This was without doubt the most exciting match of the tour. A thriller with some fantastic tries scored right up to injury time. The All Blacks had a shocking start to the match and was trailing 31-9 with 20 minutes of the second half gone when they started their come back. It was probably only due to the spirit in which the game was played which allowed them to come back as the Baabaas never closed down the match. Nevertheless, it was an unbelievable comeback and a match which had the crowd on their feet right up to the final whistle.
Never in All Black history had there been a game such as this, writes Terry McLean in his book “Goodbye to glory”.
In the first minute, Fergus Slattery, the Irish flanker, cut off a shocker of a pass from Lyn Davis to Duncan Robertson and sped to Laurie Mains before putting John Trollope, the hooker, in for a try. Penalty goals by Gavin Cowley followed.
After 17 minutes, Quaggas-Barbarians led by 10 to nil. At the half, they led by 13 to 9; and fortified by a brilliant break by Slattery which put his fellow countryman Tom Grace away for a try nine minutes into the second half, the club’s team turned on such a splurge of scoring that in ten minutes they led by 31 to 9.
There was only 19 minutes of play remaining. It was an impossible for the All Blacks. It was even conceivable that the Quaggas-Barbarians could carry on scoring 50 points, an unimaginable slight of insult to all of the traditions of New Zealand in international rugby.
After being down as a result of a try by Trollope in the first minute and two penalty goals by Gavin Cowley, the All Blacks tightened their forward play and climbed up to 13-9 by half-time and appeared to be in charge of proceedings. But in a sensational 11-minute burst the Baabaas bagged three splendid tries the last one by replacement flanker Corrie Pypers –his third in three matches against the All Blacks.
It was at this stage that Andy Leslie thought it was all over. “I looked at the scoreboard then and thought ‘Hell, perhaps they’ll get to 50!” Leslie said he didn’t know what to say to his players. “I just told them to do their best.”
From the kick-off the All Blacks went to the other side (away from the forwards), the kiwi backline swooped down on the ball and Terry Mitchell scored for Mains to convert (31-15).
Terry Mitchell scoring with Gys van Schoor around his legs
Eight minutes later Mains kicked a penalty goal (31-18) and then Mitchell raced downfield and linked-up with his forwards, Alan Sutherland scoring (31-22).
This picture shows Alan Sutherland scoring in the 75th minute to make the score 31-22 in favor of the Baabaas.
Into injury time the match went and Lyn Davies placed a box kick over the scrum which Ian Roberston dropped. Alan Sutherland latched onto the ball, putting Lawrie Knight over. Mains’ conversion made it 31-28.
Lawrie Knight -with Alan Sutherland next to him- on his way to his try in injury time to bring the score up to 31-28.
Leslie asked the referee how much time was left and Steve Strydom replied 29 seconds. Leslie returned to his team and told them there were three minutes to play.
He hadn’t wanted to panic them, he said later. From the kick off the ball went into touch and from the line-out won by the Baabaas play drove towards the All Black goal line.
Play was swirling so much that Andy Leslie was among the Baabaas backs. Amazingly, a pass was fired straight into his arms. He turned, took off and kicked downfield. Ian Robertson took the ball awkwardly.
The All Blacks were streaking to him. As he sought for balance to kick to touch and end the game Bruce Robertson gunned him down. The ball spilled was picked up by an All Black and taken into a long agonizing ruck, from which the ball strained out.
Davis rolled his pass along the ground; it was picked up and through the hands like a hot potato went the ball to create the overlap for Mitchell to score in the corner.
The big point of contention was whether Leslie was offside when he intercepted. It was a matter of interpretation. If Salty du Randt –who threw the pass which was intercepted by Leslie-was not part of a maul –before passing the ball- because of insufficient number of players bounding onto him then Leslie was not offside. If it was maul then Leslie was offside. TV replay show it was probably not a maul.
There was also doubt about the Sutherland try as it seemed that Bush played the ball off the ground to Sutherland. Interestingly, enough the great Terry McLean had nothing about these probable referee slip-ups in his book but writes:
It was the most shattering, superhuman, sensational comeback which could ever be imagined. In terms of the tour, this could have been a misfortune. It dissipated memories of the stressful and error-ridden moments of earlier play.
The Baabaas had two Irish internationals namely Tom Grace on wing and Fergus Slattery on the flank. It was out of season for the two Irish players and Slattery just returning from a lengthy injury lay-off was short of match fitness but it was he who was instrumental in the home team’s first three tries. McLean writes as follows about Slattery:
Fergus Slattery was playing out of season. He expected to be exhausted in 15 minutes. He was – in ten. Yet in three remarkable moves he directly contributed to the scoring of 16 points.
