international touring side to visit the
was the 1888/89 New Zealand Native Football Team, popularly known as the
Maoris. Both names were, in fact, misnomers-not all of the players were native
New Zealanders; one had been born in
while another, Paddy Keogh, was actually a native of
! There were also five Pakehas or non-Maori players in the touring party.
Maoris first assembled in June 1888 and played nine matches in
of which seven were won. The tourists then sailed to
where they played and won a further two games. There then followed a six-week
trip by steamer to
where the first fixture was on 3rd October against Surrey, at
and followed up that victory by defeating both Northamptonshire and Kent in
their next two games. They then travelled to the west
to take on Moseley at The Reddings on 13th October 1888
visit of the Maoris aroused great interest in the Birmingham area and The
Times estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 people witnessed the match
while the Birmingham Daily Gazette reported that the crowd was the
largest ever seen at a rugby match in the Midlands.
to the kick off the Maoris, most of them ‘attired in their picturesque native
rugs’ came out onto the field and received ‘a most enthusiastic welcome.’
Moseley, led by captain Albert Smith, then came out and gave their visitors
three cheers to which the Maoris responded ‘with their native war cry’ which
was presumably some kind of haka.
visitors won the toss and chose to play with the wind but against ‘the rather
steep hill’-the pitch in those days ran parallel to what later became
rather than a right angles to it. During the early exchanges both sides
appeared to be nervous and ‘the play was of a straggling and uncertain
20 minutes ‘Smiler’ Ihimaira, who incidentally was playing without boots,
made a run, which resulted in a try for Ellison, which was converted by
McCausland, the score being greeted by prolonged cheering from the crowd.
the Maori lead did not last very long as shortly afterwards Alfred Rogers, the
Moseley three-quarter scored a try following good work by Albert Smith and E.J.
Byrne. Smith converted this score into a goal. By this stage the tourist were
playing two men short as both Wynyard, a forward, and
, the full back, had been forced to retire with leg injuries.
in the first half Moseley scored another try through Alfred Rogers’s brother
John following ‘a lot of wild passing amongst the home players.’ Many
spectators thought that this wild passing had included several forward passes,
however, the referee awarded the try and Smith once more kicked a conversion.
Thus at half time Moseley led by two goals to a goal.
the break Moseley were on the defensive almost continuously despite their
opponents’ reduced numbers and late in the half Ellison scored another try but
the touchline conversion attempt failed. This score was disputed by the home
team, who in the words of the Birmingham Daily Post, gave ‘a most
childish display of petulance.’
sportsmanship was also questioned when a loose ball near their posts was carried
into touch in goal rather than played thus preventing a score which, at that
time, was not considered to be the done thing.
were not the only criticisms levelled at Moseley as it was felt in some quarters
that they had been overly rough. It was alleged that at one stage the Moseley
umpire had to prevent one of his team from rushing at one of the Maoris with an
upraised fist. It was also said that an injury to one of the visitors during the
second half was due to a Moseley player jumping on him while he was waiting for
did return to the field during the second half but was little more than a
passenger due to his injury. Later in the half one of the tourists did cross the
home line but the referee disallowed the score.
eventful match ended in a Moseley win by two goals to a goal and a try, which
gave the club the distinction of being the first team to beat the first ever,
tourists to the
. This was a remarkable achievement for a Moseley side that was going through a
period of rebuilding and which had been given little chance prior to the game. The
Times summed up this feeling when it commented that ‘from an altogether
unexpected quarter the New Zealanders have experienced their first reverse.’
Moseley’s defeat of the Maoris, on 13th October 1888, there was much criticism
in the press of both the team’s alleged rough play and of their lack of
sportsmanship. These reports first appeared in the Saturday evening newspapers
on the day of the match and also in the Referee, which appeared on the
day after the game.
local press continued the theme on Monday 15th when the Birmingham Daily
Gazette commented that ‘with one or two exceptions they [Moseley] were
exceedingly and unnecessarily rough’ while the Birmingham Daily Post
reported that Moseley ‘with some honourable exceptions, played a rough, and
even a savage game.’
the case for the defence had also begun as the same edition of the Post included
a letter from J.P. Michel, a Moseley committee member and former player, in
which he put the accusations down to the fact that many of the reporters at the
match were unfamiliar with the rugby game. He condemned their reports as
‘inaccurate, unwarranted, and damaging,’ which drew the comment from the Post
that he protested ‘a little too much.’
the following day the Gazette seemed to have calmed down a little as
while still commenting that the game had been marred by unnecessary roughness it
did also say that the game had been ‘a thoroughly good one’ and that the
result had been one of Moseley’s greatest achievements. It also praised the
‘masterly’ captaincy of Albert Smith.
day’s Gazette also carried two letters defending Moseley’s play, one
form ‘an old Moseleyan’ and the one from a gentleman by the name of Mr. F.N.
