With this near-miss as inspiration the crowd in Cardiff was fit to bust with hwyl by game time. Those 58,000 pairs of lungs were roaring out such songs as Land of my Fathers, and those well-known favorites, Blaenwern, Sospan Fach, Calon Lan and Rachie, with such joyous fervor that the din brought tears to the eyes of every Welsh rugger fan, old or new, and shook the stones of nearby Cardiff Castle. The singing started an hour before the kickoff and continued into the second half. The New Zealanders countered with their own war chant, a song in Maori that ascends to those brave words. "Katu te ihi i hi" (We shall stand as children of the sun) and tops out with "E tu iho nei" (We shall attain the zenith!).
For some inexplicable reason, possibly because his mind was muddled by the spirit of the occasion, Welsh Captain Norman Gale chose to defend the east goal at the start of the game, thus facing his team squarely into the fierce wind that was sweeping in from the west off the River Taff. With the wind at their backs the big, mobile New Zealand forwards were able to contain Wales in its own territory while the All-Blacks went about the business of scoring. After 10 minutes, following a Welsh offside during a scrum, Fullback McCormick booted a 22-yard penalty kick squarely through the uprights, and New Zealand was ahead 3-0. Seven minutes later the All-Blacks scored again. The ball popped out of a scrum about 20 yards short of the Welsh goal line, was quickly picked up by a New Zealand back and pitched out to Right Center Bill Davis, already sprinting hard toward the left sideline. As he was tackled Davis spun the ball over to Left Wing Bill Birtwistle. Birtwistle, who has a gaunt face that bears an amazing resemblance to the beardless Abraham Lincoln, weighs only 156 pounds, light for a Rugby player, but, oh, is he nimble. Running as if he feared instant annihilation at the hands of a brutish Welsh defender, Birtwistle skittered down the sideline and dived across at the corner. McCormick converted the try, and New Zealand led 8-0.
This turned out to be the winning margin, but it was not an easy one to hold. Welsh teams usually make effective use of speed in the backfield combined with tricky ball handling and passing, but the weather conditions kept that kind of wide-open game to a minimum. Nevertheless, with the wind at their backs in the second half they scored three points off a 20-yard drop kick by Halfback Barry John and appeared to be ready to make the game even closer. That is, until disaster struck. Following a mauling pileup at about mid-field, New Zealand was given a penalty kick from 45 yards out. McCormick's attempt was short all the way, but John Jeffery, standing astride the goal line to catch it, let the wet and slippery ball slither through his arms. As the wave of 15 black-clad New Zealanders pounded downfield toward him, Jeffery rummaged on the ground for agonizing moments. When he finally got a grip on the ball, he straightened up and tried to toss it over to one of his backs. The pass was more of a flutter than a flip. All-Black Right Center Davis burst through the line of bright-red Welsh jerseys, snatched the ball out of the air before it ever got to where it was supposed to be going and thumped it onto the ground behind the goal line. McCormick converted. New Zealand, leading 13-3, reverted to three yards and a wallop of mud and the Welsh ruggers were as flat as the 58,000 fans who looked on in songless despair for the remaining 27 minutes of the game.
After it was all over, All-Black Vice-Captain MacRae, resting in a deep tub of hot water, the flesh around his right eye puffy from a blow he had received late in the game, seemed almost apologetic about the result. "It wasn't what you'd call a fantastic game, was it?" he said. "The conditions were just too difficult. But those Welsh, as usual, were just magnificent. I can tell you, we are all very, very happy to have beaten them."
And the Welsh? Well, they get two more chances to sing. Next month the All-Blacks return for matches against Monmouthshire in Newport and against East Wales at Cardiff Arms Park. Cardiff Castle may yet rock to the bellowed choruses of Land of my Fathers at the final whistle.