Published in Thirteen, 2005
The 1962 Ashes Series
Australia v Great Britain
“1962 was a great side. Even the Australians said it was the best side for years. We wrapped up the Ashes in the second test at Brisbane with a 17-10 win despite losing Alex Murphy early on which was a blow but Poynton came on and did very well. In the third, we were robbed. We were 17-11 up and had Mick Sullivan and Derek Turner sent off. We were penalised under the posts for 17-13 then they went in at the corner and converted to win by a point and the game didn’t even kick off again. We would have been the only ever side to win a series 3-0 in Australia. However, that tour was the highlight of my career. To captain an Ashes winning side down under was fantastic.” – British captain Eric Ashton.
Glory for Great Britain
The British Lions arrived in Australia in 1962 with a squad well equipped to win their fourth-straight Ashes series. This was the first such series since 1959, the last time Great Britain won the Ashes on home soil.
Captained by Eric Ashton, the British squad included many a household name not least the world class scrum half Alex Murphy, Wigan winger Billy Boston and the Cumbrian second row Dick Huddart, who had a wonderful tour. Huddart ended up being signed by champion Australian club St George in 1964 and stayed for five seasons.
The mammoth tour involved 21 matches, including the three Tests, and began in Perth with a 39-12 win over Western Australia. A week before the first test, six players were sent off in a game against New South Wales, including Boston, Mick Sullivan and both their wing opponents, Ken Irvine and Mike Cleary. Bill Sayer (GB) and Billy Wilson (NSW) also went. Two days later, they lost their first game of the tour in Newcastle 23-18 with two more of the tourists sent off, John Shaw and Jack Wilkinson.
The first Test was played at the Sydney Cricket Ground in front of a crowd of over 70,000 and the tourists crushed their hosts by 31-12 despite losing most of the scrums and the penalty count 20-8. Members of the crowd hurled apples onto the ground to show their disgust at such a bad defeat. Mick Sullivan and Eric Ashton scored two apiece as the Australians, including two of their future immortals Reg Gasnier and John Raper as well as the sublime Ken Irvine on the wing, were soundly beaten.
The second Test margin was more modest as Australia were playing to keep the series alive. One of their tactics was to target Billy Boston and send high kicks his way for him to defend. The Welshman was to have the last laugh as his two tries were instrumental in the 17-10 win.
The other British try was scored by Alex Murphy in the 47th minute, who was carried off nine minutes later with torn ankle ligaments sustained in a heavy tackle. Harold Poynter, making his debut at stand off, moved to scrum half and the Wakefield player continued to have a fine match despite carrying a foot injury as Great Britain won the first two tests in Australia for the first time since 1928.
The British have always claimed they were badly done to in the third Test as they aimed to whitewash the Australians. Eric Ashton describes the end of the game above as Alex Murphy’s individual effort and Neil Fox’s four goals proved to be in vain. Many witnesses claimed that the last pass to champion winger Ken Irvine was forward. The North Sydney player then took the conversion himself from the touchline and, with a magnificent kick, won the test match for his country by 18-17.
Great Britain Touring Squad: Ashton, Bolton, Boston, Carlton, Cooper, Edgar, Evans, D Fox, N Fox, Fraser, Gilfedder, Herbert, Huddart, McTigue, Murphy, Noble, Poynton, Round, Sayer, Shaw, Small, Southward, Sullivan, Taylor, Turner, Wilkinson.