[11]

Attendance: 4,500
Referee/s: Stan Chambers

2nd Test[edit]

After five matches against Queensland teams, the French side played the tour's second Test match against Australia in Brisbane.

Saturday, 30 June
14:30
Australia Australia 23 - 11 France France
Tries
D Flannery
D Hall
K Holman

Goals
N Pidding (6)
C Churchill

report Tries
J Merquey


Goals
R. Puig (4)

The Gabba, Brisbane
Attendance: 35,000
Referee/s: Tom McMahon, Jr
Australia Posit. France
(c) Clive Churchill FB Puig Aubert (c)
Noel Pidding WG Vincent Cantoni
Col Geelan CE Gaston Comes
Noel Hazzard CE Joseph Crespo
Denis Flannery WG Raymond Contrastin
Frank Stanmore FE Jacques Merquey
Keith Holman HB Jean Dop
Alan Thompson PR Paul Bartoletti
Ernie Hammerton HK Gabriel Genoud
Duncan Hall PR Louis Mazon
Brian Davies SR Edouard Ponsinet
Bernie Drew SR Elie Brousse
Harold Crocker LF Rene Duffort
Vic Hey Coach Bob Samatan

Only one change was made to the French team for the second Test: five-eighth Charles Galaup was replaced by Jacques Merquey. This time The Australian test team included six Queenslanders and returned to its winning ways with a 23-11 victory.[8] Following a head clash with French prop forward Louis Mazon in the second half, Australian captain Clive Churchill was assisted from the field.[9]


Tuesday, 3 July
Brisbane 16 - 17 France
2 Tries:
Wally McDonald
George Atherdon

5 Goals:
Norm Pope
report 3 Tries:
Puig-Aubert
Ode Lespes
Charles Galaup
4 Goals:
Puig-Aubert
Brisbane Cricket Ground
Attendance: 11,800[10]
Referee/s: Vic Lynagh
Brisbane forward Bill Sims being tackled by French forwards Andrew Deraud and Guy Delaye.

France were leading 12-7 at half time. However in the second half Brisbane captain and five-eighth, George Atherdon scored a try and hise side was leading 16-15 with seven minutes remaining. France were awarded a penalty near the half-way line and Puig-Aubert scored a drop-goal from about 53 yards out two minutes from full-time.[11] Aubert reached a points total for the tour of 112, thus passing Briton Ernest Ward's total of 106 the previous year.[12]

Also playing for France were forwards François Montrucolis, Andre Beraud and Guy Delaye. also playong for Brisbane were forwards Fallon, Blackford, Mick Crocker, Brian Davies, Bill Sims, Easts' halfback Ron Stanton, hooker Terry Coman, and centres Alec Watson and Nev Wilson.

3rd Test[edit]

The French team travelled back from Queensland to Sydney for the third and deciding Test match of the series. The Australians were slight favourites to win the match. People began to queue up in bitterly cold winds the night before the match.[13]

Saturday, 21 July
24:45
Australia 14-35 France
Tries:
Brian Davies
Duncan Hall


Goals:
Noel Pidding (4)
[14] Tries:
Joseph Crespo (3)
Raymond Contrastin (2)
Elie Brousse
Gaston Comes
Goals:
Puig Aubert (7)
Sydney Cricket Ground
Attendance: 67,009[15]
Referee/s: Tom McMahon Jnr
Australia Posit. France
(c) Clive Churchill FB Puig Aubert (c)
Noel Pidding WG Raymond Contrastin
Noel Hazzard CE Gaston Comes
Norman Hawke CE Jacques Merquey
Denis Flannery WG Vincent Cantoni
Wally O'Connell FE Rene Duffort
Keith Holman HB Joseph Crespo
Denis Donoghue PR Paul Bartoletti
Kevin Schubert HK Gabriel Genoud
Duncan Hall PR Louis Mazon
Brian Davies SR Elie Brousse
Bernie Drew SR Edouard Ponsinet
Harold Crocker LF Gabriel Calixte
Vic Hey Coach Bob Samatan

This was the last test match for Australian five-eighth Wally O'Connell.[16]

New Zealand leg[edit]

25 July
West Coast 2 - 5 France
[12]

Attendance: 3,667
Referee/s: Jim Griffin

28 July
Canterbury 7 - 13 France
[13]
Show Grounds
Attendance: 13,000

France defeated Canterbury 13-7 in front of 13,000 at the Show Grounds.[17]


30 July
Wellington 13 - 26 France
[14]

Attendance: 8,602

4 August 1951
New Zealand 16-15 France
2 Tries:
T. Baxter
G. Menzies
5 Goals:
D. White
[18] 3 Tries:
V. Cantoni (2)
E. Ponsinet
3 Goals:
Puig-Aubert
Carlaw Park, Auckland
Attendance: 19,229
Referee/s: Jim Griffin
New Zealand Posit. France
Desmond White FB Puig Aubert (c)
Bevan Hough WG Raymond Contrastin
Tommy Baxter CE Gaston Comes
Maurie Robertson CE Jacques Merquey
Jack Forrest WG Vincent Cantoni
George Menzies FE Rene Duffort
Jim Haig (c) HB Joseph Crespo
Ken English PR Paul Bartoletti
George Davidson HK Martin Martin
Cliff Johnson PR Louis Mazon
Douglas Richards-Jolley SR Elie Brousse
Charlie McBride SR Edouard Ponsinet
Travers Hardwick LF François Montrucolis
Thomas McClymont Coach Bob Samatan

New Zealand defeated France 16-15 in a "brutal match" at Carlaw Park. Des White kicked the winning penalty goal after the full-time siren had sounded to seal victory in "one of the most dramatic and dirtiest games ever played by the Kiwis".

