Moments of infamy: Meads sent off

By Grant Bradley

Colin Meads in action for the All Blacks. Photo / NZ Herald Archives
Colin Meads in action for the All Blacks. Photo / NZ Herald Archives

With a comfortable 14-3 victory over Scotland in the bag in 1967 a spur of the moment act resulted in Colin Meads being sent off for dangerous play, just the second All Black to be dismissed in a test at the time.

It became front page news around the world and grainy television footage of the incident was replayed repeatedly, drawing mainly sympathy for the big King Country man.

The match was not a violent one but had been niggly.

The Scots were good at killing the ball and the big lock had earlier been penalised by Irish referee Kevin Kelleher for trampling opponents in a ruck. Meads recalled All Black fullback Fergi McCormick was caught and copping "the slipper." himself.

With just two or three minutes to go Meads found himself caught at the back of a Scots ruck being belted. He saw the ball cleared towards first first five-eighth David Chisholm and thinking he could get his big boot to it first.

Meads reckons he kicked the ball into Chisholm's body rather than kicking the player. Referee Kelleher saw it otherwise and after Sots hooker yelled, "did you see that ref - the dirty bastard" and to cries of "off, off, off" from the crowd of 60,000 immediately ordered Pinetree from the field.

Captain Brian Lochore didn't see the incident but immediately went into bat for his team mate along with Chris Laidlaw and prop Ken Gray. Kelleher was having none of it and would not reverse his call leaving Meads - his head bandaged after being kicked in an earlier match against France - to make the long walk to the grandstand.

Kelleher said Meads had been given three warnings during the game, the final one just 20 minutes into the game.

Chisholm went to the All Blacks dressing room afterwards to tell Meads he considered the decision had been excessive and "cruelly harsh," T. P. McLean wrote in the Herald.

"Indeed, even while Mr Kelleher was talking to Meads in the process of ordering him off, Chisholm went over and gave Meads a friendly touch on the arm in the traditional sporting way of indicating that no harm had been done or intended."

Even the British rugby press was uncharacteristically sympathetic. Writing in the Daily Express Pat Marshall said Meads got a raw deal. "He has caused trouble in the past and no little pain for referees and opponents but a player must not be punished for past misdemeanours."
David Frost in Guardian said he had never thought of Meads as a dangerous player. "He is a very hard player and an intensely keen one.

He sometimes goes a bit too far in his keenness as I believe he did on Saturday."

Frost said he was surprised Meads got sent off.

A two -match ban was handed down, much to the disgust of the All Black management.

Meads has never shied away from his reputation as being as a tough nut has always maintained there are clear limits.

"I won't go for deliberately kicking any man. I repeat I have never deliberately kicked or tried to kick any man."

Cyril Brownlie was the first All Black to be sent off in a test, against England at Twickenham in 1925. The whistles used to dismiss Brownlee and Meads are at the Rugby Museum in Palmerston North.

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South Africa's Tri-Nations clash with New Zealand in Durban was in 2002 was thrown into chaos in a bizarre pitch invasion by drunken fan Pieter van Zyl who attacked the referee.

The two sides were locked at 17-17 early in the second half when the burly farmer wearing a Springbok shirt ran on to the field and tackled Irish referee David McHugh.

McHugh was tackled, and in the scuffle he fell to the ground, dislocating his shoulder.

In response All Black flanker Richie McCaw and Springbok players slapped and punched van Zyl, dragging him off McHugh before two plainclothes security officers marched him away.

Van Zyl was unrepentant afterwards. "The whole of the stadium was mal [angry] with him [the referee]. It's just that I decided to do something about it," he said from the back of a police van.

"Referees around the world think they are bigger than the game and they're not. Fans like me is what rugby is about."

The South African Rugby Union didn't agree and banned van Zyl from any rugby game for life.

Durban police said he was "moderately drunk" but knew what he was doing.
All Black captain Reuben Thorne was pleased with the way the players had reacted.

"We were completely surprised but I think the players handled it well," he said.

McHugh, who was replaced by English official Chris White, had angered the crowd early in the match by awarding the All Blacks a controversial penalty try after a high tackle.

Second five-eighth Aaron Mauger revealed he and a number of teammates believed they were in serious danger after the attack.

"It had a few of the boys looking over their shoulders for about 10 minutes," Mauger said.

"We didn't want anybody running up and getting a dagger in the back or anything like that. The boys were a bit worried for a wee bit but once we got back into the game it didn't really have too much effect on us."

The one-man pitch invasion one of a series of incidents which disrupted rugby thakt year and led to tighter security at international matches.

In Rotorua a schoolboy tackled Australian halfback George Gregan during a Super 12 match and two streakers disrupted play at the Bledisloe Cup match in Sydney.

- NZ Herald

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