1927–28 Waratahs tour of the British Isles, France and Canada

Johnnie Wallace
Captain of the tour
1927–28 Waratahs tour of the British Isles, France and Canada
37 31 1 5
Test match
5 3 0 2
1 1 0 0
1 1 0 0
1 0 0 1
1 0 0 1
1 1 0 0

Between July 1927 and March 1928 the New South Wales Waratahs, the top Australian representative rugby union side of the time, conducted a world tour encompassing Ceylon, Britain, France and Canada on which they played five Tests and twenty-six minor tour matches.

The Queensland Rugby Union had collapsed in 1919 and would not be reborn until 1929 leaving the New South Wales Rugby Union to administer the game in Australia at the national representative level. Just prior to the start of the Australian 1927 season an invitation from the International Rugby Board arrived in Sydney requesting a New South Wales side tour Great Britain to play Tests against the Home Nations.

In 1986 the Australian Rugby Union decreed the five full-internationals played on the tour as official Test matches.

The squad and its captain

A squad of twenty-nine players was selected comprising twenty-eight New South Welshmen and one Queenslander in the great fly-half Tom Lawton, Snr who had been forced to come to Sydney to continue his career due to the absence of rugby in Brisbane. The side was captained by Arthur Cooper "Johnnie" Wallace who from Sydney University had earnt a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford in 1922 and whilst there had represented for Scotland in nine Tests between 1923 and 1926.

The selection of Wallace as captain is referred to in the Howell reference as "a masterstoke". He was well known in Britain through his Oxford and Scotland association, was an experienced and naturally gifted player, a strong tactician and a great influence on the younger players. On the nine-month tour, the Australians won 24, lost 5 and drew 2 of the matches they played and returned having established an international reputation for playing fair and attacking rugby.

Cyril Towers Tour diarist

Tour itinerary[1]

The squad left Sydney by train on 22 July 1927 bound for Melbourne. They played a game on the afternoon of their arrival in Melbourne against a Victorian invitation XV which was won 19–9. They set off in the Ormonde from Melbourne on 26 July for Adelaide where they had a one-day stop.

By 10 August the Ormonde had arrived in Colombo where they were the guests of the Colombo Rugby Union and the tourists played that day against an All Ceylon XV in front of a crowd of 5,000 spectators. They set sail from Ceylon on 11 August. The Ormonde passed through the Suez Canal and the Straits of Messina and a disembarkation was made at Naples to enable a visit to Pompeii. Another stop was made at Toulon before arriving at Gibraltar on 28 August and Plymouth by month's end.

The squad had two weeks preparation on land at Teignmouth in Devon before the first tour match against Devon and Cornwall on 17 September. The tourists then relocated to Wales where matches were played at Newport, Swansea and Cardiff.

At Oxford the Waratahs suffered their first defeat 0–3 against a varsity side, although they won the next encounter against Cambridge. Matches were also played at Liverpool, Newcastle and Coventry before they sailed to Dublin. The Waratahs won the first Test of the tour 5–3 against Ireland at Lansdowne Road on 12 November.

Two weeks later the tourists met Wales at Cardiff Arms where they triumphed 18–8. From Cardiff they travelled to Scotland where matches were played at Glasgow, Melrose, Aberdeen and the Test loss at Edinburgh. The tourists made day trips to the Lochs, Lomond, Long and Gyll and where shown over the King's castle at Balmoral. Back in Edinburgh castles were visited by day with dinners and theatre parties attended at night.

The party travelled to London for New Year and were shown over the Houses of Parliament by Lord Donoughmore, the Secretary of the House of Lords and Sir James Whitley, the Speaker of the House of Commons. They were presented to the Prince of Wales at St James's Palace and to the King at Sandringham House. At Sandringham they accompanied the King through the woods on a shooting expedition after lunch and were presented to Her Majesty, Queen Mary at afternoon tea.

Later the Australians were flattered by a personal invitation to take tea at the Piccadilly residence of the Duke and Duchess of York where they met the infant Princess Elizabeth. Three other days were spent in the company of officers of the Army, Air Force and Navy culminating in a tour of the Royal Navy facilities at Portsmouth where they were of shown over the workings of the recently launched Australian submarines HMS Otway and HMS Oxley, the museum piece HMS Victory and the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert III.

