August 23 1952
Waikato 6 defeat Auckland 3.
Waikato had won the Ranfurly Shield off North Auckland in 1951, held it through four challenges that season, then had beaten Thames Valley and Wairarapa in their first two challenges in 1952. The third challenge was from Auckland on August 9 and Auckland were the winners 9 – 0. But Waikato had a match scheduled against the new Shield holders at Eden Park a fortnight later and both the Waikato team and the hyperactive Mooloo club fired up for the occasion.
Recent history between the Waikato and Auckland unions may have been a motivating factor for Waikato fans for this encounter. In 1951 Waikato won the Shield off North Auckland on August 18 and appeared to have some breathing space before their next scheduled home game (and therefore a Shield challenge), against Bay of Plenty on September 1. Auckland and North Auckland were to meet in Whangarei on August 25 in what was, after North Auckland’s loss of the Shield, now just a routine provincial fixture. Those two unions, who were to meet at Eden Park later in the 1951 season, decided not to play on the 25th, with Auckland lodging a Shield challenge for that date. The NZRFU upheld Auckland’s challenge, throwing the Waikato union into something of a panic and race against time to prepare admission tickets, programmes, arrange match officials etc. The Waikato public very much resented what had happened and made their views known on match day. There was a happy ending for Waikato though, the Auckland challenge was repelled 14-6, but possibly the memory lingered into 1952.
“Waikato had a fixture arranged against Auckland at Eden Park for a fortnight later and now this took on all the hallmarks of a holy mission. The Mooloo club now into full stride and it launched itself into organising an all-embracing invasion of Auckland. A special 16-carriage train was arranged and on the day :of the match 40,000, of whom at least half must have come from the Waikato, crammed into Eden Park.
On this occasion there was little doubt that Waikato was the better side and it scored unconverted by McLaren and Cowley to Jack Kelly’s lone
:penalty to end Auckland’s one-match, two week tenure. As one wag of the time put it: Waikato just lent the shield to their big brothers in Auckland to remind thern what it looked like.
The victory was yet another triumph of Everest’s cool-headed approach. “We made sure our forwards got through to their backs this time,” he says. “And did it by not disputing the lineouts as hard as we might. Jack Skeen got a lot of ball for Auckland but that didn’t worry us. It was of very little use to them.”
Everest also made a couple of changes in personnel, resting one or two players who hadn’t showed the required ginger in the match a fortnight previously. One of the players who had been given a spell was the now long serving prop Jim Graham, Just before halftime he had come on when McLaren was injured and the renewed vigour he gave the Waikato pack was a real impetus. “If Jim had a fault as a player it was that he lacked a killer instinct,” says Gordon Brunskill. “But that day for the first time he saw the match from the grandstand. When he came, on he was really steamed up. He could see exactly what was required.”
The team which brought the shield back “home” to Moolooland was: R.A. Adam; J.A. Roberts, D.R. Wightman, J.R. O’Hearn; B.A.C. Cowley, G.R. Brunskill; A.R. Reid; H.C. McLaren (captain); D.R.J. McKenzie, B. Manners, W.A. Anderson, G.P. Nola; C.C. Vowles, E.H. Catley, I.J. Clarke. Early in the match I.N. Kurtovich replaced Wightman and Graham took McLaren’s place just on halftime.
For Brunskill there was one highly amusing incident in this match, one which has contributed to the somewhat legendary reputation McKenzie has in Waikato rugby, particularly for his ability to stretch the game’s laws to their limit. On one occasion Auckland was asked by the referee, Mr F.G.M. Parkinson, whether it would have a scrum or a kick. In a general meelee McKenzie slipped in a “We’ll take kick.” And Mr Parkinson, apparently, thought the words had come from Auckland’s captain Ron Johnstone, Having picked himself up out of a huddle of bodies Johnstone protested strongly, for the scrum, had it been taken, would have been in a position that would have suited Auckland much better. But all the now virtually speechless Johnstone got for his protest was a rebuke from the referee for being so indecisive.
In some quarters, too, there was criticism of the Waikato tactics which, admittedly, were pragmatic to say the least. But Everest and his men were far from contrite. Another of his basic principles as a coach was to make the best possible use of his resources. “If you’ve got a plough horse you don’t take it to the races at Ellerslie,” he says. “Similarly if you had a crack racehorse you wouldn’t make it pull a plough. Another comparison would be if you were the commander of an army. If you’ve got heavy guns you wouldn’t use light infantry — except as a surprise move.”
And so Waikato kept the shield for the rest of the 1952 season, having little difficulty with Manawatu, King Country and West Coast In this latter match winger Jim Roberts scored three tries, but this was not the chief highlight. Overshadowing all else, was the fact that in this game Has Catley made his 100th first class appearance for Waikato, a relatively commonplace achievement these days but much rarer 25 to 30 years ago when teams seldom played more than 10 matches a season. The Waikato union and public made a great fuss over Catley’s feat, but all the celebrations were almost marred by the fact that the champion hooker came close to being ordered off. The referee was Ron Burk, later chairman of the Auckland Rugby Union, New Zealand councillor and manager of the All Blacks in South Africa in 1970. Mr Burk says: ‘In later years Has and I used to joke about it but it’s true all right, I almost sent him off in that match. In those days the hooker had to bind, but Has kept on dropping his arm. I gave him three warnings, then told him, ‘If you want to be ordered off in your 100th game you do that again.’ Fortunately, he didn’t do it again. God knows what the crowd would have done to me if I’d ordered him off. He was their hero. I’m sure I would have been lynched. As it was, I did make one blue in that match. I gave Hugh McLaren a try he shouldn’t have. He was offside and I knew soon after I’d made a mistake. Hughie knew, too. He had a great grin over his face.’”
From “SHIELD FEVER” by Lindsay Knight. Published 1980 by Rugby Press. P. 91-92.