England call on Rorke's Drift spirit; Replica 1914 kit for Aussies clash.
ENGLAND will pay a special tribute to the most heroic performance in the history of international Rugby League when they play Australia in A the 2014 Four Nations in Melbourne on Sunday.
To mark the centenary of the historic third Test of the 1914 Lions tour - a match that became known as the Rorke's Drift Test - England will wear a commemorative jersey based on those who won 14-6 by the Northern Union at the Sydney Cricket Ground on July 4, 1914.
The new jersey is a red and white hooped design and features on its front the names of the Northern Union heroes who defied overwhelming odds to win the game and secure the Ashes.
Those heroes included Huddersfield players Harold Wagstaffand Douglas Clark, as well as comanager John Clifford.
It was Clifford who rallied the players after a row about the date of the game, so close to other matches. "You are playing a game of football this afternoon but more than that you are playing for England, and more even than that, you are playing for right versus wrong. You will win because you have to win. Don't forget that message from home. England expects every one of you to do his duty."
Two decades later, Wagstaff - dubbed The Prince of Centres - remembered how moved his side were by Clifford: "I was impressed and thrilled as never before or since by a speech."
The match did not start well. Immediately after kick-off, Halifax's Frank Williams injured his knee and spent the rest of the first half hobbling around the pitch, before going off permanently early in the second half.
Clark broke his thumb and then he too was forced to go off in the second half after he fell awkwardly under Arthur Holloway's tackle and dislocated his shoulder. When he realised he could no longer continue, Clark cried tears of frustration. But the greater experience of the NU side told. Despite having only 11 fit players, they dominated play and led 9-0 at half-time, thanks to a try from Leeds's Willie Davies and three goals from Oldham's Alf Wood.
In the second half, the Australians A tried to take advantage of the 11-man British side. But with 20 minutes to go, Wagstaff cut throughout the Australian defence and A passed to Chick Johnson, the Widnes forward,who cut in from the wing and was left with only Howard Hallett, the Australian full-back, to full-back, to A beat.
Faced with the chance to seal the match, Johnson's forward instincts took over and, to the surprise of Hallett, he dropped the ball to his foot, grubber kicked it past the full-back and dribbled it over the line to score. Wood converted the try but it was not over.
A few minutes later Oldham's Billy Hall was taken off with concussion and Australia finally began to A click. Wally Messenger and Sid Deane touched down for unconverted tries and at one point the British were down to just nine men when Stuart Prosser went down winded.
More than anyone, the victory was owed to Wagstaff. The Sydney Morning Herald praised his generalship: "He tackled with the tenacity of a grizzly bear."
Australian captain Sid captain Sid A Deane recalled that "Wagstaff was not only brilliant in attack and wonderful in defence but his leadership was a most important factor in the team's success."
Douglas Clark wrote simply: 'Harold was the man'. And for the man himself, he told the press that 'it was the hardest game of my career.'.
England star Sam |Tomkins models the Rorke's Drift shirt that the team will wear on Sunday. Left: The book about the Test win which was in part inspired by its Huddersfield contingent (left from top) co-manager John Clifford and players stars Harold Wagstaff and Douglas Clark
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|Publication:||Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)|
|Date:||Oct 28, 2014|
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