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Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.

On the Rugby Field

On the Rugby Field

Prominent Players of the Past

The first Rugby club in Poverty Bay was formed at Ormond in April, 1876, by members of the Armed Constabulary. It was followed by the Gisborne Football Club in July, 1878. Those were the days when a maulin-goal provided a gladiatorial struggle which always greatly pleased the onlookers. A Napier F.C. team (led by W. L. Rees) met Poverty Bay on 26/7/1878 on Captain Read's paddock at Te Hapara. Poverty Bay was represented by J. White, H. te Kani Pere, F. Arthur, C. E. Major, P. H. Bourke, Epiha Parau, J. Regan, E. F. Ward, G. R. Wyllie, G. F. Henderson (captain), G. L. Meredith (author of Adventures in Maoriland in the 'Seventies), H. Humphries, W. S. H. Haig, G. J. Winter and Wi Mackey. Napier won by 4 points (two tries) to nil. In a return match at Farndon on 3/9/1878, W. S. Hart, D. Ferguson and W. B. Mill replaced Ward, Haig and Mackey. Napier again won by 4 points to nil. In 1879 J. W. Nolan was captain, and associated with him were: R. Image, W. B. Mill, H. te Kani Pere, C. E. Major, A. Paine, F. Skeet, J. Sievking, J. White, C. Dunlop, F. Morgan, E. Parau, H. Humphries, T. Halbert and F. Greer. Napier won by 2 points to nil.

In 1886 the Gisborne Football Club decided to adhere strictly to the English Rugby Union rules. The Union Club (formed on 31/3/1886) page 436 also agreed to do so. Captain Tucker allowed both clubs to use a paddock belonging to the Riparata Estate. It became known as “Tucker's Paddock,” and, for a number of years, it was the principal Rugby field in Gisborne. When Poverty Bay met Wairoa for the first time (28/8/1886) the Poverty Bay team was: Full-back, E. F. Sage; half-backs, G. Staite, J. H. Bull (captain) and Higgins; quarter-backs, Symons and Morgan; forwards—Colebourne, Pavitt, Arundel (2), Boland, A. W. Rees, Bourke, Riki and Dunlop. Poverty Bay won, 17–0.

The Poverty Bay Rugby Union (formed on 30 August, 1890) adopted the Auckland Rugby Union rules. By then the Union Club had been replaced by Turanganui Club (formed in 1889). Waimata also had a good team. The first team known as Takitimu was composed chiefly of Muriwai natives. As its forwards were reputed to delight in kicking in the scrums, their opponents usually insisted that they should play without boots! Other country teams also sprang up. In 1892 a lease of Tucker's Paddock was obtained for five years. Affiliation with the N.Z.R.U. followed.

Prominent players in the 1890's included: J. B. Poynter, Rua, M., E. R. and J. R. Murphy, J. Fisher, R. D. B. Robinson, F. Bayly, J. A. Eaton, Ryburn, J. J. Martin, Tutere, Richardson, L. Sherriff, F. Loomb, G. F. Crawford, E. Forrest, Goodall, E. Langford, A. W. and Teddy Rees, Reg. Caulton and E. Rodgers. Caulton had played for Wellington in 1889 against the Native team which had toured Britain, and for Auckland in 1890 and 1891. Joe Martin was a member of the “rep.” team which Auckland sent on tour in 1895. In 1901 the district system (sponsored by W. B. Miller) was adopted, but, after a trial, the club system was reverted to. By 1909 there were clubs as follows: Alhambra, Kaiti-City, Y.M.C.A., West End, United, Gisborne, Red Stars, Muriwai (previously Takitimu, which had united with Huia), Te Karaka, Te Kura and Mangatu.


Lieutenant Autiri Pitara Kaipara was, for some years, Poverty Bay's star inside back. He and Wi Friday made a pair whose trickiness was always a treat to watch. His brilliant play against Auckland in 1909 led the New Zealand Herald critic to remark: “Kaipara delighted the crowd with his bumping, reminding them of Davie Gage.” Whilst he was in Australia with Parata's Maori team in 1910 the Sydney Bulletin described him as being “as sharp as a needle and as slippery as an cel.” In 1913 an Auckland critic referred to him as “The Wizard.” When war broke out in 1914 he at once volunteered. Invalided home from Gallipoli, he spent a few months with his parents at Rotorua, and then rejoined the 1st Maoris, who were then in France, and was posted to “D” Company of the New Zealand Pioneer Battalion. During the wiring of the posts in front of La Basseville on 3 August, 1917, he was killed by a piece of shell whilst assisting to carry Te Tuhi (his wounded batman) into a sap.

Major William Nicol Carson, M.C., became a Poverty Bay junior “rep.” in 1933. During the 1936 season he represented Auckland on seven occasions. The Rugby Almanack of New Zealand selected him as one of the five most promising players for that year. In 1938 he gained North Island honours, and went with the All Blacks to Australia. He was selected for the final trial in connection with the tour of South Africa that had to be postponed in 1939.

In Rugby Recollections (1948) W. J. Townsend, a veteran Welsh critic, says: “If J. R. Sherratt [of Poverty Bay, who toured Britain with the Kiwi team in 1945–46] had been played with the 1905 side behind F. Roberts, and alongside Wallace and Deans, I think he would have proved the greatest wing New Zealand ever brought over to England.”

P. Henderson, a Gisbornite, was playing for Wanganui when he was selected for the All Black team which toured South Africa in 1949.

R. A. White was the first resident Poverty Bay player to achieve All Black rank. He played in both tests against Australia in 1949.