He performed the duties of a loose forward perfectly by getting position, making ground and building a situation so that the man he passed to was clear of the defence.
This was a most admirable appreciation of the flanker’s duties. Good hands, pace, a clear idea of where to run and when to pass – it was perfect. No All Black loose forward of the tour reached such a standard.
Fergus Slattery here playing for Ireland against South Africa in 1981 was outstanding for the Quagga-Barbarians against the 1976 All Blacks. His intelligent positional play, surging breakaways and constant vigilant defence a demonstration of flank forward play that no South African loose forward were able to emulate during the 1976 All Black tour. The Irish flanker’s run to set-up Grace’s try was a sharp-witted gem; the combined all Irish long-range effort had the Ellis Park crowd on their feet cheering for more. Even the New Zealand critics were moved to applauding the sheer audacity and the swift-telling execution of the try that started when Slattery broke away from a maul five yards inside his own 25 yard line. Slattery said after the match that in his opinion the standard of play in SA have shown no improvement since 1974 when he toured with the undefeated British and Irish Lions.
Tom Grace, the other Irish international that played for the Baabaas is shown here, trying to tackle Alan Sutherland. Gareth Edwards and JPR Williams were also invited to play for the Baabaas but they couldn’t make it. There were also attempts to fly in Ian Stevens and/or Stewart Cron from New Zealand to play for the Barbarians and to have them then available as standby players for the All Blacks for the rest of the tour as help with the injuries woes in the New Zealand camp.
One of the features of the second half fight back was the work-rate and effectiveness of Bush and Lambert in the frontrow, the rugged Frank Oliver at lock and the unfussing rucking of Alan Sutherland.
Star of the match was without a doubt Gavin Cowley who tuned in the most convincing all round performance by a flyhalf of the whole 1976 tour. Terry McLean raved about Cowley:
Here was flyhalf play at the highest quality. You could sense that as the ball was coming to Cowley, his eyes were programming all sorts of information into the computer that was his brain.
At the speed of light, the stuff was fed in – All Blacks here, All Blacks there, All Blacks not quite where they ought to be – and at the speed of light it was spewed as controlling guides into his hands and feet.
Thus it was that Cowley, to the All Blacks, was pretty well unreadable. They had not the faintest idea whether he would run, pass, kick or, he did so beautifully, dodge.
This within the confines of one match was the great back display of the tour, friend or foe, and it was an enormous pleasure to watch.
Picture showing Gavin Cowley slipping past Lynn Jaffray. The ultimate tribute towards Cowley came from Duncan Robertson, his direct opponent in this match. “Bosch.” said Robertson, “You know what Gerald will do. No problem. He passes or kicks, that’s all. But Cowley, wow! I had no idea.” Simply, it was beyond understanding, writes Terry McLean, that for the sake of goals –which in this match Cowley kicked with exactitude- the Springbok selectors would neglect this player of so much talent for a humdrum, if efficient, a machine as Bosch.
3 con, 2 pen
Gys van Schoor
3 con & pen
Andy Leslie (c)
Salty du Randt (C)
* replaced by Corrie Pypers after 18 minutes; * replaced by Bruce Robertson after 60 minutes
The match official was Steve Strydom (OFS); match attendance was 49 000.
Run of play
Cowley penalty, 41 m.
Cowley penalty, 23 m.
Duncan Robertson try. Mains convert.
Mains penalty, 21 m.
Cowley penalty, 27 m.
Grace try, Cowley convert.
Coetser try, Cowley convert.
Pypers try, Cowley converts
Mitchell try, Mains convert.
Mains penalty, 31 m.
Knight try. Mains convert.
There were 7 minutes of injury time in each half. Cowley missed one penalty attempt from 33 meters and Ian Robertson one from 47 meters. Williams missed a penalty from 47 meters and Mains missed penalties from 31, 36, 38, and 31 meters.
Pierre Goosen from Western Province was the other Baabaas centre. Here he plays for an SA invitation XV against the 1975 French side which toured SA.
Joe Coetser from Transvaal played for the Baabaas on the wing. The top picture shows him playing for TVL. In the bottom picture he is tackling Terry Mitchell in this game.
Corrie Pypers who came on as replacement for Piet Veldsman in the 18th minute and scored his third try against the 76 AB.
The All Black version of lifting in the lineout with Frank Oliver receiving some help from Kent Lambert.