YC&AC’S 1974 KOREA RUGBY TOUR – CLUB’S FIRST POST-WAR OVERSEAS SPORT TOUR
APRIL 12 – 15TH (INC) 1974
VS SEOUL WANDERERS – WON 23 – 7
VS ICHEON O. B.S. – WON 30 – 0
TOUR PARTY:- B. TRAFFORD(MGR), G. MELLIS (CAPT.),R. ALVES, N. COLECLOUGH, D. CRISPEN, J. CRUICKSHANK, H. DE GRAAUW, M. GALBRAITH, D. JAMES, D. DELOO, B. MAHOOD, R. MIALL, R. PIKE,, M. PIPER, C. POVEY, A. RUSSELL, K. VILLIERS, A. WILLOUGHBY
“the roar of the crowd, the smell of the greasepaint”. This was the scene at Haneda Airport on Good Friday, as 50,000 screaming fans gave “BANKER” Trafford and his party a rousing send off. Breathlessly ushuring his stars through a jam packed hall, Trafford, who was noticably limping from a serious leg injury (he fell off a futon on the eve of departure) had these historic words to say to reporters Danny Biblos and Baron Barakan – “My boys are in prime condition and I am fully confident of some high scores.” Before there was any chance to clarify this remark, Traff was away, scuttling after star hooker Norman Coleclough, who was splendidly dressed in his Burtons R.F.U. blazer.
The flight to Seoul was uneventful, except to record that in keeping with the high standard of tradition of this party, all beer onboard was consumed half an hour out of Tokyo! On arrival at Kimpo, a “Greyhound bus” of ultra smoothness was on hand to whisk our party to the epitome of grandeur – the New Seoul Hotel (jesting apart this was the ideal hotel for a bunch of serious-minded, early in bed, sightseeing rugby tourists)!
The “on on” was sounded fairly promply and away into the dark we trouped! They say the scenery in this town is pleasing to the eye!! The remainder of the night goes unreported.
Saturday April 13th vs Seoul Wanderers*
If this had been a home fixture, the match would have been abandoned and we would have retired to the “beer garden.” However, everyone had had their fill of beer and other vices, for a few hours at least, and so we played!!
In pelting rain and thick mud, the Club kicked off into a stiff wind. Exchanges were fairly even for the first ten minutes and indeed the Wanderers took the lead with a penalty following an offside offense (0 – 3).
On the restart good play by the forwards with Povey and Galbraith much in evidence took play deep into the Wanderers half. An over anxious forward fell offside and Mellis goaled the penalty (3 – 3). By this time, the ball was like a bar of soap to handle and players on both sides were covered head to foot in mud. Wanderers suprisingly grabbed the lead again, when from broken play on the Club 25, one of their forwards picked up and churned his way to the corner flag. The kick failed (3 – 7). This was to be the last time in the match that the Wanderers threatened the Club line. On numerous occasions, approaching half-time, the Club had good opportunities to score but the final pass was going astray. However, just before the interval, a good round of possing by the backs put Miall in for a try to the right of the posts. Mellis converted to give the Club a 9-7 interval lead.
The second half was all Club. The forwards thrived in the ‘filthy’ conditions and much good work was seen from Coleclough, Cruickshank, Povey and Galbraith. Mike Piper was getting the ball away well and Mellis used the wind to good advantage, to keep Wanderers pinned in their own 25. Twice little kicks caught the defense flat footed and Miall and Alves, following up well, got the touch down for tries. ‘Gasp’ Russell made his presence felt with a couple of neat breaks but lacked the ‘wind’ to make the line! Ray Pike was in powerful form on the left and scored a great try under the sticks following a good threes move. Mellis goaled to make the final score 23-7.
A special mention for Bill Mahood. Drafted into the side at the eleventh hour, Bill weathered the storm, in more ways than one, at full back and did all that was asked of him. David James, an old YCAC favourite, also turned in a solid performance and we appreciated him coming up from Hong Kong.
Traff was well pleased, watching from the comfort of a dry bus!
After the match, we were treated to a magnificent ‘spread’ at the “Seoul Club” and as the majority of us hadn’t eaten food since we arrived in this fine land, there was very little left for breakfast! It was then “on on”! once again, the rest of the night and early morning are a blank but I think it would be safe to report that everyone “had a good nite”! Some of the scenery in this town is really beautiful!
