Australia won the Ashes 50 years ago today

Exactly 50 years ago today, 9th December, Australia won the 1967 Ashes series with an 11-3 win at Station Road in Swinton in front of 13,615 spectators in a game that at one stage had looked unlikely to be played.

The teams came into the game with one victory each. Great Britain had won the first Test at Headingley on 21 October, but the Kangaroos had squared the ledger in November at White City in London with a 17-11 win.

Arctic conditions had gripped the north of England for several days. Grounds everywhere were covered with ice and Swinton laid down 21 tons of straw to try to ensure the Test match would go ahead on the day before the game was due to be played.

When head groundsman Norm Syddall and his staff took the straw off the pitch, the ground was too hard for a pitchfork to be driven more than two centimetres into it while there were ridged like concrete on the pitch.

It snowed throughout the game, which was played on a background of a white field with floodlights switched on almost from the start of the game. The weather conditions severely restricted the size of the crowd.

They then won their last four tour matches against Swinton, Leeds, Halifax and Bradford, before the third Test and they maintained the momentum in the decider, with Ron Coote scoring the only try of a tight first-half after good work from Johnny Raper and Peter Gallagher.

Roger Millward missed an penalty shot early in the second half and was made to pay when Kangaroo substitute Tony Branson ran 30 metres and beat three tackles to touch down for a try which Graeme Langlands converted.

Gallagher then sent winger Johnny King in for the try which sealed the Ashes before Millward engineered a consolation effort for Rochdale centre Malcolm Price, which saw Great Britain, who fielded five Hull Kingston Rovers players, finally on the board.

There was still time for one more notable incident, as Australia’s hooker Noel Kelly was sent off for obstructing British halfback Tommy Bishop.
 The Kangaroos then crossed the Channel for a Test series with France, which they lost by two games to nil with one drawn.
 In total, the 1967-68 Kangaroos won 16 and drew two from their 27 matches, scoring 503 points and conceding 302.

Check out Richard de la Riviera’s ‘On This Day’ column in Monday’s League Express for more historical Rugby League features.