Two days after the Test loss at Twickenham the squad left for France, spending a night in Paris before journeying to Bordeaux. There against a selected provincial side the Waratahs suffered the most convincing defeat of the tour with the locals taking an early lead and holding on to a 19–10 victory. Then followed a match in Toulouse against a side representing south-western France in which the visitors prevailed.

Back in Paris, the tourists were entertained and shown the city's splendour before meeting the French national side at Stade Colombes in the final Test match of the tour in front of a crowd of 40,000 with 2,000 gendarmes stationed around the enclosure to keep in check the emotions of the enthusiasts. From Paris the squad crossed the channel and departed from Liverpool in the Melita for Canada. They travelled by train from coast to coast with stops at Montreal, Toronto, Banff and Sicamous. Arriving in Vancouver in late February 1928 the squad spent twelve days and played three exhibition matches against varsity and club sides.

In March 1928 they boarded the Aorangi in Vancouver to commence the final leg home with stops in Honolulu, Suva and Auckland before arriving in Sydney by month's end, a full nine months after first setting out.

Test matches


12 November 1927
Ireland  3–5 New South Wales New South Wales
Pen: James Ganly
(Report) Try: Johnnie Wallace
Con: Tom Lawton (1/1)
Lansdowne Road, Dublin
Attendance: 25,000
Referee: A.W. Angus (Scotland)

Towers described the match as "an evenly contested and arduous struggle ...lacking the brilliance of the other internationals".[2]

The match would ultimately be recognised as the first ever Test between Ireland and an Australian side.

AUSTRALIA: Alex Ross, Eric Ford, Johnnie Wallace, Cyril Towers, Allen Bowers, Tom Lawton, Wally Meagher, Harry Woods, Jock Blackwood, Bruce Judd, Geoff Storey, Huck Finlay, Arnold Tancred, Jack Ford, Wylie Breckenridge

IRELAND: Arthur Douglas, James Ganly, Maurice Atkinson, George Stephenson, Henry Stephenson, Eugene Davy, Mark Sugden, Charles Hanrahan, Jimmy Farrell, Jim McVicker, Fats Payne, Hugh McVicker, Theodore Pike, Buck Buchanan, William Browne


26 November 1927
Wales  8–18 New South Wales New South Wales
Try: Ernie Finch
Windsor Lewis
Con: Tommy Rees (1/2)
(Report) Try: Johnnie Wallace 2
Syd King
Billy Sheehan
Con: Tom Lawton (3/4)
Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
Attendance: 35,000
Referee: D. Helliwell (England)

"The game itself was a fast and brilliant exhibition of local forwards versus Waratah backs. Time and again the vigorous Welsh vanguards swept nearly the length of the field but the ball usually found its way amongst the Australian three-quarters who by fast handling, good running and consistent backing up, managed to elude the hard-tackling backs and supporting forwards of their opponents...and due to their excellence the full-time whistle found us with a 10-point advantage".(Towers)[2]

AUSTRALIA: Alex Ross, Eric Ford, Syd King, Billy Sheehan, Johnnie Wallace, Tom Lawton, Wally Meagher, Harry Woods, Jock Blackwood, Bruce Judd, Geoff Storey, Huck Finlay, Arnold Tancred, Jack Ford, Wylie Breckenridge

WALES: Tommy Rees, Dan Jones, John Roberts, Roy Jones, Ernie Finch, Winsor Lewis, Tal Harris, David Jenkins, Lonza Bowdler, Ned Jenkins, Harry Phillips, Gus Broughton, Iorwerth Jones, Tom Hollingdale, Ivor Jones


17 December 1927
Scotland  10–8 New South Wales New South Wales
Try: James Graham
Wille Welsh
Con: Dan Drysdale (2/2)
(Report) Try: Jack Ford
Eric Ford
Con: Tom Lawton (1/2)
Murrayfield, Edinburgh
Attendance: 50,000
Referee: W.J. Llewellyn (Wales)

"The playing area at Murrayfield had been covered throughout the week with straw as a protection against the inclemency of the weather and this covering was removed only just prior to the commencement of the match. The day was bitterly cold but notwithstanding this a crowd of 55,000 was present to witness the finest exhibition of the 15-a-side code that has been given for a number of years.

