Northern Ireland

All Blacks: Belfast man recalls refereeing rugby 0-0 classic

A shot of the crowd at the 1964 Murrayfield match Image copyright British Pathé
Image caption A shot of the crowd at the 1964 Murrayfield match between Scotland and New Zealand

In early 1964, the US was getting its first taste of The Beatles. On this side of the Atlantic, Sir Alec Douglas-Home was prime minister, Teilifís Éireann (Irish TV) had just dipped its toe in the world of soap opera with Tolka Row.

And in a time before Rugby World Cups, the New Zealand team was on a tour of the home nations.

The tour was a big deal. New Zealand had come to the northern hemisphere about once every 10 years since the turn of the 20th century.

In the first international game of that 1963-64 tour, Ireland ran New Zealand close, 6-5. Wales and then England both failed to score against the All Blacks.

Then came Scotland. They too failed to score. But crucially, they held the New Zealand attack. The match ended 0-0. And the game had an Irish connection.

The referee that day in Murrayfield was Ray Williams, who lives in Belfast.

Image copyright British Pathé
Image caption Ray Williams (far left) as full back Don Clarke kicks for New Zealand

Despite the scoreline, it is a game that Mr Williams remembers well. He says it was exciting, played at some pace and in a very good spirit.

The British Pathé cameras were there and captured the game.

Showing it to Mr Williams some 51 years later in his living room, he recalls: "New Zealand had beaten everybody in the internationals they had played.

"And for Scotland to hold them to a draw was practically, more or less, as far as the spectators were concerned going home, a victory."

Image caption Ray Williams watched the footage from 51 years ago in his Belfast living room

He said Scotland thoroughly deserved their draw.

"One would have thought that Scotland had won - that's how much the draw meant to them," he said.

"And to hold the great New Zealand to a draw was a marvellous result for Scotland. They deserve full praise for a wonderful match and very sporting from beginning to end."

These days, reigning world champions New Zealand sit atop the rankings by some margin.

'Celebrations'

In 1964, there was no world cup and no world rankings, but it was accepted that the All Blacks were the side that set the bar.

"I thought they were a wonderful side, with two outstanding players. Wilson Whineray was the best captain in my whole career that I've ever refereed," he said.

"And their full back Don Clarke hardly ever missed a place kick at goal, but he missed a few that day against Scotland.

"People couldn't really answer what the problem was with Don Clarke, but they were very grateful that he missed three or four kickable penalties."

At the end of the game, Scotland's supporters streamed on to the field to hail their heroes, and the celebrations carried on long into the night.

"There was the usual international dinner in the hotel where the Scottish team was staying," said Mr Williams.

"There was a big dance in the hotel after the dinner in honour of Scotland.

"So the celebrations went on all night because I did meet a few sore heads the following morning."

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