Tales of the Unexpected: The Game’s Off

The recent wintry conditions that rocked the United Kingdom over the Easter period failed to disrupt the rugby calendar, but there have been plenty of occasions over the years when games have been postponed – often for some very strange reasons.

Earlier this season, the meeting between London Wasps and Sale was called off when the under-soil heating at Adams Park broke, sending 7,000 disappointed and cold fans shuffling for the exits.

Tales of the Unexpected brings you some other memorable rugby postponements…

Paying their respects

Only two England Test matches have needed to be rescheduled – the most recent came in January 1987, when heavy snow forced the cancellation of Scotland’s visit to Twickenham. That was the opening match of the Five Nations and had to be re-scheduled for April 4, with England running out 21-12 winners. The first postponement of an England Test came on February 9, 1952 when Ireland was due to visit London. The game was postponed following the untimely death of King George VI. It was re-scheduled for March 29 and England won by a 3-0 scoreline.

The Waiting Game

The international championship game between Scotland and Wales in 1899 was postponed an amazing four times because of bad weather. It was eventually played in Edinburgh on March 4 with the Scots coming from behind to record a 21-10 victory. Even then the game was played in miserable conditions, with players from both sides forced to battle through a snow storm.

Poxy luck

The championship match between Wales and Ireland in 1962 was postponed for eight months – due to an outbreak of smallpox in the Rhondda. The contest eventually took place at Lansdowne Road, Dublin, on November 17. The game ended in a rather forgettable 3-3 draw.

Foot and mouth scare

The 2001 Six Nations lasted a staggering 259 days from start to finish as Ireland postponed their three away games on the British mainland due to a foot and mouth outbreak. Desperate to stop fans bringing the disease back across the Irish Sea, Ireland were due to play Wales on March 3 and finally emerged victorious by a 36-6 scoreline on October 13. The drawn-out competition kicked off on February 3 and ended on October 20.

Running for cover

Only two Test matches have been abandoned following the kick-off. The first came in Belfast in 1885 as Scotland took on Ireland. The game began in steady rain but conditions worsened throughout the first half and with Scotland leading by a try, both captains were called together and a replay was suggested and duly accepted. That replay took place in Edinburgh two weeks later and Scotland emerged as the winners, scoring a goal and two tries. The other abandonment came during France’s tour of North America ahead of the 1991 World Cup. Shortly into their game at Colorado Springs, the French had to run for cover as thunder and lightning cracked around the stadium. The game was not replayed due to France’s other tour commitments.

Battling through the fog

This game wasn’t abandoned or postponed but it might as well have been. On January 18, 1908, England played their first and only game at Bristol’s Ashton Gate. The visit of Wales attracted a healthy crowd of more than 25,000 and the Welsh won a nine-try thriller 28-18. Apparently. Thick fog enveloped the ground for the entire 80 minutes and fans only caught glimpses of the action if it took place near them. Newspaper reports of the contest mentioned, “phantom figures flitting to and fro in the thick fog that shrouded the ground.”

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