Geoffrey Rees-Jones

Welsh rugby international whose two tries against New Zealand made history
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The Independent Online

Geoffrey Rippon Rees-Jones, rugby player and schoolmaster: born Ipswich, Suffolk 8 July 1914; Assistant Master, Eastbourne College 1936-38; Assistant Master, Marlborough College 1938-54; Headmaster, Bembridge School 1954-58; Principal, King William's College, Isle of Man 1958-79; married 1950 Unity McConnell (née Sanders, died 1992; one son, one daughter); died Douglas, Isle of Man 12 September 2004.

One of the players who helped make Welsh pre-war rugby history, Geoffrey Rees-Jones, just like his England counterpart Prince Alexander Obolensky, became known as the man whose two tries defeated the 1935 New Zealand tourists. On 21 December that year, Rees-Jones collected his brace in a 13-12 Wales win and 14 days later Obolensky collected two as England won 13-0. Neither man ever scored another international try.

Geoffrey Rippon Rees-Jones, rugby player and schoolmaster: born Ipswich, Suffolk 8 July 1914; Assistant Master, Eastbourne College 1936-38; Assistant Master, Marlborough College 1938-54; Headmaster, Bembridge School 1954-58; Principal, King William's College, Isle of Man 1958-79; married 1950 Unity McConnell (née Sanders, died 1992; one son, one daughter); died Douglas, Isle of Man 12 September 2004.

One of the players who helped make Welsh pre-war rugby history, Geoffrey Rees-Jones, just like his England counterpart Prince Alexander Obolensky, became known as the man whose two tries defeated the 1935 New Zealand tourists. On 21 December that year, Rees-Jones collected his brace in a 13-12 Wales win and 14 days later Obolensky collected two as England won 13-0. Neither man ever scored another international try.

Geoffrey Rippon Rees-Jones was born in 1914 in Ipswich of Welsh parents. His father became a senior history teacher and his two sons were educated at Ipswich School. Geoffrey went on to University College, Oxford, reading Mathematics and Physics and gaining rugby Blues in 1933, 1934 and 1935, in which time Oxford won 5-3, lost 3-28 and drew 0-0.

Rees-Jones joined London Welsh and won his first Wales cap against England in a 1934 loss, but did play in a victory over Scotland. In 1935 he only appeared against Ireland in the Championship, but appeared in the Middlesex Sevens final as his club lost to the Harlequins 10-3.

In the New Zealand Test at Cardiff, Wales were 3-0 down at the interval until Rees-Jones cross-kicked for Claude Davey to score and then he went over after a break by Wilfred Wooller. New Zealand again led at 12-10 until two minutes from time, when another brilliant Wooller run and kick saw the ball elude both Wooller and the New Zealand full-back Mike Gilbert on the icy pitch. As they fell into the straw, Rees-Jones caught the ball and dived over for the winning score.

He played in just one more international, his fifth, against Obolensky, in a 0-0 draw at Swansea in 1936, then he played a bit of cricket for the Cryptics and the Gentlemen of Suffolk, and rugby for the Eastern Counties, before becoming a schoolteacher.

In the Second World War, Rees-Jones served as a brigade major in the 4th Commando Brigade and was mentioned in dispatches. He later taught at Marlborough College, then in 1954 became Headmaster of Bembridge School on the Isle of Wight. From there in 1959 he moved to become Principal of King William's College on the Isle of Man, where he remained until retirement in 1979. Serving under him was his great friend Ian Turnbull, who recalled:

At the age of 63 Geoffrey played on the wing for the staff against the Colts. I and another master at centre ensured he was closely guarded, but when we gave him the ball with

10 yards to go we noticed a glint appear in his eyes. He went for the try, but half the Colts pack leapt on him and he broke two ribs.

After the death of his wife, Unity, in 1992, Geoffrey Rees-Jones lived alone until a few days before his 90th birthday, when he fell in his garden and was taken to Douglas Hospital, where he died last week.

Howard Evans

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