April 25 1966
First Anzac Day match.
Anzac Day has been observed in various forms in Australia and New Zealand since 1916, initially to remember those who died in the conflict on Gallipoli. It has evolved to commemorate all servicemen and women.
Observance was for many years quite strict, shops and businesses closed, newspapers did not publish, sports grounds were also closed. But in the 1950s and 1960s attitudes changed somewhat and in 1966 the first Anzac Day provincial game of rugby was played, in Greymouth, between West Coast and Canterbury.
West Coast have had their successes against the much larger Canterbury union but 1966 was not one of them. Canterbury, with four All Blacks in their pack and an All Black backline proved far too strong, winning 41 – 0.
Scorers: Canterbury 41. A G Steel (3), W F McCormick, W M Birtwistle, N G Cornelius and I H Penrose tries. D A Arnold drop goal, McCormick 3 pen., 4 conversions.
West Coast 0.
The two unions met again on Anzac Day 1967, with Taranaki and Wanganui also playing on that day. In subsequent years there have more matches involving those unions and others. But with April 25 early in the season the number of representative matches on that date was never large and now, with a more structured provincial programme, only Super Rugby and club rugby are played on Anzac Day.
Prior to World War I April 25 was just another date, with matches played when it fell on a Saturday. One such match took place in 1874, the year rugby started in Taranaki.
“Taranaki Club and Country Club next played, the match being decided at Poverty Flat, New Plymouth, on April 25, Taranaki Club again getting three touch downs to win the contest. In this area, three touch downs were counted as equal to one goal, and would count in the event of no goals being obtained. This match was 15 a-side, the teams being: — TARANAKI CLUB: A. Drew (Capt.), R. J. Matthews, W. H. Cook, W. H. Skinner, R. J. Collins, L. McDonogh, E. D. Norris, W. C. Chilman, C. Moon, A. Hoby, S. Curtis, F. King, J. Ainslie, N. King and J. Russell; COUNTRY CLUB: G. W. Potts (Capt.), R. Stevens, J. C. Adams, S. J. Cox, J. Blake, C. Barriball, S. H. Barriball, J. Dingle, C. Curtis, R. Honeyfield, J. Cunningham, G. Cunningham, G. D. Draper, R. Pitcairn and G. Newman. Draper had previously played for Taranaki Club; Adams had played for Egmont Club. The Taranaki Herald (New Plymouth), Wednesday, April 29, gave this report: —
‘It took but a very short time for the players on both sides to become warm and desperate in their endeavours to gain a goal.
Although this was somewhat of a rough game, and notwithstanding the number of collisions, yet no accident occurred beyond that to Mr. W. H. Cook, who, diving into the thick of the fight, got slightly lamed. There is no denying that the Country players have not had much (if any) practice, or the result might have been different; but by this match the members of the Taranaki Club have fairly established themselves as the champions of the Province.’”
From “The History of New Zealand Rugby Football Vol. 1 1870-1945” by A C Swan. First published 1948 by A H & A W Reed. P. 23.