Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Memorable moments: It's over to you, Colt

Brian McKechnie kicks the winning penalty after the Welsh were penalised during a lineout in the last moments of the test at Cardiff Arms Park.
Photo / Herald Archives
Brian McKechnie kicks the winning penalty after the Welsh were penalised during a lineout in the last moments of the test at Cardiff Arms Park. Photo / Herald Archives

Brian McKechnie didn't muck around when called on to kick one of the most important penalties in All Black history.

Trailing Wales 10-12 in the dying minutes of the test at Cardiff Arms in 1978, a miss would have meant hopes of the All Blacks' first grand slam would have been lost. He did not see the lineout incident which led to the penalty - why it was awarded depends on which hemisphere you saw it from - but McKechnie's first thought was to get to the mark and take the kick as quickly as possible.

"I wanted to get it over and done with as soon as possible. The longer you have to think about it the more it plays on your mind," he recalls.

"The thing was to get it over and done with before the crowd could get to me. They had led all through the match and the crowd had sung all day."

He had to wait for the ball to be tossed to him and it was then, in front of a hostile crowd of 47,000, that he told himself to relax.

He says he was confident of getting the kick, after timing the ball sweetly all afternoon.

McKechnie, nicknamed Colt, turned quickly after kicking the ball toe hack style from 35m and raised his fist in the air as it went straight between the posts.

"The thing I felt when it went over was relief. I thought afterwards about missing. It would have made me a hero in Wales if I had."

The All Blacks clung on to the 13-12 lead amid boos, whistles and jeers for the last few moments of the game and the grand slam was realised with subsequent victories over England and Scotland.

The reason for the penalty became part of the lore surrounding All Black-Wales rivalry, far more intense and hostile in its heyday than the niggly relationship with England that has replaced it during the past two decades.

Andy Haden had his own reasons for cartwheeling out of the lineout but the penalty was awarded against Geoff Wheel jumping off Frank Oliver's shoulder.

McKechnie got on the 1978 tour after injuries kept others out and wasn't even selected for the reserves for the Welsh test. Halfback Mark Donaldson's withdrawal from the team put him on the bench and a broken jaw suffered by fullback Clive Curry with just seven minutes on the clock gave McKechnie his historic opportunity.

"The buildup for me wasn't all that great because I wasn't due to be in the reserves but the build up around that game was huge, Wales was pretty confident they were going to beat the All Blacks that day."

The All Blacks stood round the dressing room after and sang a tribute to McKechnie.

Graham Mourie said McKechnie's deed was "one of the greatest pressure kicks ever taken in test rugby. You've got to hand it to Colt. He was on his own with 47,000 Welshmen willing him to make a mess of it".

McKechnie injured the foot that kicked the winning goal during the test. He did not know how he did it but the next day he couldn't even wear shoes and the injury kept him out of rugby for over a week.

McKechnie was also at the centre of the underarm cricket controversy. With a slim chance of New Zealand tying a one-day game, Trevor Chappell bowled underarm, McKechnie tossed his bat in disgust and there was outcry as loud as that following Haden's lineout dive.

McKechnie, who lives in Christchurch and is a manager at a transport firm, says Welsh outrage at the Haden dive dies hard.

"We think we're passionate about the game but we've got nothing on the Welsh. I was at the World Cup in Cardiff in 2007 and this old fellow turned around and just said to me: 'Haden'."

Brian McKechnie kicks the winning penalty after the Welsh were penalised during a lineout in the last moments at Cardiff Arms Park

The Welsh view
"To say that it was a tragedy for Wales would be an understatement. That was bloody Hollywood and the referee falls for it"
- Barry John

"They were cheating. They were doing something entirely and directly against the spirit and ethics of the game. The referee was conned"
- Clem Thomas

"This is something that all New Zealanders should regard with sorrow as it was a shocking way of winning a penalty by deceiving the referee and it will besmirch the victory"
- J. B. G. Thomas

How the ref saw it
"The other man's action [Haden] was totally irrelevant. Penalties are not awarded liberally, they are done responsibly. You make sure as far as humanly possible that there are no mistakes. I have seen the play-back and there were 101 things which could be termed mistakes but that most definitely was not one of them."
- English referee Roger Quittenton

Memorable moments:
Brian McKechnie saves the day
When Fitzy's Incomparables cracked code
Triumphant last gasps
Playing through the pain
Shock loss put NZ side in their place
Famous Kiwis share their greatest All Black moments

- NZ Herald

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