Andy Haden dives to save rugby test

11 November 1978

Andy Haden dives at a lineout (WalesOnline)

47,000 Welshmen anticipating the first Welsh victory over the All Blacks for 25 years – and a few hundred banner-waving Kiwis – crowded into Cardiff Arms Park on Armistice Day 1978.

The home crowd had reason for optimism: New Zealand had been thrashed 30–16 by Australia at Eden Park two months earlier and outmuscled 12–nil by Munster the previous week before struggling to beat Ireland 10–6.

All Blacks winger Stu Wilson scored an opportunist try in the first half, but Wales led 12–7 at half-time thanks to four penalties. A second Brian McKechnie penalty brought the score to 12–10, but as full-time neared the crowd sang ‘Land of My Fathers’ with increasing conviction.

With two minutes to play, a lineout formed 35 m from the Welsh line. As Welsh hooker Bobby Windsor threw the ball in a second time, All Black lock Andy Haden flung himself sideways as if in a C-grade action movie. His locking partner Frank Oliver also fell to the turf, more apologetically and with some assistance from Welsh lock Geoff Wheel. English referee Roger Quittenton duly awarded a penalty to the All Blacks 15 m infield. McKechnie knocked this over and New Zealand held on to win amidst vehement booing. They went on to become the first All Black touring team to achieve the 'Grand Slam' by defeating all four home unions.

After Oliver’s death in 2014, Haden admitted that their actions had been premeditated. So it was ironic that on 1 February 1981 it was McKechnie who faced the infamous underarm delivery from Trevor Chappell at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The taciturn Southlander is remembered for two flamboyant gestures: his triumphant fist-pump after kicking the winning goal in Cardiff, and flinging down his bat in disgust in Melbourne. McKechnie was a journeyman player, yet only Jeff Wilson has subsequently represented New Zealand at both major male sports.

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