As a rule, I don’t often get tickets to see major international sporting events, and I wasn’t one of the million people who were apparently there at Wembley on that day in 1966. I was, in fact, visiting with my girlfriend her brother’s army unit in Osnabruck. I remember it well, obviously, and especially going into the town in the evening afterwards.
However, last week my son told me that he’d got some tickets for England- Australia, his wife could not now attend and would I like to go? And so I was there for the great match, and what an occasion it was. Handily, he lives and works in Twickenham, so we hopped on a bus and arrived to pick up the tickets under the statue at 6pm.
Twickenham town centre was alive and bursting with expectation, some of it fueled by beer of course. The Cabbage Patch was under siege, all the pubs were crammed, the streets were swollen with a mass of humanity in good spirits heading for the stadium. It was sad that once inside there seemed to be only Heineken on sale. We stood and watched the two team buses come past, the Australians greeted by hordes in yellow and green who suddenly materialised chanting ‘Wales, Wales’ – a bit provocative one might say! No-one cared.
We scaled the heights to Upper West and stood gaping down outside the stadium at this incredible crowd moving and swelling as we watched. Having found our seats we watched the warm ups as the players appeared. The time went fast and soon the fireworks and light show heralded the start of the game …the big game! There was no way back for England; it was win or out.
By half time the game was done and dusted. Australia were smarter, quicker to breakdowns and inpenetrable in defence as England battered away at them. And they had a cutting edge out wide, always looking as if they might score, and of course, they did. The second try was a thing of beauty, and right underneath us. Foley kept on scoring and England’s brave second half efforts were eventually in vain as they were reduced to fourteen men and the game was up. In my memory of the game, Hooper and Pocock were the main features, along with Mike Brown, whose disappointment and anger could not be disguised.
With five minutes to go the English were hurting and leaving in droves. We walked back to the house and called in a pub for several proper beers on the way. Fortunately most of the Aussies were still inside the stadium celebrating no doubt.
Overall thoughts – the atmosphere was fantastic, with 81,000 on edge and huge numbers unremarkably knowing the ten words of Sweet Chariots and booming it out with gusto. The game was lost a long time before Farrell was sent off, fortunately for him. And, best of all, plenty of beer drinking and not a hint of unpleasantness or trouble. exciting stuff to watch such a fine example of a “thug’s game played by gentlemen”. As I suggested two weeks ago, I still fancy Australia to win it, in a final v the All Blacks maybe.