It would be a close run thing if you compared the number of words written about the Bob Deans try that wasn’t given in the 1905 game between Wales and New Zealand and the infamous line-out dive in 1978 by Andy Haden that earned the All Blacks the penalty that won them the game.
The death of Haden after a long and brave battle against cancer on Wednesday has led to another flurry of words about the incident in Cardiff 42 years ago. But that moment was hardly the most defining one in Haden’s incredible career.
Uncompromising both on and off the field, his playing pedigree is underlined in his statistics – 157 games for Auckland, 117 for the All Blacks, 41 Tests and eight games as the New Zealand captain. He enjoyed 31 wins and a draw in his 41 internationals and helped see off both the 1977 and 1983 British Lions, boasting seven wins in eight games.
As a line-out technician he was ahead of his time and he led the charge in toppling on the old amateur regulations in rugby union. He became the enfant terrible of the game in the late eighties, a man who was at the centre of the 1986 Cavaliers tour to South Africa and who defied the authorities by describing his occupation as “rugby player”.
He also irked the New Zealand authorities by publishing a book before hanging up his boots. When Boots ‘n’ All came out he not only went on a promotional tour, but dodged the professionalism bullet by proclaiming to be an “author”.
His influence would also go on to have a profound effect on the careers of today’s professional players as he became one of rugby’s first player agents. He also extended his business into the realm of celebrities, representing New Zealand super model and actress Rachel Hunter.
But in Wales, there is only one thing for which he is remembered. It all goes back to a line-out late in the game at the old Cardiff Arms Park on 11 November, 1978. Wales were leading 12-10 and seemingly on course for their first win over New Zealand since 1953.
There were six or seven minutes to go and Doug Bruce kicked the ball from midfield to the edge of the Wales 22. It was Bobby Windsor to throw in to a Welsh line that boasted Geoff Wheel and Allan Martin as the main jumpers.
This is how Martin saw things:
“The game was going our way. It was our throw at a line-out on our 22. It was thrown in and then called again. On the second call I can remember standing opposite Andy. As the ball came in he jumped, or it appeared to jump, and he landed on the floor – and so did Frank Oliver. The ball was called for Geoff and I jumped to cover him. Most people probably felt I had elbowed him (Haden) or pushed him out.
“I thought in my mind that Jeff Squire was behind me and he had wacked him and he had gone out of the line-out. Then the referee penalised Geoff for leaning on. This had been happening all game and he hadn’t penalised either side before that. It was just a refereeing thing I suppose and the rest is history. Brian McKechnie kicked the penalty and there were only two or three minutes left and it was game over. We lost.”
For his part, Haden remained unrepentant about the incident for the rest of his life. It had been the former Wales and Lions flanker Clem Thomas, working for The Observer, who first picked up the line-out ploy in the press box. All hell broke loose that weekend as Welsh fans declared ‘we woz robbed!’
Haden didn’t go out that night, instead heading back to the All Blacks’ headquarters at the Seabank Hotel, in Porthcawl, with injured full back Clive Currie. When he got there he found the hotel switchboard lit up with calls from people who wanted to speak to him. He leapt over the counter and disconnected them all.
This was his view on the incident, as explained to Stuff NZ many years later:
“We had had two or three games in Wales before the test where the opposition draped themselves all over the top of us, and they weren’t penalised. When we punched them, we got penalised, so we had to work out ways of getting our lineout ball because, without it, we would have been struggling.
“If we had the ball, we had the attack. We had guys like Stu Wilson, Bruce Robertson and Bill Osborne, who could all run a bit.”
At the final training session Haden reminded his skipper, Graham Mourie, of a tactic used by Taranaki lock Ian Eliason deliberately leaping out of a lineout while being marked by All Blacks great Colin Meads.
“He got not one penalty, he got three, which infuriated Pinetree, for exactly the same reason [as it infuriated Wales].”
Mourie told Haden that he might have to file that tactic away. The opportunity presented itself in the 77th minute at Cardiff Arms Park.
“Doug Bruce went down with an injury, so I said to Mourie that we were going to use that tactic we had brought up at training. I told Frank that we were going to do it. He gave me a nod, and Mourie just rolled his eyes – he knew it was going to happen.
“The ref was on our side of the lineout on the 5m line, but before the ball was thrown in, he moved around past us and around the back to the other side. He could obviously see all their players, but he couldn’t see us.
“That’s the reason [the dive] was quite a theatrical performance, to make sure we got his attention.”
WRU chairman Gareth Davies was Wales’ outside half that day and still can’t quite believe victory was snatched away
“Without question that was the biggest disappointment of my rugby life. It was my first game for Wales at home and my first game playing with Terry Holmes.
“Throughout the build-up to that match our coach John Dawes was telling us that if we won it would give us legendary status. We should have won the game, all I can remember is feeling absolutely distraught afterwards.
“I didn’t really know immediately what had happened – it was only after the game in the dressing room that the players started talking about it.
“Andy Haden’s death is a huge loss to New Zealand rugby and to the game all over the world. He was a giant figure in every sense and someone who I remember as being the first shop steward in the game.”Haden and Oliver were back in the Welsh capital two years later when Wales celebrated its centenary against their greatest rivals. The All Blacks won at a canter and at the post-match dinner the two locks decided to slightly adjust the ornate cake on display as part of the celebrations.
The green-iced cake was marked out as a rugby field, 15 figures in black and 15 others in red, in line-out formation. When the officials turned to the cake they found two figures in black lying on the ground – numbers two and four in the lineout.
At the same event it is reputed that Martin got on the microphone and pronounced: “It’s good to see Frank and Andy back here . . . would one of them dive up here and get the salt, and the other dive up and get the pepper.”
Some of the immediate bitterness has subsided down the years, but for many of the players from the ‘Golden Years’ of the Seventies it still hurts that they were robbed of a precious win over New Zealand to add to their Grand Slam earlier in the year.
As for Haden, he never felt the need to apologise for something that isn’t defined in the rugby law book. “You don’t apologise for doing what you were selected to do. You don’t make excuses for wanting to win,” he said
Just as Deans wrote his name into rugby folklore with his death bed declaration that he had in fact scored a try for New Zealand in their 3-0 defeat in Cardiff in 1905 – the first international defeat suffered by the All Blacks and their only defeat on their first tour to the UK – is talked about to this day, so Haden’s line-out ploy will never be forgotten,
But there was so much more to the man than that. He remains one of the greatest All Blacks and will take his place as one of the most influential figures of his era.
How fitting that the former Australian second row, and highly respected sport columnist, Peter FitzSimons, should use a Dylan Thomas quote with which to say his final farewell to his old adversary.
“You were a tower of strength on the field and off it, and fought the good fight better than most. If any is equipped to ‘Do not go gentle into that good night, and rage, rage, against the dying of the light, it is you.”
THIS IS WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY ABOUT HIM
“Andy turned the lineout into an art form. There was always a way of doing it better and getting a better result. He challenged authority and authority didn’t like it. But he could back it up because he was smart” – former All Black, Murray Mexted
“He was probably the first true professional. He was always looking to make sure that the team was well looked after. At times we called him the Minister of Lurks and Perks” – Graham Mourie, former All Blacks captain
Former All Blacks and Auckland coach John Hart praised Haden’s character both on and off the pitch.
“He was a fantastic advocate for players’ rights. He challenged the establishment and he was a professional years ahead of his time” – John Hart, former Auckland and All Blacks coach