The mighty All Blacks march as Snow White’s dwarfs

As rugby is very much on my mind with the 6 Nations in full motion and, Ireland looking for their first Grand Slam since 1948, a magical moment of sportsmanship was revealed only two weeks ago from a  a match that was played over 30 years ago.

I was in Cork visiting Marian Ormond the widow of Dennis to whom the book is dedicated. As I left she handed me a newspaper article which recorded a recent lunch time chat from some of the famous Munster 1978 side, one of whom is the flying winger and personal friend of the Ormond family, Jim Bowen. More than 30 years later, he revealed a sportsmanship moment I never heard of before.

The all conquering 1978 All Blacks became the first New Zealand rugby team to win a Grand Slam by beating Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. Their only defeat on that tour came against Munster. It remains to this day, the only time any Irish rugby team actually beat the mighty All Blacks. Graham Mourie’s All Blacks seemed invincible, until they stepped into a jam packed Thomond Park and met the mighty Munster men.

Wing forward Christy Cantillon scored a try and fly half Tony Ward kicked 8 points to register the Province’s 12-0 win over the world’s best. They even wrote a play about it called Alone It Stands, which has played to packed houses all over Ireland and overseas.

The All Blacks were fast, skilled, strong and very aggressive. Losing is not in their psychy. They play hard and fast. They play to win. And they do win. In the Northern Hemisphere, they are regarded as the best team in the world, regardless of who wins the World Cup. And on that tour they beat everyone (except Munster). Losing is not entertained. Munster winger, Jim Bowen recalls :”They were very gracious, although not initially. Certainly that night at the dinner they (All Blacks) came into dinner on their knees, linking each other, singing Hi, Ho…They were good characters.” Despite being the best in the world, they took defeat with dignity and good humour.

Editor’s note: The Munster captain, Donal Caniffe was born in the general Hospital in Westmeath (Leinster) but the family were living in Dromod, Co. Leitrim (Connaught) and in his own words: “I’m claiming Leinster, Connacht and Munster lineage.”

The Irish Times 15 Nov 2008

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