||27 caps between 1961 and 1968
||v Australia (November 27, 2004)
Wallaby scrum half Ken Catchpole was a decade or two ahead of his time. While he eschewed the dive pass, he possessed a stunning delivery where pace and perfect timing gave the receiver yards more space and precious extra seconds to do their worst.
The fifth Wallabies, like their predecessors in 1958, also packed a hell of a punch, but of a more legitimate kind. A key element of that force was Catchpole. He personified the philosophy of the 1967 Australians, which was to play open, running rugby. It cost them at times on that tour, but they still beat the two teams they really wanted to beat – Wales and England, the latter by a handsome margin. In fact the 23 points they amassed was the most England had conceded at Headquarters since the first international in 1910.
That approach relied – after the forwards winning possession – on the half backs and threequarters employing short, sharp passes. This flew in the face of the prevailing fashion for back lines to be spread across the width of the pitch.
Catchpole’s memory of the day is hazy. The Wallabies were some 11 weeks into a protracted European tour and had lost the previous test to Scotland, before Christmas.
“I remember the atmosphere in that marvellous stadium,” recalled Catchpole, who is now semi-retired and a vice president of New South Wales rugby, “and the enthusiasm in the stands, the front rows of which were very close to the touchlines.
“The Twickenham pitch itself was nothing like modern-day pitches. As I recall, it was fairly uneven, undulating almost, but it was clearly very well looked after. As for the match, I just remember it being pretty tight and very tough. I know when the whistle went we were delighted to have beaten England.”
Catchpole had to be reminded of his late try. “I don’t think it was one of my greatest tries,” said the man who had scored a try on debut as captain against Fiji in 1961. “I received the ball from Phil Hawthorne and the line was beckoning with scarcely any defensive cover in sight.”
Hawthorne created a little bit of history by scoring three drop goals in the game – only the second player after Pierre Albaladejo of France in 1960 to achieve the feat. It has since been equalled or bettered by a raft of players, but at the time it stood out as something extra special. The same could be said of Catchpole.
Article by Dai Llewellyn