Rorkes Drift Test Centenary

Date published: Monday, July 7, 2014

FRIDAY marked the 100th anniversary of one of the most important matches in the history of Rugby League.
Played on July 4, 1914 at Sydney Cricket Ground, the Rorke’s Drift Test is one of the most famous matches in the sport’s history, and a one-off celebratory luncheon in Leeds, hosted by Rugby League Cares, is poised to mark the occasion.
The match was the deciding fixture of a three-Test series played between Australia and Great Britain (then the Northern Union) in which the British team, badly affected by injuries, defeated the Australians 14-6 to lift the Ashes.
Due to the scheduling of the tour, which saw three Tests played over just eight days – the first two in 48 hours – many players were unfit going into the decider.
The British lost two players permanently – one being Douglas Clark who broke his thumb in the first half, only leaving the field in the second period after dislocating his shoulder – and were forced to play with as few as nine men at times.
Yet the tourists, who managed to snatch tries through Willie Davies of Leeds and Widnes forward Chick Johnson, stood firm to hold out for a memorable backs-to-the-wall victory.
The match earned its ‘Rorke’s Drift name’” after Australian journalists compared the British players’ rearguard action with the 1879 British military victory over the Zulu army in South Africa.
“The Rorke’s Drift Test was one of the most significant matches in the long and proud history of international Rugby League,” said Rugby League Cares Chairman Terry Flanagan.
“International Rugby League should be the very pinnacle of the sport, the level at which all players aspire to play. It should be a standard that represents the highest-quality and the best talent available on the planet and the Rorke’s Drift Test certainly epitomised that.
“We have seen many enthralling matches over the past century, but none have managed to quite reach the legendary status that has been bestowed upon that memorable triumph, which is why it is so fantastic to see unearthed such rare footage of this Test.
“It epitomised the character of the sport and lay the foundations for how Rugby League should be contested, with the values of the match still holding true today – I am delighted that we are hosting a celebratory lunch for such a historic event.”
Extremely rare footage from the Rorke’s Drift Test will be shown at a special luncheon at Headingley Carnegie Stadium, Leeds, on Saturday July 12 hosted by the charity Rugby League Cares, celebrating international Rugby League.
The lunch will also feature a display of unique items of Lions memorabilia from the RFL archive, a 1914-themed three-course meal, and a question and answer sessions with members of the 1984 Lions tour.
Tickets cost £35 (£30 for RL Cares members) or £300 for a table of 10.  To secure your place, please contact Rugby League Cares General Manager Chris Rostron at or 07917 282322.