August 15 1873
Wellington v Nelson
Though the weather was not great and football was still a new sport there was “a very large attendance” for this provincial match. Among the crowd were the Governor Sir James Fergusson and the Hon E W Stafford, formerly both Colonial Secretary and Premier, the latter having also been Member of Parliament for Nelson. The Wellington Independent was there too and reported:
“THE FOOTBALL MATCH
The Interprovincial Football Match between Nelson and Wellington was played on the Basin Reserve yesterday in the presence of his Excellency Sir James Ferguson and a very large attendance, especially of ladies. Conspicuous among those present was the Hon. E W Stafford, who displayed a keen interest in the efforts of his fellow townsmen during the game. The heavy atmosphere and moist looking sky during the fore part of the day were ominous of an afternoon’s dirty play, and so it turned out, a nasty drizzling rain falling almost continuously during the game. Shortly after three the two squads of men out to the ground, all looking as fresh and bright as their uniforms, that of Nelson being especially showy – red stockings, white knickerbockers, white singlets, and black velvet skull cap and red tassel. The Wellington rig was – blue serge knickerbockers and grey stocking, white singlet, heads bare. At a glance it was seen that Wellington had a decided advantage in beef, her team showing an unmistakeable preponderance of avoirdupois weight. Several of their men were also remarkable for swiftness of foot. The Nelson men, however, showed the greatest agility, a fact which struck one as being greatly in their favour(sic) after the ground became sloppy. The Rugby rules were observed, and the game was contested with a sustained eagerness throughout that kept the attention of the spectators riveted during the hour and a half that play lasted. So evenly were the teams matched that it was impossible to say which would get the better of it. The balance of opinion was rather in favour of the superior play of the Nelson men, who seemed to be better organised, and the play in better concert than our own men, though it was noticed that in the excitement of the game their gaol was was left at times so unprotected that a fortunate kick might have scored one against them. The Wellingtons, on the contrary, appeared to be playing for a long time on the self-reliant principle, every man, like the Mamalukes of old, fighting on his own account.
Some remarably good play was noticed on both sides, though it may be thought invidious to make soecial mention of anyone when each exerted himself to the utmost of his ability, Mr Tennent, the captain of the Nelson team, deserves credit not only for his excellent play, but for the way his men were organised. He found a powerful aid in Mr Nicholson, who was always on the alert, and tremendous at a kick. Captain Werry made several desperate attempts to force through the field carrying the ball, but had he ten times the strength, he would have come to grass as ignominiously – an antagonist with the speed of Actaeon and the strength of Hercules could not have forced his way through the Nelson boys, who appeared to be at once handing on to every limb of whoever dared to rush the ball through. Of the many gallant attempts made, one be Riddiford was the nearest success, and it was rewarded with a shout of applause. The result of the game being a draw, the achievements being as nearly balanced as it was impossible to be. Nelson made the first two tries, which was soon followed by Wellington getting a like number. As it was nearing five o’clock, a go was called, and the men started for the booth, covered with mud from head to heel. It is alike creditable to all that under all the excitement of the game not a hard word appeared to have been exchanged; and it was pleasant to see that there was not limper(sic) in the crowd at the finish. This rough game has not been always so fortunate with us.
At eight in the evening, the competitors and a number of invited guests sat down to dinner at the Union Hotel, Mr P Donnecker being the host, and there could not have been fewer than 50 in all. It is needless to say that the dinner was all that could have been expected. It was got up and carried out in first class-style. Mr T Buchanan occupied the chair. After the usual loyal and patriotic toasts had been proposed and responded to, the health of the Nelson team, coupled with that of their active captain, Mr Tennent, was honoured in the usual way. A similar courtesy was displayed towards the Wellington team and Captain Werry, after which the health of Mr T Buchan was proposed, and some eulogistic remarks as to his efforts for the improvement of the cricket ground. About eleven o’clock the meeting broke up in the best of Humour.
We understand that should the weather today be at all favourable, Mr Wrigglesworth will have the pleasing task of ‘taking’ both teams in separate groups. At present the time fixed upon is three o’clock this afternoon.”