August 18 1964. Mid Canterbury 16 Australia 10.


Mid Canterbury in their first match in its own right against an international side and they went in as underdogs. But on a Tuesday match between two tests, in still but bitterly cold conditions, they surprised the rugby world, and possibly themselves, with a deserved win.


Waikato Times Photograph

“Although not endowed with many noted players, Mid Canterbury had a good record in 1964, mainly through an ability to play well as a team rather than relying on a handful of talented players. However, few would have forecast a victory over the Wallabies for the union, even though the tourists rested a number of key men.
Mid Canterbury had a New Zealand Colt Cornelius and New Zealand Junior Davison in its ranks, while long serving fullback Arnie Smith was an excellent goalkicker and a reliable custodian who deserved to go further in the game than he did. The number eight Hanham later played for the South Island.
This was Mid Canterbury’s first match in its own right against an international team, and the game attracted 5500 spectators. It was a hard, thrilling game which at times became over-vigorous, but the visitors’ manager, Joe French, disagreed with press reports that described the game as dirty.
Three minutes after the start Hanham scored from a loose ruck near the Australian line. Smith failed to convert. Twelve minutes later the speedy centre Davison chased a high kick and left the opposition standing to fall on the ball for a try which Smith converted. The visitors opened their account after Trivett had sprinted down the line before putting in a centre-kick. Shepherd gathered the ball and threw himself over under the posts. Casey converted and Mid Canterbury led by 8-5 at halftime.
The second half had been in progress 16 minutes when Lawrence darted away from a serum and chipped a kick over the home line. Hawthorne raced over to ground the ball, and Casey’s conversion gave the visitors the lead for the first time.
Sampson then made a lot of ground with a good run before kicking infield, where the ball came to Fraser. Sampson dashed in to take a pass from his captain and went on to score a try which was converted by Smith. The final points came with three minutes to go when Lawrence threw the ball back to Casey from a serum near the Australian line. The fullback fumbled and Bird was through in a flash to pounce on the ball. This unconverted try sealed the home team’s 16-10 triumph.
Molloy was the outstanding Mid Canterbury back, varying his play nicely and providing good service. Smith was reliable at fullback, and Sampson put in some fine runs on the left wing. Davison, whose father represented New Zealand at rugby league, showed speed that the visitors could not match. Hawkins gave a superb display of tackling. Hanham, Cornelius and Bird were devastating in the loose, and there was some powerful work in the tight from Fraser and Smith.
Hawthorne gave a tidy display for the visitors and looked the best of their backs. Casey, apart from fumbling when Bird scored his try, played well, and Lawrence, although overshadowed by Molloy, had his best game to date. Crittle did splendid work in the lineouts, and Shepherd was a dangerous number eight. Thornett gave his usual excellent display both in set play and in the loose.”

“The Visitors” R H Chester & N A C McMillan, Moa Publications, pub. 1990 p.383-4.