The South Wales Echo headlined “A right royal punch up” in its report of the Wales v Ireland match at Cardiff Arms Park, on 8 March 1969, a match attended by HRH the Prince of Wales.
This match was seen as the key to the championship, that year, Ireland and Wales were both unbeaten, and the match was played at a Cardiff Arms Park, resembling a giant airfix kit, as the new North Stand was in the process of being rebuilt, and as a result, the crowd capacity was reduced from 52,000 to 29,000
The pitch appeared to be devoid of even a single blade of grass on it, and was so poor, I think that even the Horse of The Year show organisers would have deemed it unsuitable for their needs.
Ireland had received some criticism from the press as a result of their “robust” play in earlier matches, and Wales were determined to face up to their aggression.
The match began sensationally, within three minutes of introducing his team to the Prince, Brian Price floored Irish flanker, Noel Murphy with a punch that Henry Cooper would have been proud of.
Brian Price said later that he felt a pair of hands heading towards his eyes, so he “Let him have it“
Later in the first half Irish hooker Ken Kennedy was also floored, resulting in captain Tom Kiernan threatening to take his team off the field, Gareth Edwards spoke to fellow “Lion” Kiernan, but the content of that particular conversation is not suitable for print.
Kiernan then kicked Ireland into an early lead, which Barry John levelled with a drop goal.
The game was brutal, Brian Thomas was led from the field with blood pouring from his face, to be stitched on the touch-line whilst the game went on around him.
In the eighth minute of first half injury time, Wales were awarded a penalty on the Irish 25 yard line, the Irish team turned their backs, expecting an inevitable Keith Jarrett place kick, by the time they looked around, Jarrett had tapped, and fed a trundling Denzil Williams, the Ebbw Vale prop, who ran over unopposed in the corner.
Jarrett converted the try, which gave Wales an 8-6 half time lead.
After the interval Wales stepped up a gear with Newport wing Stuart Watkins, Dai Morris and John Taylor all scoring tries for the men in red.
Mike Gibson scored a consolation late length of the field try for Ireland, but which time the match was well and truly over as a contest.
Wales won 24-11, but the match will always be remembered for Brian Price’s pugalistic efforts in front of HRH.