The tactical keynote both in attack and defence of each of those evenly matched sides was speed. With 20 minutes left to play, both sides had scored two tries each, but the local side had converted twice, while the Waratahs had only been successful in this respect once. The spectators were mad with excitement during the last 10 minutes, as a NSW forward crossed the line twice but was recalled for infringements while the Waratah captain, after having beaten the opposition lost his footing on the partly frozen surface. A draw would have been a better ending to the game instead of the 10–8 victory for Scotland, as it dd not seem fitting that such an even and thrilling contest should be decided by a kick. It will suffice to say that the match will live long in the memory of those who witnessed as well as participated in it". (Towers)[3]

The match would ultimately be recognised as the first ever Test between Scotland and an Australian side.

AUSTRALIA: Alex Ross, Eric Ford, Syd King, Billy Sheehan, Johnnie Wallace, Tom Lawton, Syd Malcolm, Harry Woods, Jock Blackwood, Bruce Judd, Geoff Storey, Huck Finlay, Arnold Tancred, Jack Ford, Wylie Breckenridge

SCOTLAND: Dan Drysdale, Edward Taylor, Robert Kelly, James Dykes, Bill Simmers, Harry Greenlees, Peter Douty, William Ferguson, William Roughead, James Scott, John Bannerman, David MacMyn, James Graham, Willie Welsh, John Patterson


7 January 1928
England  18–11 New South Wales New South Wales
Try: William Taylor
Colin Laird
Sam Tucker
Joe Periton
Con: James Richardson (3/4)
(Report) Try: Eric Ford 2
Cyril Towers
Con: Tom Lawton (1/2)
Twickenham Stadium, London
Attendance: 62,000
Referee: T.H. Vile (Wales)

England played with the wind at their backs in the first half and made all the running. A dash down the wing, a centring kick and the flanker J.S Tucker was over for a try which was converted 5–0 to England. Wallace made several breaks in the centre and then told Cyril Towers to loop outside him when he broke again. The move was executed brilliantly and with the conversion the scored were tied 5–5.(Zavos)[4]

"Up till half-time, the game had been fast and brilliant, with the Englishmen having a commanding lead of 10 points (15–5) at the interval. Soon after the change over, the locals increased their lead with another try and it was from then that the game reached such a height as a spectacle that it caused the press to place it in number-one position as the greatest game ever seen in England. Even champions of the past, great supporters of bygone games, conceded that the efforts of the Waratahs to make up a deficit of 13 points during the concluding 20 minutes was productive of the finest football imaginable".(Towers)[5]

The Waratahs showed their great fighting spirit by going into an extra-Waratah mode, attacking from everywhere, with John Ford, the massive number 8, taking the ball up time after time. Towers scored 18–8. Then the winger Eric Ford raced through the England defence 18–11. The Waratahs were still attacking the England line desperate to snatch the victory, when the full-time whistle blew. The crowd roared its appreciation of a great game of rugby, with the applause continuing long after the players had retired to the changing rooms and the hot tubs. (Zavos)

AUSTRALIA: Alex Ross, Eric Ford, Syd King, Cyril Towers, Johnnie Wallace, Tom Lawton, Syd Malcolm, Harold Woods, Jock Blackwood, Bruce Judd, Geoff Storey, Huck Finlay, Ned Greatorex, Jack Ford, Wylie Breckenridge

ENGLAND: Monkey Sellar, William Taylor, Carl Aarvold, James Richardson, Thomas Devitt, Colin Laird, Arthur Young, Edward Stanbury, Sam Tucker, Ron Smith, David Turquand-Young, Kendrick Stark, Thomas Lawson, Thomas Coulson, Joe Periton


22 January 1928
France  8–11 New South Wales New South Wales
Try: Raoul Bonamy
Andre Camel
Con: Andre Behoteguy (1/2)
(Report) Try: Johnnie Wallace
Eric Ford
Cyril Towers
Con: Tom Lawton (1/3)
Stade Colombes, Paris
Attendance: 40,000
Referee: T.J. Bradburn (England)

"The game resulted in a Waratah victory and the standard of play was high, but the antics of the locals rather distracted us. The mere fact of having to conclude the match that day did not prevent some of the players from lying down for a spell when they were tired, or holding up the game to debate a point with the referee (who did not speak French) while a weep following on a hard tackle seemed to be part of their tactics".(Towers)[6]

The match would ultimately be recognised as the first ever Test between France and an Australian side.

