John Dallas

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John Dallas
Birth name John Dewar Dallas
Rugby union career
Position(s) Forward
Amateur team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
National team(s)
Years Team Apps (Points)
1903 Scotland 1 (3)

John Dewar Dallas (1878 – 31 July 1942)[1] was a Scottish international rugby union forward who played club rugby for Watsonians. Dallas played international rugby for Scotland but is more notable as a rugby referee, and controversially officiated the 1905 encounter between Wales and New Zealand, a match seen as one of the greatest games in the history of the rugby union.

During the First World War, Dallas joined the British Army and was posted to The Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) as part of the 16th Battalion.[2] In his later life he was a judge based in Aberdeen.[3]

Rugby career[edit]

Dallas played just a single international game for Scotland, the encounter with England during the 1903 Home Nations Championship. Scotland had already beaten Wales and Ireland in the tournament, and a win over England would give the Scottish team the Triple Crown. Dallas was brought into the pack, along with a returning Jimmy Ross, as replacements for David Bedell-Sivright and captain Mark Coxon Morrison. Although not an exciting game, the close score made this an interesting game, with Scotland finishing 10-6 winners. Dallas not only ended the game as a Triple Crown winning player, but he also scored one of two Scottish tries, when he crossed the line in the first half after good build-up work from wing James Stirling MacDonald.[4] Despite the victory and the score, Dallas never represented the Scotland national team again, the Scottish selectors preferring heavy scrummagers whereas Dallas' play was more of a fast wing-forward.[5]


In 1905 the first New Zealand touring team came to Britain, and brought an exciting tactical game that the British clubs found difficult to play against. Before the team came to Wales, they had played 27 matches against teams from Scotland, England and Ireland, and beaten them all, including victories over the three national teams. Wales had just won the Home Nations Championship and were seen as possessing one of the greatest teams in the sport's history. The encounter between Wales and New Zealand was seen as a great challenge between the two hemispheres, and was being dubbed the 'Game of the Century' before the match had taken place. In the buildup to the game, the New Zealand manager George Dixon and the Welsh Rugby Union had difficulty agreeing on a referee.[6] Four officials had been rejected before the WRU, using I.B. regulations called on a neutral union, in this case the Scottish Rugby Union, to choose a referee on their behalf. Scotland chose Dallas.[5]

This was Dallas' first international match as a referee but the game started controversially for him as he was criticised for his poor choice of attire. Dallas turned up for the match wearing street clothes and his boots had neither bars or studs.[7][8] Dallas was also criticised during the game for being unable to keep up with the action. In a thrilling game, the match was decided by a single try, scored by Teddy Morgan to give Wales the win. Unfortunately for Dallas the game is also remembered for a controversial decision where New Zealand centre Bob Deans claimed to have grounded the ball over the Welsh goal line, only to have the try disallowed by Dallas. Deans stated that he scored the try, but was dragged back over the line by the Welsh defence.[9] Although New Zealand manager Dixon attacked Dallas in private for not being able to keep up with the game, and thus missing the try;[8] Dallas had no doubts, he believed that Deans had grounded the ball 6 to 12 inches short.[10]

The IRB kept faith with Dallas, and he continued to referee at international level, officiating over the Wales vs. Ireland encounter in the 1908 Home Nations Championship then Wales vs. England and Ireland vs. England in the 1909 Championship. Dallas refereed four more matches, when the Championship became the Five Nations Championship with the inclusion of France. Dallas was given the England vs Wales and Ireland vs. Wales in the 1910 Five Nations Championship, Ireland vs. England in the 1911 Championship and a final game in the 1912 tournament between Ireland and Wales.


  1. ^ John Dallas player profile
  2. ^ London Gazette 11 August 1915 London Gazette
  3. ^ Steam trawler "Rose" and steam trawler "Sidmouth" Archived 2008-09-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Griffiths, John (1982). The Book of English International Rugby 1872-1982. London: Willow Books. p. 95. ISBN 0002180065. 
  5. ^ a b Smith (1980), pg 155.
  6. ^ Smith (1980), pg 154.
  7. ^ Mortimer, David (2003). Classic Rugby Clangers. London: Robson Books. p. 17. ISBN 1-86105-612-5. 
  8. ^ a b Smith (1980), pg 167.
  9. ^ When the greatest game was played 8 October 2005
  10. ^ Smith (1980), pg 168.


  • Smith, David; Williams, Gareth (1980). Fields of Praise: The Official History of The Welsh Rugby Union. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. ISBN 0-7083-0766-3.