Sunday 14th April vs Inchon O. Bs
It dawned a bright sunny day and conditions would have been perfect for rugby had we not been playing on the same pitch as the previous day! It was a wee bit muddy, to say the least! Our Korean opposition went through the same pre-match preparations as our Japanese friends normally do, and to an outsider there could only have been one team in the match !! YCAC took the field looking a bit better than earlier expected in that the hotel had done a magnificent job of cleaning all our kit overnight!! Apart from that, what a bunch of artists!!
However, as so often in the past, when the game got underway, our opponents did not look quite so impressive as they had done warming up. In fact, the Club controlled the exchanges and the forwards used their height and weight to maximum advantage. In these conditions speed wasn’t much help. After a settling down period the Club moved into gear and scores came pretty regularly. Ray Pike scored the first, after a brilliant 50 yard run, which took him past a desperate cover a lot of very muddy land.
Mellis converted. The next score was one of the best of the season. Povey broke open from No. 8, and linked well with Galbraith, playing in a new role at wing forward. These two interchanged passes for about 40 yards, before bringing Pike into the act, and the latter picked his feet up and fairly galloped in unopposed. Mellis converted (12 – 0). There was no stopping the side now; Colecough, as he had done all tour, hooked everything that moved and Povey and Galbraith, well supported by the other forwards were proving difficult men to stop. Galbraith scored too great tries, one of which was converted by Mellis, and Russell rounded off the first half scoring with a good backs try. (26-0).
At half time they changed the referee and he obviously had a sense of humour and was determined that there should be two sets of rules for the second half! Even Norm can’t hook balls put into the back row!!
There is little to report about the second session as it was very scrappy. However, the Club took everything Jn good spirit, as victory was already assured. Scrums and lineouts in favour of the Club were limited and penalties were nil! However, Mike Galbraith crowned a fine performance by grabbing another try to bring his personal tally to three and the game was wrapped up with a final score of 30 – 0.
Afterwards, we entertained our very pleasant opponents to numerous ‘ales’ and supplied the large gathering of Korean children with an assortment of nuts, biscuits, apples and ice-cream. Manager Trafford, elated at the success of the tour, was the ‘pied piper’ all over again!!
It was then back to the hotel, a quick change and then “on on” ! By this time, everyone knew where they were going!! Yes, the scenery in this town is definitely beautiful!!
The full facts of this tour have not been recorded in order to protect the innocent!! However, it is a pleasure to be able to report that it was a terrific success from beginning to end, and now that the ‘ice’ has been broken and a tour actually made abroad by one of the sporting sections of the YCAC, there should be enough encouragement for other sections, not only rugby, to make more tours in future.
We were warmly entertained and received by our opponents both on and off the field, and the touring party, to the man, got on extremely well. A truly wonderful four days which only those who toured and participated can fully appreciate.
The Seoul Wanderers was forced to disband not so long after the above described match against the YC&AC because (I was told) the few Korean teams refused to play them after some incident. In 1979 the team was reformed by three Korean-based Americans including Brad Handley and Mike Xeros who both played a few seasons for the YC&AC. Mike Zeros, affectionately known in the YC&AC as Xerox, has joined many tours to Golden Oldies Tournaments with the Asian Marauders, the YC&AC Old Boys team. I myself played one or two games for the Seoul Survivors during my visits to Korea. I can remember playing a game on the American base called ‘Camp Red Cloud’ which was maybe not so far from North Korea. To enter the base I had to be screened by a young female soldier holding a rifle or machine gun. In the middle of the game a Blackhawk helicopter suddenly landed beside the pitch. Two airmen got out and went somewhere. We were told that they had come to do some shopping and that the game could not continue until they had finished their shopping, returned to their helicopter and taken off.
Meanwhile, the YC&AC toured to Korea once or twice before the end of the century. In 1981 the team lost by over 100 points to nil against the Korean Army which was basically the national team in a big stadium. The story was that the YC&AC players ended up like traffic policemen as the super fit Korean players ran in try after try and try.
In the early 2000’s I gave seminars to the staff of a ministry in Korea and when I told the participants that my sport was rugby, a lady told me that her husband was involved with the Korean RFU and I was invited to dinner. We talked about tours to Korea by foreign rugby teams and when I told him that I toured Korea in 1974 he said something like ‘Wow I didn’t know any team had toured Korea at that time and he asked me to email him the above text which I did. He said he translated it into Korean language and put it on the KRFU website. If anyone can read Korean, please check and let me know if it is still there.
DID YOU PLAY IN ANY OF THE RUGBY MATCHES MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE? IF SO AND IF YOU HAVE A STORY OR PHOTOS. PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME. IT WOULD BE NICE TO IDENTIFY ALL THE PLAYERS WHO PLAYED THE GAMES ON THE TOUR.