1929/30 Ashes Series

Published in Thirteen in 2005

The third Ashes Test, 1929-30
England v Australia
Swinton, January 4th 1930

Scoreless rugby league matches are rare.

The only time it has happened in Test football was in the third test of the 1929/30 Kangaroo Tour. The series was locked at 1-1 after Australia had won 31-8 in Hull and Great Britain had levelled things up with a 9-3 win in Leeds.

33,809 people crammed into Swinton’s Station Road to watch the deciding game on a freezing afternoon in early January 1930 and they witnessed a game that Australia dominated but couldn’t score. With only five minutes left, Joe ‘Chimpy’ Busch, the Easts and Australian scrum-half, picked up at a scrumbase and ran 20 metres to the corner. He appeared to have won the Ashes for his country but referee Bob Robinson was alerted by his touch judge Albert Webster that Busch had touched the corner flag. With the light darkening, confusion reigned but the try was disallowed and England believed they had retained the Ashes with a drawn series, having won the 1928 series in Australia.

Busch was furious. He always maintained that his opponent Butters knocked the flag down in making the tackle and there have also been subsequent suggestions that the referee had admitted to the players that it was a fair try but that he had been overruled.

Such was the controversy that a fourth ‘Test’ was played 11 days later at Rochdale. This had been the suggestion of the Australians in order for the deadlock to be broken and for more money to be raised as the result of another healthy crowd. The English agreed but there has always been uncertainty as to whether the English actually considered the Ashes to be on the line.

Whether they were up for grabs or not became irrelevant, because England won 3-0, in another low-scoring game at Rochdale. The game was also locked at 0-0 near the end when the tourists had a man sent off and England snared a late try. One way or another England had retained the Ashes but Chimpy Busch and the Australians always maintained they should have been decided at Swinton by the try that never was.

After leaving Easts in 1930, Busch moved to England to play for Leeds where he represented the club in a Yorkshire Cup final replay against Wakefield Trinity, which ended 2-2, in 1934. He returned to captain-coach Balmain and his career was ended by a leg injury in 1936.

Chimpy Busch’s name is forever in Ashes’ folklore for what happened on that freezing afternoon in Swinton in 1930.

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