AUSTRALIA: Alex Ross, Eric Ford, Syd King, Cyril Towers, Johnnie Wallace, Tom Lawton, Syd Malcolm, Malcolm Blair, Jock Blackwood, Jim Tancred, Geoff Storey, Charlie Fox, Ted Greatorex, Huck Finlay, Wylie Breckenridge

FRANCE: Lousi Pelissier, Adolphe Jaureguy, Andre Behoteguy, Henri Behoteguy, Edmond Vellat, Charles Lacazedieu, Clement Dupont, Andre Loury, Georges Vallis, Jean Morere, Andre Camel, Jean Galia, Raoul Bonamy, Albert Cazenave, Eugene Ribere

The Duke of York meets the Waratahs, Twickenham
Tom Lawton, Snr in action against England, Twickenham Jan 1928

Matches of the tour

The "Exhibition Matches" are not classed as important as the "Tour matches". They are listed on the tour but the starting line-ups are not counted in the players stats.

Scores and results list New South Wales points tally first.
Date Opponent Location Result Score
Match 1 17 September 1927 Devon and Cornwall Rectory Field, Devonport, Devon, England Won 30–3
Match 2 22 September 1927 Newport Rodney Parade, Newport, Wales Won 20–3
Match 3 24 September 1927 Neath and Aberavon Talbot Athletic Ground, Port Talbot, Wales Won 24–5
Match 4 28 September 1927[7] Abertillery and Cross Keys Abertillery Park, Abertillery, Wales Won 13–3
Match 5 6 October 1927 Swansea St. Helen's, Swansea, Wales Won 11–0
Match 6 8 October 1927 East Midlands Franklin's Gardens, Northampton, England Won 16–12
Match 7 8 October 1927 Yorkshire and Cumberland Lidget Green, Bradford, England Won 9–3
Match 8 12 October 1927 Glasgow Old Anniesland Ground, Glasgow, Scotland Won 10–0
Match 9 15 October 1927 South of Scotland The Greenyards, Melrose, Scotland Won 36–0
Match 10 19 October 1927 North of Scotland St Machar Ground, Aberdeen, Scotland Won 21–15
Match 11 22 October 1927 London Twickenham, London, England Drew 0–0
Match 12 27 October 1927 Oxford University Iffley Road, Oxford, England Lost 0–3
Match 13 29 October 1927 Leicestershire Welford Road, Leicester, England Won 20–8
Match 14 2 November 1927 Cambridge University Grange Road, Cambridge, England Won 18–11
Match 15 5 November 1927 Combined Services Twickenham, London Won 13–11
Match 16 12 November 1927 IRELAND Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland Won 5–3
Match 17 16 November 1927 Ulster Ravenhill, Belfast, Northern Ireland Won 11–3
Match 18 19 November 1927[8] Northumberland and Durham County Ground, Gosforth, England Won 14–9
Match 19 26 November 1927 WALES Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff Won 18–8
Match 20 29 November 1927 Llanelli Stradey Park, Llanelli, Wales Won 24–14
Match 21 3 December 1927 Cardiff Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff, Wales Won 15–9
Match 22 8 December 1927 Pontypool Pontypool Park, Pontypool, Wales Lost 3–6
Match 23 10 December 1927 Lancashire and Cheshire Birkenhead Park, Birkenhead, England Won 29–11
Match 24 17 December 1927 SCOTLAND Murrayfield, Edinburgh Lost 8–10
Match 25 22 December 1927 Warwickshire and North Midlands Barkers Butts Lane, Coventry, England Won 8–5
Match 26 31 December 1927 Gloucester and Somersetshires Memorial Stadium, Bristol, England Won 13–4
Match 27 7 January 1928 ENGLAND Twickenham, London Lost 11–18
Match 28 12 January 1928 South of France Parc Lescure, Bordeaux, France Lost 10–19
Match 29 15 January 1928 Midi Stade Ernest-Wallon, Toulouse, France Won 11–3
Match 30 22 January 1928 FRANCE Stade Colombes, Paris Won 11–8
Match 31 29 January 1928[9] London Twickenham, London Drew 0–0