Spain who, in grand Victorian language, condemned the ‘hypercritical
censoriousness’ of the press.
same day’s issue of the Post congratulated Moseley on their victory but
also regretted that the win had not been obtained without rough play. It did, to
some extent, then excuse Moseley for this commenting that unfortunately rough
play was taking hold in all of the midland clubs.
the correspondence columns of the same newspaper contained a letter from the
honorary secretary of Moseley in which he reproduced a letter from the captain
of the Maori side at The Reddings and the captain of the tour party. This letter
from the tourists stated that the match had been ‘a hard and fast one’ but
that there had been ‘no intentional rough play’ and that ‘the misfortunes
that befell us were pure accidents.’ (This letter also appeared in the
following day’s Gazette).
was, however, still criticism of Moseley’s methods as a letter in the Post
of the same day, from ‘Fairplay’ shows. In this missive he deplored the
‘startling and lamentable exhibition of brute force,’ which he compared to a
all this correspondence there was still a rugby tour taking place and on the
Thursday following their visit to The Reddings the Maoris played Burton, then
one of the leading sides in the Midlands, and once more they were defeated, on
this occasion by a goal and a try to a goal.
now it seemed that the wind of controversy had died down and there was only one
more letter in the local press on the subject of Moseley’s alleged rough play.
This was from the Dickensian-sounding Henry Murgatroyd who wrote to the Post condemning
the ‘unmistakeable acts of quite unnecessary violence during the match.’
week after their visit to Moseley, in October 1888, the Maoris took on the
Midland Counties, at Edgbaston cricket ground, which was also the home of
Edgbaston Crusaders rugby club.
there were Moseley players in the side
, another of the leading clubs in the area, refused to release their players as
they were playing
on the same day. It was therefore a weakened Midland Counties side which took
on the tourists.
Birmingham Daily Post reported that ‘the five thousand persons present
were treated to a rare exposition of
football by the foreigners.’ The newspaper thought that the Maoris’ play
was as near perfection as possible in all aspects of the game. Although the
Midlanders played with ‘rare pluck’ most of the game was played in their
half and not surprisingly the tourists won by three goals and a try to nil.
Maoris then made an extensive tour of the rest of the
playing many matches against the leading sides in the North of England. They
also played full international matches with
, beating the former and losing to the latter.
tourists returned to Moseley on 4th February 1889 when they played a return
fixture with the Midland Counties. It was hoped that following the easy win for
the Maoris in October that the Midland Counties would put up a better show on
this occasion, however, the home side was again forced to field a weakened team.
the cold blustery weather around 1,000 people were at The Reddings to witness
the game. This match, unlike the tourists’ last visit to Moseley, did not
attract any controversy and the Birmingham Daily Post reported that the
match was ‘an exceedingly fast and interesting one.’
of the wintry conditions accurate passing was difficult and the backs were so
cold that they had problems holding onto the ball. The Post was of the
opinion that the Maoris had learnt a great deal since their last visit to the
area four months before. The reporter, on this occasion, had obviously not read
his newspaper’s account of the Maoris’ previous game with Midland Counties,
mentioned above, which spoke of the tourists’ near perfect play.
this second encounter with Midland Counties the Maoris’ passing was far
superior to that of their hosts and the Post also commented on the
tourists’ kicking, which was of ‘wonderful excellence’ both with and
against the wind.
The strongest part of the Midland Counties side was up front where the forwards
‘played a very fine game throughout, dribbling, collaring, and supporting
their backs in capital style.’ The weak link in the home side appears to have
been the halfbacks who were unable to stop the rushes from which the Maoris
gained most of their advantage.
The Maoris made good use of their superiority and ended the game with a win by
three goals and a try to a try. This was their final fixture in the Midlands and
the tour continued with more games in the North and also with an international
, at Blackheath, which the hosts won.
section of the tour finally ended in March 1889 after 74 matches of which the
Maoris won 49 and drew five. However, the tour was still not over! On their
return to the Antipodes the Maoris played a further 14 matches in
and another eight in their homeland.
a tour that lasted a little over a year the Maoris final record was played 107,
won 78, drawn six and lost 23.
article first appeared in ‘Moseley Matters’ the newsletter of Moseley R.F.C.
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