First it was West Coast five-eighth George "Geordie" Menzies forced off with a cheekbone broken by a French head-butt. Then it was Otago's 1946 All Black halfback, Jimmy Haig with a broken jaw. Also Charlie McBride was bitten.[19]

In the mid-second half, a brawl erupted amongst the forwards. French prop and national middleweight champion, Louis Mazon, was heavily involved. It took referee J. Griffen three minutes to separate the combatants. Ten minutes later, when the touch judges and officials intervened and things finally settled down, Griffen sent France's hooker Martin Martin from the field for throwing mud at him,[18] but the Frenchman refused to go. The president of the French Rugby League, Anton Blain, and his New Zealand counterpart, Jack Redwood, came on and eventually persuaded Martin to leave the field.[20]

No replacements were allowed so the game wound down with 11 Kiwis on the field against 12 Frenchmen. There was no ground clock or siren in those days and the players had to listen for the chimes from the nearby University of Auckland wedding-cake tower to get an indication of time remaining. They knew that it was usually all over by 4 pm, but this game went well past four.[20]

In the final seconds of the match New Zealand wing Bevan Hough, a 1950 British Empire Games silver medal-winning sprinter, was heading for the Domain Stand corner and a certain try when he was taken out by a high shot from Cantoni. White was then called to kick. He backed up against the white picket fence sideline on the domain side, and sent the ball sailing between the posts, the crowd roaring before it got there.[20]

The bitterness continued. One of the Frenchmen attacked Maurie Robertson, leaping onto his back as he left the field, and a touch judge was knocked to the ground. As the crowd gathered to congratulate the Kiwis, the French spat at them. Later however, at the after-match dinner the French were gentlemen, conceding victory to the better side. Puig Aubert shook White's hand and congratulated him on the match-winning goal.[20]

The 50th anniversary of this match was commemorated during the 2001 French rugby league tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea with another Test between New Zealnd and France in Auckland.


6 August
Auckland 10 - 15 France
[15]
Carlaw Park
Attendance: 30,000

Two days after the one-off Test match France returned to Carlaw Park to play Auckland. France won 15-10 in front of 30,000 spectators. Auckland included Des White, Jimmy Edwards, Tommy Baxter, Cyril Eastlake, Bevan Hough, Bruce Robertson, captain Des Barchard, Cliff Johnson, George Davidson, Graham Burgoyne, Doug Richards-Jolley, Clarence Hurndell and Allan Wiles.[21]


9 August
South Auckland 7 - 25 France
[16]

Attendance: 7,480
Referee/s: Rolly Avery

During this match, French half-back Jean Dop was running for the ball when he was stuck by a spectator, prompting police to move the crowd from the area.[22]


11 August
Taranaki 7 - 23 France
[17]

Attendance: 6,473

References[edit]

  1. ^ Penson, Bart (31 July 2008). "A Brief History of the Rugby League World Cup: 1954-1972". League Unlimited. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Steve, Waddingham (15 June 2008). "Why this trophy for winning the rugby league World Cup?". The Sunday Mail (Qld). Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Staff Correspondent, London (30 March 1951). "French R.L. Changes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  4. ^ Dine, Philip (2001). French Rugby Football: A Cultural History. UK: Berg. p. 117. 
  5. ^ Beaton, Lyle (7 April 2009). "75 Years of French Rugby League". rleague.com. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  6. ^ "5,000 Ticket Buyers Missed League Test". The Sydney Morning Herald. 12 June 1951. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Souvenir". lvr13.com. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  8. ^ nma.gov.au. "100 years of the game". League of Legends. National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "Medical Test Order to Churchill". The Sydney Morning Herald. 17 September 1951. Retrieved 14 September 2013. 
  10. ^ Jack Reardon (4 July 1951). "MADE NO MISTAKE OVER VITAL GOAL". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "France snatches Victory". The Cairns Post. 4 July 1951. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Reardon, Jack (4 July 1951). "Brisbane beaten in last 2 mins". The Courier-Mail. Retrieved 4 September 2013. 
  13. ^ "Third Test Tactics". The Morning Bulletin. 21 July 1951. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  14. ^ http://www.rugbyleagueproject.org/matches/Australia_vs_France_1951/Game_3/Australia-vs-France.html
  15. ^ Frank Hyde (8 July 1981). "League, and France, lost". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  16. ^ "Australia's Oldest Living Test Captain". menofleague.com. Men of League. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  17. ^ Coffey, John. Canterbury XIII, Christchurch, 1987.
  18. ^ a b New Zealand vs France 1951 rugbyleagueproject.org
  19. ^ Team of the Century - Week 6 Wellington Rugby League
  20. ^ a b c d Jessup, Peter (2 June 2001). "The Carlaw Park bloodbath". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 5 February 2014. 
  21. ^ Coffey, John and Bernie Wood Auckland, 100 years of rugby league, 1909-2009, 2009. ISBN 978-1-86969-366-4.
  22. ^ AAP Reuter (1951-08-10). "Dop hit by spectator". The Sydney Morning Herald (Australia: Australian Newspapers). Retrieved 2010-04-17.