September 9 1882

1882 – RUGBY TOURS TO NEW ZEALAND BEGIN

There had been rugby played in New Zealand previously by overseas teams, eg ship’s crews, armed forces personnel, but the seven match visit by the 1882 New South Wales was a significant first for the game in this country.

  FIRST MATCH IN NEW ZEALAND BY A TOURING TEAM

Joe Warbrick - Auckland fullback.

“The history of visiting rugby teams to New Zealand began from an initiative taken by the Southern Rugby Union (from 1892 the New South Wales Rugby Union) to issue an invitation in 1881 for a New Zealand side to visit Australia in 1882. This invitation was sent to the Wellington Rugby Union, whose secretary, Arthur Bate, had trouble in interesting the Canterbury and Otago unions in the proposal.

Bate then wrote to Sydney advising of his lack of progress and suggested that the New South Welshmen might instead prefer to visit New Zealand. This suggestion was agreed to, suitable financial arrangements were approved in Sydney, and an itinerary was arranged, commencing in September 1882 with a match against Auckland.

New South Wales played their first-ever match on 12 August 1882 against Queensland in Sydney. Following this match, more than 30 leading players from the colony handed in their names to be considered for selection for the touring team but several had problems obtaining leave. Finally, a side of 18 was chosen, but at the last moment three of the side, C. Rygate, F. Butler and I. Logan, were unable to go.

The team that departed on the Rotomahana from Sydney on Thursday, 31 August 1882, numbered just 16, including a player-manager, Ted Raper, who also acted as captain, and a secretary, R. Thallon (one of the forwards). Six of the team were from the University club, there were three each from Wallaroo, Redfern and Balmain, and a sole representative of the St Leonard’s club.

The welcoming arrangements in Auckland on 6 September were complicated when the Rotomahana went aground coming up the harbour. The reception committee, consisting of T. Henderson, J.M. Sibbin and RE. Isaacs, travelled down to Mechanics Bay by Devonport ferry and were dropped on board shortly after 9.30 a.m. The visitors were eventually ferried ashore and conveyed to the Royal Mail Hotel. Initial impressions gave the view that the New South Weishmen appeared to be light in weight, but they were reported fit after a pleasant crossing.

Their first match against Auckland Provincial Clubs, scheduled for the following Saturday, was played at the Auckland Domain and decided over four half-hour spells. Scoring during the tour gave two points for a try, three for a conversion and four for any other goal. McClatchie was the umpire for the visitors and A.H. Cotter for Auckland, with W.W. Robinson as referee.

Prior to the match, to the great delight of the spectators the visitors had their photo taken by a local photographer, Mr Hanna.

Soon after three o’clock Raper won the toss and the visitors chose to play with the sun at their backs. Rain had fallen during the morning but conditions for the match were reported as fair.

The Auckland captain, Tim O’Connor, kicked off. In the opening moments hard forward play was coupled with some clever play from the visitors’ backs. However, the local forwards were generally faring better and Auckland enjoyed a clear territorial advantage. Bob Whiteside, playing in his first big match, made an early impression and put in some telling runs. However, when the first half-hour spell ended there was no score.

Raper kicked off on the resumption and shortly afterwards Auckland opened the scoring when Henderson and O’Connor drove the ball over the visitors’ line. Flynn, the New South Wales halfback, slipped as he tried to force down, and Biggs, the Grafton loose forward, was following up and scored a try which Ryan converted. Another try quickly followed after some good passing by the Auckland backs, with Sims on hand to go over. This time Ryan allowed too much for the wind and the conversion went wide. The second spell ended with Auckland leading 7-0. No further scoring followed in the final two spells. Ryan kicked a long dropped goal but play was recalled for a previous infringement.

Although the home team had enjoyed a decided advantage in the forwards, the lighter New South Weishmen had shone in the backs, where their handling was thought to be superior to that shown by the home team, with the exception of Whiteside.

The teams were driven in drags to town for a bath and to dress for a banquet, held at the Star Hotel. The mayor, J. McCosh Clark, presided over the gathering and the Artillery Band in an adjoining room played suitable selections during the evening.

The visitors were taken on a fishing trip down the harbour, and visited a thoroughbred stud at Otahuhu before departing from Onehunga for Wellington by the Hawea. Raper, who had retired with a nasty cut to his head during the match after a collision with Sibbin, was reported to be recovering.”

“The Visitors” R H Chester & N A C McMillan, Moa Publications, pub. 1990 p.17.