Although Wales again failed to beat the New Zealand All Blacks earlier this month, we will never tire of details emerging from the first encounter between the two sides in 1905 when Wales recorded their most famous victory. In halting the proud unbeaten record of the touring New Zealanders – who had won all 27 of their tour matches prior to this encounter, scoring 801 points and conceding only 22 – Wales had emerged as world-beaters. The victory was a severe setback for the Men-in-black – yet they at least had the pleasure of a Sunday lunch the next day at the Esplanade Hotel in Penarth at the invitation of the Welsh [Rugby] Football Union. The Western Mail speaks of the party being transported in ‘two four-in-hands [carriages driven by four horses with one driver]’ from their Queen’s Hotel, Cardiff, before being taken to Sully on their way home.
It is these intricate details that make author Roger Penn’s recent book, Wales and the All Blacks – an off-field History (an update of his earlier-published Three Feathers and a Silver Fern) a popular read. Roger, a native of Whitland, West Wales – a former player, Welsh Rugby Union referee, life-time admirer of the All Blacks and spectator when Ian Kirkpatrick’s men lost to Llanelli and the Barbarians in the 1970s – takes readers back to the delights and curiosities of the off-field activities, obligations and functions surrounding fixtures played between these two countries
“I spent five weeks in New Zealand,” says Roger, “arriving in September 2012 for the Investec Rugby Championship. On my travels across both islands, I got close to the All Blacks and was fortunate to chat with players past and present. Wherever I went the welcome was terrific – and I am most grateful for the information I gained from the city libraries, archives and museums across the country. I am also thrilled by the book’s success.”
Newly enhanced with an additional chapter, and re-styled in a smart, eye-catching jacket, this volume is, according to the game’s proven experts, “a terrific read.” With a Foreword from the legendary fullback J.P.R. Williams and a recommendation from Sir Gareth Edwards, the book is now being sent out into the world by publishers Y Lolfa of Talybont, Ceredigion, as far as Canterbury, South Island, New Zealand, to Nationwide Book Distributors. Available at mainstream bookshops and online, this is a book rugby lovers in both countries will enjoy reading and talking about.