In rugby union's first ever World Cup, hosts New Zealand had their expected easy win in the semi-final. Wales had beaten a dreadful England in the quarters (June 8) but were no match for one of the most formidable teams in history. It took Wales 55 minutes to score their only points - a converted try by centre John Devereux - by which time they were 27-0 down. Within four minutes, Alan Whetton scored New Zealand's fifth try. Wales couldn't even point to the sending-off of lock forward Huw Richards (the first in any World Cup match): there were only 12 minutes left at the time and they were 43-6 down. Enough time for an eighth All Black try and a seventh conversion by goal machine Grant Fox. The New Zealand pack pushed Wales back in the scrums, ruled the lineouts though Whetton's twin brother Gary, and were rampant in the loose, especially the buck-toothed Wayne Shelford, who was the dark heart of the team and scored two tries. Wales limped into the third-place Final, where they unexpectedly beat Australia - but it didn't gloss over what happened today. At the time, it was the heaviest defeat they'd ever suffered. Meanwhile the All Blacks were clear favourites for the final on June 20.
On the same day in 1969, Wales were also put through an All Black wringer. Having lost the first Test on May 31, they did even worse today in Auckland, beaten by a record-breaking full-back and a notorious referee. They began well, going into a 6-3 lead when left wing Maurice Richards outwitted Fergie McCormick and Earl Kirton. But McCormick had the last laugh. At the time, his 24 points were the most scored by one player in an international match between top teams. He converted all three tries, added five penalty goals, and landed a drop goal from 55 yards. But Wales felt they hadn't been given a fair deal again, pointing to the photo of the referee, the dreaded Pat Murphy, jumping for joy as McCormick's drop goal went over! The All Blacks deserved to win, but 33-12 wasn't all their own work. It was their 17th win in a row, a world record equalled on November 28, 1998 but never broken.
Scottish flyweight Walter McGowan won a world title. The rugged little Sardinian Salvatore Burruni had taken it from the highly rated Pone Kingpetch on April 23, 1965, then lost the WBA belt for refusing to fight their top contender. So only the WBC title was on offer tonight. Burruni had successfully defended it, but he'd also lost three non-title fights - and everything else was against him. He was nine years older than McGowan; the fight was at Wembley; and Burruni had to exercise for an hour after failing to make the weight. He simply didn't have enough breath to catch the elusive Scot, who had a powder-puff punch but still won virtually every round, outboxing the tough guy despite an early cut near his right eyebrow. McGowan held the title until December 30.
Steffi Graf was born in Mannheim. Born to play tennis: on her 14th birthday, she lost in the last round of Wimbledon qualifying. She reached the fourth round of the Championship at 15 and 16, lost in the Final to Martina Navrátilová when she was 18, then became champion seven times. Her total of 22 Grand Slam singles titles is second only to Margaret Court, who won the Australian eleven times. Graf was equally good on fast surfaces (winning the US title five times) and slower clay (six at the French). In her giant year of 1988, she won the Grand Slam and the Olympic gold medal. The only other player to win every Grand Slam title and the Olympics was her future husband Andre Agassi.
Max Baer won the world heavyweight title by beating Primo Carnera. He was always the favourite. Carnera was an absolute behemoth by the standards of the time: over 6' 5 and nearly 19 stone. But Baer was no midget himself: a trim 15 stone with the upper back of a blacksmith and a punch that killed an opponent in the ring. Ultimately, Carnera was just a very big target, and all he had to show was courage. Baer knocked him down 11 times (no misprint), one for every round the fight lasted. He didn't defend the title until June 13, 1935, after a year enjoying the feminine attentions a boxing champ attracted.
Phil Jackson became the first basketball coach to win the NBA ten times, guiding the Los Angeles Lakers to a 99-86 win over the Orlando Magic which gave them the finals by four games to one.
Eric Heiden was born in Wisconsin. In 1980, he became the only speedskater to win all five events at a single Winter Olympics, from 500 to 10,000 metres (February 23). He set a Games record in each race, including a world best in the 10,000. He was already the world record holder at the 1,000 and 1500 and beat the world record holders into second place in the 500 and 5,000. Heiden won the all-round world title three years in a row and the sprint title four times before turning to cycling, competing in the 1986 Tour de France. His sister Beth was more successful on a bike, winning the road race at the 1980 World Championships to go with her all-round speedskating world title the previous year. Eric became an orthopaedic surgeon who assisted the USA's speedskating team at three Winter Olympics, including 2010.
New Zealand beat Scotland at water polo. Well, rugby union actually, but you had to see the pitch. Four inches of rain fell in twelve hours, and there were miniature lakes all over the place. Normally the match would have been postponed, but Scotland were flying home the next day and 45,000 spectators had paid to get in, so it went ahead. Scotland were unlucky to concede the first try: Bruce Hay claimed a fair catch which wasn't given, and the All Black pack drove over him to score a try, breaking his arm in the process. His replacement Billy Steele slipped to give away the second try, then Andy Irvine and Lewis Dick collided to give away the third. The fourth raised the biggest laugh: Dick hacked the ball towards touch but it stopped dead in a pond and Bryan Williams picked up to score. Joe Karam did well to convert all four in a 24-0 win. No need for any water-based jokes: the players told them all. Scotland captain Ian McLauchlan: 'Sheer luck that nobody drowned.' All Black counterpart Andy Leslie: 'One of the greatest moments in New Zealand swimming.'
Cuba won their first Olympic gold medal in only the second Games ever held. Fencer Ramón Fonst was only 16 when he won the individual épée. Four years later, he retained the title as well as winning the foil. He remains the only male fencer to win two Olympic golds in the individual épée.