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40 years ago: The All Blacks suffer a shock 21-9 loss to the North of England at Otley’s Cross Green.
OPINION:It is with typically inopportune timing that the Rugby Football Union brings an England international to Newcastle’s St James’ Park during a period when it is decidedly grim up north. Newcastle’s relegation leaves Sale Sharks as the sole northern representative in the English Premiership, while the once mighty Yorkshire Carnegie only just survived a brush with administration this summer.
It was not always this way. Forty years ago in November, the North beat New Zealand 21-9. The mighty All Blacks were not just toppled but thrashed four tries to one at Otley’s Cross Green.
Even if it lacks the degree of mythology inspired by Munster’s slaying of the All Blacks in 1978, which has spawned plays, poetry and books, it was no less seismic a result which Bill Beaumont says “changed the face of English rugby”; nor has the passage of time lessened its thrill to the participants.
“The memories of the game are as clear in my mind as though it were yesterday,” Des Seabrook, the coach, says.
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Beaumont, the chairman of World Rugby, can still recite the teamsheet without a moment’s hesitation: O’Brien; Carleton, Wright, Bond, Slemen; Old, Smith; White, Simpson, Cotton, Beaumont, Syddall, Uttley, Neary, Dixon. Many of the team achieved remarkable feats in their career, from captaining England to representing the British and Irish Lions, but there was something undeniably special about that afternoon in a sleepy Yorkshire market town.
“Playing for the Lions in a winning series was amazing and captaining England was a tremendous honour, but that was the game, playing with my great mates, that I still think about,” Roger Uttley, the flanker, said.
“Playing with my mates” is a phrase repeated time and time again. Ten of the team were drawn from Lancashire’s County Championship team and others toured South Africa together as North West Counties that summer. It was also a team laden with experience.
There were five England captains in the p
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