The Daily Mail, October 20, 1913
LACK OF “GINGER.”
HOW THE SERVICES LOST
By P. G. WODEHOUSE.
Harlequins ...18pts. Services ........ 4.
Far be it from me to boost the Wodehouse family unduly, but I must say that the departure of our Portsmouth representative, “N. A.,” has made a terrible difference to the Services’ front rank. They seem to be comparatively deficient in “ginger.” I note with pain a marked diminution of “pep.” Last season an opposing three-quarter who fumbled was not given a chance of recovering. Before he could move he was on the ground with three or more bronzed athletes rubbing his face in the mud. But in Saturday’s match at Portsmouth the Harlequin outsides were permitted at times to behave like wooden-legged men trying to dance the Nashville Salute without a soul following up and squashing them.
It was this that gave the Harlequins their victory. Their handling, as against Gloucester, was far from perfect. A. D. Stoop missed several of Sibree’s perfectly good passes, and once Birkett failed to gather when the ball bounced exactly right for him. But most of their mistakes did no harm owing to the slowness of the home forwards.
Both sides tackled too high, and all through the game there was seen the horrid spectacle of a tackled man freeing himself from the tackler when both were on the ground and getting up and going on as if nothing had happened. A good tackler should stick closer than a brother or a porous plaster.
Both backs played well, Russell especially kicking with great length and judgment. The star performer of the afternoon was Davies. His passing was at times erratic, but some of his individual runs were dazzling. Time after time he swerved through a field positively congested with Harlequins. Harrison and Macllwaine were the best of the forwards.
SERVICES OPEN BRISKLY.
The Harlequin forwards have improved wonderfully since I last saw them. Roberts was always to the fore. The outsides were good at times but might have handled better. In fact, if they had been properly bustled by the opposing forwards their mistakes might have cost them the match.
The Services’ forwards opened the game in a most business-like fashion, getting the ball in nearly every scrum. For some time they pressed, and Harrison nearly landed a penalty goal with a fine kick. Brougham set the Harlequins attacking for the first time with a good run, and the visiting forwards reached the line, where a poor attempt at a dropped goal enabled the Services to touch down.
Birkett now got moving, but passed forward on the Services’ twenty-five line, and Davies returned to touch in the Harlequins’ half. From a scrum near halfway Sibree got the ball out, and Lambert, sprinting through the centre, passed to Milton, who handed on to F. M. Stoop, who scored near the corner flag, too far out for Lambert to convert.
Although the Harlequins were three points up the Services had had the better of the play, and they continued to do well for a few minutes after the restart, Davies reaching the Harlequins’ twenty-five with a splendid run. On this occasion, as on the others when Davies got through, the rest of the team seemed content to regard his efforts from a purely spectacular point of view. “No end of a chap, Davies,” one seemed to hear them saying as they shaded their eyes and watched him galloping away into the sunset, “Shouldn’t be a bit surprised if he scored a try one of these days.” But nobody backed him up. The result of his run, however, was to embarrass the Harlequins considerably for a while, a succession of scrums being formed on their line. It was from one of these that Gardner tried but failed to drop a goal.
Once more, a few minutes later, Davies made a great run to the line. This sort of thing soon becomes a habit. Within five minutes he had done it again, this being his best effort of the afternoon. He was forced into touch when within a few strides of the line. The Harlequins’ forwards rushed the ball back to half-way, where Sibree, who was in good form throughout the match, made an excellent run to the twenty-five, finishing with a well-timed pass to Birkett, who swerved through and scored the best try of the day. Lambert converted from in front.
ABSENCE OF WHIRLWIND FINISH.
One has grown so accustomed, after the past few seasons, to expect a whirlwind finish from the Services, that even now one did not despair of seeing defeat turned into victory. And when MacIIwaine gathered the ball from the kick-off and got right through to the line the crowd was inclined to say to itself that it was always like this in Services’ matches and that the home side was going to win on its superior staying powers. But at this moment the visiting forwards came away with a loose rush, and A. D. Stoop, picking up on the line, scored another try, not five minutes after Birkett’s. This time also the kick was easy, and Lambert made no mistake.
What happened next was, from a Portsmouth point of view, pure tragedy. The Services’ forwards rushed the ball the whole length of the field and pinned the Harlequins on the line. A scrum was formed, the ball inserted. If it had emerged S. or even S.E. or S.W. all would have been well.
Unfortunately, urged by the toe of a Services’ forward, it proceeded due N., or it may have been N. by N.E. Anyway, Sibree got it instead of Oakley and passed it to A. D. Stoop. It was not much good to A. D. Stoop where he stood, and he let Birkett have it. Birkett was compelled to reject it for want of space and handed it on to Lambert. And Lambert, starting from his own line, ran right round everyone and placed it between the Services’ posts. It was a real bit of the genuine old Harlequin play and deserved all the applause it got. Lambert again converted.
From this point the Services played up as if this sort of thing was beyond a joke. It was not one of the old-style whirlwind finishes, but it was a good, vigorous effort. The forwards rushed to half-way, where Russell, with one of his fine punts, found touch near the line. From a scrum on the left Oakley got the ball to Davies, Davies passed to Gardner, who dropped a splendid goal with his left foot from a difficult angle.
With about a minute left for play Davies got off in excellent style, but when almost through had practically the whole of his costume removed. After one glance the referee, a supporter of The Times’ campaign against the modern tendency of underdressing, blushed hotly and blew his whistle for no-side.
Nashville Salute: Once again PGW is influenced by American humorist George Ade’s Fables in Slang. In “The Fable of the Base Ball Fan Who Took the Only Known Cure” an easy catch “was fielded like a One-Legged Man with St. Vitus dance trying to do the Nashville Salute.” See also another Wodehouse echo of this fable in football and one in cricket.
Norman Murphy comments: “PG mentions his cousin NA Wodehouse in admiring terms—as well he might. I seem to recall that PG once wrote that he had never met his cousin but he was certainly aware of NA's Rugger fame as England captain six times between 1910–1913. I have met one of NA’s sons. NA himself died in the Atlantic in 1943 as a Vice-Admiral and Convoy Commander.”