Hullfc.com takes a look back at the famous clash in West Hull 37 years ago when Hull FC took on the Australian touring side at the Boulevard.
It may have been defeat for the hosts, but FC took plenty of pride from the game. In a world tour that featured 24 fixtures for the Aussies, Hull were only one of three teams that cam anywhere near challenging them in terms of closeness of scores, with Bradford Northern and Wigan also coming close.
A 7-13 defeat was by no means a disgrace, with Australian coach Frank Stanton showing much respect to Hull by naming a full strength team just days before their second test against Great Britain, and declaring that FC were the toughest opposition they faced during the tour.
A crowd 16,049 packed into the Boulevard; not only had the city of Hull set the record attendance across the entire tour with 26,771 packing into Boothferry Park to watch the first of three Great Britain tests just a fortnight earlier, FC would also set the record for the biggest attendance at a club match.
Many home supporters regard the match as one of the best they have ever witnessed, against the side that would go on to be known as the ‘Invincibles’ winning every single fixture during the tour – a title that Hull held themselves after going undefeated in the 1978/79 campaign just a few years earlier.
Stanton commented at the time: “The fact that we have picked the side that played in our first test against Great Britain is testimony to Hull’s challenge as league leaders.
“I am aware of the tremendous support for the game in Hull and know they appreciate our style of football. So I hope we get the chance to show them the best. If Hull are prepared to join us in playing football, we should see a great game.”
And Hull did just that. The game wasn’t pretty throughout, with some sheer ferocity being shown form both sides, shown in fine detail when a then young Lee Crooks clashed with Aussie legend Les Boyd, trading blows before the rest of the players on the field joined in. The end result was a broken jaw for Hull’s James Leuluai and concussion for Australia full-back Greg Brentnall.
Despite the early battle of fists, each side gave their fair share of thrilling end-to-end rugby. Hull’s local-born pack went head-to-head and matched the visitors throughout the majority of the contest, doing so without regular stars Trevor Skerrett, Charlie Stone and Steve Norton.
Mick Crane took over from Norton at loose forward and won Hull’s Man of the Match award with a superb performance. Crane varied his tactics intelligently and was always a danger with his probing runs.
David Topliss was the key man for Hull behind the pack, and even playing against Brett Kenny looked one of the best players on the field. He score Hull’s only try with a clever lob kick over the Aussie defence to beat the pack and touch down, putting him in an elite group of only seven players who scored against the visitors during their tour.
Hull had gone into the game hoping to bring some pride back to the British after the Aussies had swept aside GB in the opening test, while FC had won nine games going into the game and currently held three trophies as their own.
But in eight previous matches against them, Hull had only ever won once against Australia in their first ever match against them in 1908-09
An electric atmosphere had started proceedings, and the early exchanges soon became explosive but FC held their nerves and after thwarting several early chances on their line, it was the home side who took the lead with a Crooks penalty goal after 28 minutes.
Hull were into the game now and Topliss’ try stunned the visitors just before half-time. Crooks’ goal gave Hull a 7-0 lead at the interval.
However, the Kangaroos showed their class to bounce back just five minutes after the restart as soon-to-be Black & White Peter Sterling made a diagonal run to set up Kerry Boustead.
Ten minutes later and they had their second, with Mal Meninga continuing on Wayne Pearce’s break, before firing a pass to Eric Grothe to dive over in the corner.
With Meninga’s penalty goal from 30 yards with 15 minutes left on the clock, Australia hit the front for the first-time. They would finish off with a further score from Grothe with Meninga adding the extras to seal a hard-fought 7-13 win.
Squads & Scorers:
Hull FC: Kemble, O’Hara, S.Evans, Leuluai, Prendiville, Topliss, Dean, Harrision, Bridges, Rose, Proctor, Crooks, Crane.
Interchange: Banks, Sutton.
Tries: Topliss / Goals: Crooks (2/2)
Australia: Brentnall, Boustead, Meninga, Rogers, Grothe, Kenny, Sterling, Young, Krilich, Boyd, Pearce, Reddy, Price.
Tries: Grothe (2), Boustead / Goals: Meninga (2)