Rugby: 93-year-old Richard Langdon to be guest of NZR at Lions fixture

By Andrew Johnsen -
Richard Langdon, with Northland Rugby Union CEO Alistair McGinn, will be a guest of New Zealand Rugby's at the British and Irish Lions match in Whangarei. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Richard Langdon, with Northland Rugby Union CEO Alistair McGinn, will be a guest of New Zealand Rugby's at the British and Irish Lions match in Whangarei. Photo/Michael Cunningham

The last known survivor of the British and Irish Lions' great escape against North Auckland in 1950 is getting to relive his rugby days during the impending tour.

Richard Langdon, 93, will be honoured as a guest of NZ Rugby at the Lions' match at Toll Stadium against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians next month.

The wing/centre was on the park that day and from what he was told by the Lions players, North Auckland were robbed of a famous victory - ultimately losing 8-6.

There was a mighty roar from the fans as John Smith, playing at centre, zig-zagged his way through the Lions before dropping the ball on to the boot and regaining possession and diving under the posts.

Unfortunately for Smith, Langdon and the North Auckland side, it was disallowed.

Langdon said he heard from the Lions' side that they thought Smith had sealed their fate.

"The fans all reckon John Smith scored that try under the posts. We went and had a drink with the Lions and they said it was a try.

"The ref didn't have a great match," he said with a laugh.

"That was supposed to be the best Northland team ever but I don't know about that.

"The Lions didn't change many from the test line-up. I think they changed the fullback and that was about it. So we were virtually playing their test side.

Despite the high level of opposition, North Auckland pushed around the touring pack all match.

"Everyone sort of did their part. They were a pretty tough old team that Lions unit. At that stage they had some pretty good backs; their forwards weren't so good we thought, we matched pretty well in the pack."

In his 93 years, Langdon has seen many changes to the code as the game adapted over time.

However, he feels his North Auckland side was one of the pioneers of the modern game in terms of style.

"Actually with our team we were one of the first sides that really played open football and that was because of the Smiths [John and Peter] and [Nau] Cherrington," he said.

"Those guys, to me, were just like the Goings. They did everything. They'd throw passes right under the posts. They had the Lions worried for quite a while."

The British and Irish Lions' fixture is the first in Northland since 1993, where they took on a North Auckland side featuring former All Blacks Ian Jones, Norman Berryman and Glenn Taylor.

Northland Rugby Union CEO Alistair McGinn said when they suggested the honour, NZR jumped right on board.

"He's a real gentleman. NZR thought the suggestion was a great idea, and were quick to approve of the idea," he said.

"They thought it made complete sense and that he should be honoured."

Langdon said he was looking forward to the day and still has to decide who will accompany him.

He has plenty of family to choose from, having three children and 17 grandchildren.

As for the Lions' chances this time around, Langdon isn't overly confident.

"Well everyone is saying the Lions have a chance but I don't know about that. I'll be backing the All Blacks, that's for sure.

"They'll put up a reasonable show though. They've got some great forwards, and some good backs too. All they need to do is mesh them together."

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