New Zealand All Blacks vs Bridgend RFC in 1978 and that infamous stamping

December 10, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

Bridgend UK 13 December 1978<br/><br/><br/><br/>Bridgend V New Zealand December 1978<br/><br/>The All Blacks taking on Bridgend RFC at the Brewery Field in Bridgend, a match in which Bridgend,Wales and British Lions full back JPR Williams was injured<br/><br/><br/><br/>New zealand tema included, John Ashworth Graham MourieRWP_Archive_AllBlacks_33Bridgend UK 13 December 1978<br/><br/><br/><br/>Bridgend V New Zealand December 1978<br/><br/>The All Blacks taking on Bridgend RFC at the Brewery Field in Bridgend, a match in which Bridgend,Wales and British Lions full back JPR Williams was injured<br/><br/><br/><br/>New zealand tema included, John Ashworth Graham Mourie

Open full picture gallery of Bridgend v New Zealand All Blacks

December 13 1978, one week after my 18th birthday was no ordinary day in my fledgling career as a freelance photographer. I'll never forget it, even though we're almost exactly 42 years on.

Rugby union's legendary New Zealand All Blacks had arrived in my south Wales town to take on Bridgend RFC.

Although I was young, by that stage in my career, I was already a regular contributor to my local weekly newspaper, the Glamorgan Gazette

But, being asked to cover the game alongside staff photographer Howard Balston took matters to a whole new level. 

My father had played for Bridgend,  I was from a mad-keen rugby household and no stranger to the Brewery Field ground and certainly no stranger to photographing rugby matches.

I arrived early that day, to an electric atmosphere. A capacity crowd had packed in, with extra stands at both ends of the pitch and local schoolchildren given time off school to watch this historic encounter.

But, the weather was appalling and so was the pitch after hours of torrential rain. A Welsh December is already dark enough and the conditions were going to make it extra-difficult to photograph.

Being a Wednesday, it was also deadline day for the Gazette. The printing press, some 40 miles away in Merthyr Tydfil, was on standby to produce the following day's paper and the pressure was certainly on.

Howard's role was to shoot his own pictures then leave after the first 20 minutes, taking my films and his own. He had to go back to the Gazette office darkroom, process and print them and drive to Merthyr, for the waiting printing press.

I was to carry on photographing the match until the end for the following week's paper. 

As well as the action pictures, I wanted loads of crowd photos to document such a momentous day in the history of the town. Wales rugby fullback JPR Williams after being stamped on by New Zealand All Blacks prop John Ashworth.RWP_ARCHIVE_AllBlacks_ (23)Bridgend UK 13 December 1978<br/><br/><br/><br/>Bridgend V New Zealand December 1978<br/><br/>The All Blacks taking on Bridgend RFC at the Brewery Field in Bridgend, a match in which Bridgend,Wales and British Lions full back JPR Williams was injured<br/><br/><br/><br/>New zealand tema included, John Ashworth Graham Mourie Just after my colleague's departure, legendary Wales and British Lions full-back JPR Williams had to leave the field after an horrific injury thanks to a stamp in the face by a New Zealand prop John Ashworth.

My image (above) shows the aftermath, a bloodied JPR with his cheek torn open. His father (also a doctor) put in 30 stitches, and amazingly, JPR went back onto the field and saw out the rest of the match.

With the light failing fast on a dark damp day in winter, the task of shooting action pictures, even with the film uprated to around 3,200 ASA was almost impossible.

My trusty Canon AE1 and winder fitted with a 70-200 f4 Tokina zoom lens was taking a battering with the constant rain and flying mud.

Back in my home-converted darkroom that afternoon, I was pleased with the results considering the conditions and was rewarded with pictures of the event being published over two weeks in the paper.

The negatives have been amongst my collection ever since and getting that chance to cover the All Blacks at such a young age is something that has stayed with me to this day. 

And the match result? Despite Bridgend being one of the best teams in Welsh rugby at the time, they lost 17-6, a score which doesn't reflect the players' valiant efforts.

Whether they're new or old, what are the pictures you most remember? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.


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