Red roses for a white Russian. Crimson blooms of English rugby’s conventional floral emblem will this weekend start to be strewn on or around the imposing new statue in Ipswich’s Cromwell Square. Previous Saturday night in Paris, romantics could be forgiven for imagining the England rugby team’s sudden invigorating try out out of the blue and down the still left touchline could itself have been an emphatically colourful stroke of remembrance in apt commemoration of the notable imminent jubilee.
Prince Alexander Obolensky, son of an officer in Tsar Nicholas’s Imperial Horse Guard, was sent to Britain as a toddler to escape the Revolution. At Trent School he made a mark in the Midlands as a schoolboy sprinter. At Brasenose he won the first of his two Oxford Blues in 1935, ever before intriguing the gossip columns by the range and dazzle of culture ladies on his arm as effectively as his habit of gaily downing champagne and a dozen oysters just before Oxford’s matches. On the area, “he glides with the simple sinuosity of an antelope at complete speed”, wrote top sportswriter EHD Sewell.
The All Blacks toured in the winter season of 1935‑36 and England, who had never once beaten them, waited with trepidation on the 1st Saturday in January. Twickenham place up boys to perform the males: twenty-calendar year-outdated Barts healthcare student Peter Candler at fly-50 % two 21-year olds at centre, Peter Cranmer, Warwickshire cricketer and potential journalist and Ronnie Gerrard, Somerset batsman and quickly-to-be posthumous war hero – and Oxford’s devil-may-treatment 19-yr-old with the vivid corn-stoop hair and smile to match on the appropriate wing, who would at as soon as carry the 70,000 throng to its ft by nervelessly displaying New Zealand a thoroughly clean pair of heels for England’s opening try at his appropriate corner flag.
Just prior to fifty percent-time arrived the score to smithereen the bounds of orthodoxy with which the British video game had saddled itself – and happily there was a British Movietone information camera in the West stand to document in flickeringly fuzzy sepia Obolensky audaciously stepping in off his wing to alter left into appropriate in a stride, and outrageously wrong-foot the cover which, to a male, screechingly had to pull up like infuriated cartoon cats. The dashing boy was off and absent, untouched, to the left corner and immortality.
3-quarters of a century on and Obolensky’s so bonny, brazen and singular sally stays so firmly embedded in lore that the most venerable of aged timers insist it is even now bestest of the ideal at any time noticed at Twickenham. Much better than the merry dance England’s Peter Jackson led Australia in 1958 or the dazzling Twickenham brace by two other Englishmen – each against Scotland: Richard Sharp’s string of dummies in 1963 or Andy Hancock’s marathon gallop two many years on. Yep, greater even than David Duckham’s spring-heeled solo, a Barbarian sinking the Springboks in 1970 or Saint-André’s sealing of France’s epic from England 20 seasons later on. Or Rory Underwood’s polished gem towards Scotland in 1993 Obo even bettered the day Jonah Lomu still left white shirts floundering, flattened in his wake with his fearsome 50-yarder in 1999.
On the outbreak of war, Obolensky started training as a pilot with the RAF’s 504 squadron – but on 29 March 1940 he grew to become the very first of 111 rugby internationals to eliminate their lives in the conflict when, taxiing on landing his Hawker Hurricane on the turf airfield at Martlesham Heath, east of Ipswich, the aircraft’s wheels snagged a rabbit warren and, possessing loosened his harness, the pilot was catapulted out of cockpit and, in an immediate, had broken his neck.
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