Rugby: Pointless effort in Athletic Park mud

The All Blacks and Springboks have played 97 tests. But the match played in 1921 at Athletic Park in Wellington may be the worst of them.

The result read: New Zealand 0 South Africa 0.

It was four points for a dropped goal, three for a try, three for a penalty, three for a goal from a mark and two for a conversion. But none of that mattered on a wet Athletic Park.

It was the third and final test of the first series between two nations returning to international rugby following World War I, where 13 All Blacks perished.

South Africa’s last test was in 1913 and the All Blacks in 1914.

The All Blacks won the first test in mid-August at Carisbrook 13-5. South Africa claimed the second test a fortnight later 9-5 at Eden Park.

The tourists then beat Waikato, Hawke’s Bay/Poverty Bay, New Zealand Maori and Nelson/Golden Bay-Motueka/Marlborough before the series decider in Wellington.

According to Men in Black, rain began to fall at 6pm on Friday, creating appalling conditions for the Saturday afternoon kickoff.

Despite the lack of points, there were some thrilling moments for the Wellington fans, who had waited eight years for a test.

South Africa looked to score early before an All Black hand forced the ball to save the day.

Boks winger Bill Zeller also had a shot at goal from a mark.

All Blacks wing Keith Siddells made a break before halftime but the ball got stuck in a puddle as he tried to toe it ahead.

The waterlogged surface wrecked an All Blacks scoring chance when wing Jack Steel slipped with the goalline begging. Other chances for New Zealand also went begging late in the game.

A 0-0 scoreline wasn’t new to South Africa, who played in a similar stalemate against a Taranaki side including All Blacks Nap Kingston, Alf West and Dick Fogarty.

The All Blacks have played only one other 0-0 test, against Scotland in 1964. This pointless effort with South Africa was the first of eight occasions in which New Zealand have failed to score in 581 tests.

The All Blacks and South Africa have played out four draws, the last in 1994.

For All Blacks Karl Ifwersen, Siddells, Billy Fea and Charles Fletcher, it would be their only test for New Zealand.

New Zealand didn’t play again for three years, and not at home until 1930. But the next two tests against Ireland and Wales in 1924 also saw them hold their opponents to nil.

The All Blacks also managed that in 1963-64, a sequence including the 0-0 result at Edinburgh.


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