Published in Thirteen, 2005
Second Ashes Test 1958
Australia v Great Britain
Brisbane, July 5th 1958
“We’d lost the first test and, whether the tour was a success or not depended on the second game. We got off to a shocking start losing Dave Bolton and Jim Challinor and Alan broke his arm. We didn’t know for certain it was broken but we guessed it was. He was asked to go to hospital at half time but refused because he reckoned he could still provide an obstacle for the Australians if he threw himself in front of them and he did just that. I don’t know how he did it but he did. It was a double break from what I could gather afterwards and it finished his career really. Whether it was bravery or bloody madness, I couldn’t make my mind up at the time!
The third game was a question of doing it for Alan in his absence. We owed him something and came up with a big win.” – British centre Eric Ashton.
In a performance to match the Rorke’s Drift test match from 1914, Great Britain, totally depleted with injuries they picked up during this second test match in Brisbane, managed to level the Ashes series of 1958 with an astonishing 25-18 win in Brisbane.
The match is remembered for the brave heroics of the captain Alan Prescott, who broke his arm in the third minute and yet, incredibly, played on to lead his side to the unlikeliest of victories.
Stand-off Dave Bolton was forced to leave the field with a broken collarbone and injuries were also suffered by Vince Karalius and Jim Challinor, both of whom stayed on the pitch with their captain.
This was a tough proposition!
Before his injury, however, Challinor had scored the game’s opening try in the corner, created by Eric Ashton and midway through the half, with the side now depleted by injury, Alex Murphy broke from a scrum, fed prop Brian McTigue who put Sullivan away for a try. The visitors led 10-2 at the break.
At half-time, the Australian doctor told Prescott to come off the field but with Bolton already gone, the captain knew that Britain would lose if they lost another player. Tour manager Tom Mitchell left the decision to Prescott, who returned to the field. There was 40 minutes to keep the Ashes series alive.
One would have thought that would be 40 minutes of defending but not Alex Murphy. Just a few minutes into the second period, the St Helens scrum half set up a try for the Workington Town winger Ike Southward and Britain were 15-2 up. Murphy had had a hand in all the tries.
Later in the half, the lead was cut back to 20-13 after three Australian tries but Southward scored the game breaking try before Australian scrum half Keith Holman, who had been tormented throughout the game by Murphy, scored a late consolation to bring the score to 25-18.
Prescott had played the majority of the game with a broken arm, simply doing all his tackling with his left shoulder. His heroics have gone down in history and Mitchell fittingly referred to the game as “Prescott’s Epic.”
Great Britain went on to win the Ashes by winning the third test in Sydney by the huge margin of 40-17. The Australian leg of the tour had seen them lose only one game – the first test – in 21 games scoring 810 points and conceding only 368.
The picture below depicts the scene at the Sydney Cricket Ground as 68,720 people watched the Brits wrap up the series with a 40-17 win. Prescott’s second Test bravery wasn’t forgotten by his team mates.
Australia; 18 (Marsh, Holman, Carlson and Dimond tries. Clifford 3 goals)
Great Britain 25 (Southward (2), Challinor, Sullivan, Murphy tries. Fraser 5 goals)
Australia: Clifford, Kite, Hawick, Carlson, Dimond, Brown, Holman, Davies, Kearney, Marsh, Mossop, Provan, O’Shea.
Great Britain: Fraser, Southward, Ashton, Challinor, Sullivan, Bolton, Murphy, Prescott, Harris, McTigue, Huddart, Whiteley, Karalius.