Visits by Overseas Teams

When Harding's Anglo-Welsh team visited Gisborne in July, 1908, the hotels were so heavily booked up that the party had to be split up. According to R. A. Barr (True Story of the Tour), one landlord greeted page 437 his guests from overseas with the remark: “Oh! So you are the British footballers. We've heard about you. I hope that you will behave yourselves like gentlemen!” They did, and profuse were the apologies. The official reception is described as the most loyal experienced by the team. Wi Pere told the visitors:

“As we fought in the past, so we are going to fight again. But, as you have come with love in your hearts, it will be only a fight of sport. Strangers! You will be playing against some of my grandchildren. I warn you that you may be struck down as if by lightning! I say to you: ‘Pakehas, be careful! Welcome! Welcome to you!’”

Poverty Bay was represented by: Dr. Wi Repa; G. Rowe, Graham and Malloy; Kaipara and Watchorn; Brown Turei; Nicolas, Newton, Lowe, Paratene, McKenzie, Scott, Heke and Lyons. The visitors won by 26 points to nil.

1921: Springboks defeated Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay at Napier by 14–8. Poverty Bay and East Coast players in the combined side: Pare Tureia, J. Mill, W. te Whata, Tom Heeney, W. J. Langlands and E. G. Torrie. In the match Springboks v. Maoris. Tureia captained the home side. Springboks won, 9–8. New South Wales defeated Poverty Bay, 26–8, in 1921.

1923: New South Wales lost to Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay, 15–32.

1925: New South Wales defeated Poverty Bay-East Coast, 11–3.

1930: Prentice's British team defeated Poverty Bay-Bay of Plenty-East Coast, 25–11.

1937: Springboks defeated Poverty Bay-Bay of Plenty-East Coast, 33–3. Eric Grant, who played for the combined side, became a member of the New Zealand Universities' team which toured Japan, and, during World War No. 2, he was selected to play for Scotland.

1946: Australia defeated Hawke's Bay-Poverty Bay, 19–11.

1949: Australia, 20; Poverty Bay-East Coast, 12.

Ranfurly Shield Contests

Poverty Bay has played five challenge matches for the Ranfurly Shield:

1911: v. Auckland, lost, 10–29, after leading at the interval by 4.3.

1913: v. Auckland, lost, 3–27. S. S. Dean (the manager for the Poverty Bay side) became the manager of the 1924 All Blacks, who toured the British Isles, France and Canada without losing a match.

1923: v. Hawke's Bay, lost, 0–15.

1924: v. Hawke's Bay, lost, 10–46.

1948: v. Otago (played in rain and on a soggy ground), lost, 0–40. In 1947 Poverty Bay had provided 12 members of the Poverty Bay-East Coast team which defeated Otago at Gisborne in a non-shield match by 20–8.

Interpro. Contests

In “Interpro.” contests Poverty Bay has fared as under:

v. East Coast—1923, won 19–18; 1924, won 18–6 and 16–3; 1925, won 14–12 and 24–8; 1926, lost 11–14; 1927, won 11–6 and 16–6; 1928, lost 7–9 and won 13–3; 1929, won 26–3 and 19–17; 1930, won 11–9 and 16–14; 1931, drawn 11–11; 1932, lost 3–12, won, 21–11; 1933, lost 7–12, won 19–14;; 1934, won 31–0 and 25–21; 1935, lost 9–10 and 13–19; 1937, won 13–11, lost 13–17; 1938, lost 10–15, won 20–13; 1940, won 13–3; 1947, won 13–0 and 15–12; 1948, won 17–5 and 14–8; 1949, won 19–11 and 11–6.

v. Manawatu—1924, won 20–9.

v. Wanganui—1900, won 3–0; 1926, won 10–6; 1936, lost 10–13; 1937, lost 11–29.

v. Bay of Plenty—1920, lost 0–8; 1922, lost 11–12; 1924, won 24–9; 1926, won 22–6; 1920, won 22–8 and 16–9; 1930, won 31–14, lost 3–29; 1931, won 19–17, lost 12–14; 1934, lost 5–11; 1935, lost 12–16; 1937, won 25–11; 1939, won 11–8; 1940, lost 18–20; 1947, won 17–3; 1948, lost 9–10; 1949, lost 9–13.

v. Wairarapa—1927, lost 17–20; 1935, lost 3–12; 1937, won 14–11; 1939, lost 3–17; 1947, won 11–6; 1949, won 12–6.

v. Wellington—1894, lost 5–19. v. Wellington Colts—1933, lost 8–30; 1936, won 19–16.

v. Bush Districts—1909, lost 0–9; 1910, won 17–3; 1924, won 6–3; 1925, won 50–12; 1939, lost 6–14; 1947, won 8–7.

v. Canterbury—1887, lost 0–3; 1948, lost 3–12.

v. Otago—1948 (Ranfurly Shield), lost 0–40.

v. Southland—1948, lost 5–20.

v. Thames Valley—1931, won 23–3; 1934, won 9–8.

v. Auckland—1895, lost 0–14; 1907, lost 3–14; 1909, lost 8–12; 1911 (Ran furly Shield), lost 10–29; 1913 (Ranfurly Shield), lost 3–27; 1925, lost 6–11; 1926, won 17–14.

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v. Hawke's Bay—Of the 44 contests held since 1892, Poverty Bay won 15, lost 23 and 6 were drawn.

v. Taranaki—1890, drawn 1–1; 1929, lost 6–19.

v. Waikato—1929, won 16–3.

v. Tai-Rawhiti—1936, won 18–8.

v. Seddon Shield Districts—1926, won 31–14.