Exhibition matches

Scores and results list New South Wales's points tally first.
Date Opponent Location Result Score
23 July 1927 Victoria Motordrome, Melbourne Won 19–9
10 August 1927 Ceylon CH & FC Grounds, Colombo Won 23–3
1 September 1927 [10] Teignmouth Teignmouth Won 38–3
7 September 1927 [11] Plymouth Albion Plymouth Won 21–11
25 February 1928 Vancouver Representative XV Vancouver Won 9–6
29 February 1928 Varsity Vancouver Won 55–3
3 March 1928 Vancouver Representative XV Vancouver Won 17–0

Touring party


Name Tests Club Career caps Tour Apps Position Pts
A.W. Ross 5 Sydney University 20 29 Full back
A.J.A. Bowers 1 Eastern Suburbs, Randwick 7 9 Three-quarter
J.B. Egan 0 Eastern Suburbs 0 7 Three-quarter
E.E. Ford 5 Glebe-Balmain 7 21 Three-quarter
G.C.Gordon 0 Western Suburbs, Newcastle YMCA 1 8 Three-quarter
S.C. King 4 Western Suburbs 14 19 Three-quarter
W.H. Mann 0 Sydney University 0 7 Three-quarter
W.B.J.Sheehan 2 Sydney University 18 12 Three-quarter
C.H.T. Towers 3 Randwick 19 29 Three-quarter
A.C. Wallace (c) 5 Sydney University 8 22 Three-quarter
J.L. Duncan 0 Randwick 1 8 Half-back
S.J. Malcolm 3 Cook's Hill Surf Club, Newcastle YMCA, Manly 18 11 Half-back
F.W. Meagher 2 Randwick 8 12 Half-back
T. Lawton 5 Sydney University, Western Suburbs 14 27[12] Half-back
J.G. Blackwood 5 Eastern Suburbs 21 23 Forward
G.V. Bland 0 Manly 9 4 Forward
M.R. Blair 1 Western Suburbs 3 7 Forward
J.W.P. Breckenridge 5 Glebe-Balmain 11 26 Forward
A.N. Finlay 5 Sydney University 12 24[13] Forward
J.A. Ford[14] 4 Glebe-Balmain 11 25 Forward
C.L. Fox (v.c) 1 Northern Suburbs 17 12[15] Forward
E.N. Greatorex 2 Newcastle YMCA 8 14 Forward
P.B. Judd 4 Western Suburbs 11 24 Forward
G.P. Storey 5 Western Suburbs 8 20 Forward
A.N. Tancred 3 Glebe-Balmain 3 16 Forward
J.L. Tancred 2 Glebe-Balmain 2 16 Forward
K. Tarleton 0 Newcastle YMCA 2 9 Forward
E.J. Thorn 0 Manly 15 13 Forward
H.F. Woods 4 Newcastle YMCA 8 19 Forward


  1. from a compilation of reports by Waratah tourist Cyril Towers published in the Spirit of Rugby reference as "Rugby's Great Adventure"
  2. 1 2 The Spirit of Rugby p87
  3. The Spirit of Rugby p89
  4. The Golden Wallabies p126
  5. The Spirit of Rugby p90
  6. The Spirit of Rugby p92
  7. Abertillery program
  8. Northumberland program
  9. London program
  10. "Waratahs impress". The West Australian. Perth. 3 September 1927. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  11. "Waratahs win their first game. Trial at Plymouth Albion". Arrow. Sydney. 9 September 1927. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  12. 3 as Captain against Swansea, Yorkshire and Cumberland and Leicestershire
  13. Including 14 matches as Vice-Captain
  14. Got sent off in the Cardiff game.
  15. 6 as Captain against Neath and Aberavon, East Midlands, Glasgow, South of Scotland, London and Oxford University


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