June 13 1908

West Coast win local derby.

Played four days before the Anglo-Welsh touring team were scheduled to meet a combined West Coast-Buller team this was not just a provincial game but also something of a selection trial. Home team West Coast ran out the winner 11 – 4, which in retrospect is a little ironic as the Buller team had the two players who rose to national prominence. One, John Corbett had toured Britain with the 1905/6 “Original” All Blacks, though injuries limited him to just 13 matches. The other, twenty one year old hooker Sam Bligh was two years away from touring Australia with the 1910 All Blacks.


John Corbett - 1905 All Black in the Buller team.


 The interest taken in the annual rep. match between Buller and West Coast was shown by the large crowd that assembled on Victoria Park on Saturday to witness the event. The weather was wretched, and no doubt if the day had been fine the takings at the gate would have been considerably augmented. The total takings amounted to £54. The ground was very heavy and greasy, and under the conditions the display of football was first class. Punctually at three o’clock the teams took the field, and Coast winning the toss Buller kicked off towards the northern goal. Sweetman returned to half way. Wade, Wilson and Payne were soon prominent in the loose, and smart following up saw play in Buller’s 25. Corbett and Bligh were responsible for good work on the line out but a passing rush by McPherson, Hall and Sweetman soon had Buller defending again. From a loose rush the Coast vanguard carried the ball over Buller’s line, but a force down was registered. Immediately after another Coast attack resulted in the visitors forcing down just in time. Continuing to be aggressive, Coast had Buller penned down in their 25, and fast following up by Gomer nearly resulted in a score, Scott saving by forcing. A clever kick by Colvin put the leather out near half-way, where Buller had the best of some line-out play, and a passing rush by Brown, Kerr, Denham, and Colvin further improved matters. From a scrum McPherson set his backs going, and Irving getting possession kicked high. Bad fielding by one of the visiting backs let the Coast forwards down on him, and from a loose scramble Sweetman snapped up the oval and dived over near the posts. Wade converted, but the ball hitting an opponent’s hand the goal was disallowed.

West Coast 3 Buller 0.

On resuming Corbett, Bligh and Dennehey broke away, and a promising chance was spoiled by off-side. The Buller hookers at this stage were getting the ball in the scrums, but it seemed to hang in the back row, and Brown was unable to get it away cleanly, the Coast backrankers and wing giving him a rough time. Cochrane with a kick and fast following up smothered his opponent, but Hogg, Corbett and Dennehey saved the position, and took play to half-way. Another Buller forward rush soon after was carrying all before it, and trouble seemed to be ahead, when Irving, picking up cleverly, ran round the forwards towards Cochrane’s wing. When nearing the threequarter line Irving suddenly swerved into the centre of the field and got right to the full back before he was up-ended, but not before he had transferred to Houston, who scored near the posts. Wade made no  mistake with the kick. West Coast 8 Buller 0.

Buller now became aggressive, and a fine passing rush between Brown, Kerr, Denham and Colvin saw the latter pass to Hales, who knocked forward. A couple of shots at goal from several scrums took place- near the line, but they did not get the ball away from the scrum smart enough to give them a chance to score. A smart rush through the Coast backs by Denham was only stopped near the line, a free kick to Coast giving relief. The Coast gradually worked their way out of difficulty, and when half time sounded play was at half way.

On resuming Buller kept the home team penned in their 25, and Maddison with a smart dash down the line was only stopped near the corner. Wade, Payne and Wilson cleared, and the visitors were driven back to half way. An interchange of kicking ended in Coast gaining the advantage, The Buller backs were fielding very safely, but did not gain much headway with their kicks. A free kick to Coast removed the scene of operations to Buller’s 25, where Sotheran, Wilson and Wade broke away, and Sotheran gathering in cleverly, feinted and was through the Buller inside backs in a flash. When near the line he passed to Sweetman, who taking the ball beautifully, shot in under the posts. However, the tackling of the visitors was solid and Sweetman was held up before he could ground the leather. A scrum took place 5 yards out, the red and blacks coming through with the ball and bringing play to the 25 flag. Some uninteresting play followed for a time, when the visitor’s vanguard came away with a combined rush, but McKay marking, the visitors were sent back to half-way. After a series of scrums and line-outs, in which the visitors showed to advantage, play settled in Buller’s 25. For off-side tactics a penalty was given against Buller, and the ball being placed for Bennett, that player kicked a fine goal from a difficult angle. West Coast 11 Buller 0.

Nothing daunted Buller returned to the attack with increased vigour and were soon in Coast’s 25, where Scott had a pot at goal, the ball just going outside. More line kicking by the home backs kept driving the Buller forwards back. Towards the finish several scrums took, place near the Coast line, but the visitors were unable to register a score. From a force down just as Wade was going to kick out from the 25, the time bell sounded, and that player promptly kicked out of touch. Buller, however, protested against kicking out and Wade took the kick again repeating the performance, for which a free kick was given to Buller. Keeping the ball in play, Brown secured from a scrum, and giving a long pass to Colvin the latter potted a neat goal, the game ending immediately with the score West Coast 11 Buller 4.

Mr Neilsen gave every satisfaction as referee.

Mr S. Orchard, of Christchurch, has been appointed referee in the match West Coast and Buller v. Britain on Wednesday.

The combined West Coast and Bnller players are requested to be present at the Park this afternoon at 2.30. This evening at 7.30 they will meet at the Albion Hotel, and at 7.45 at the shed.

The Buller team were entertained at a dinner at the Albion Hotel on Saturday evening by the West Coast Rugby Union.”


The Teams:

West Coast: Backs – G McKay, C Gomer, F Cochrane, E Irving, W Sweetman, J H Hall, J McPherson.

Forwards – B A Wilson, J P Roberts, M Houston, A Bennett, F C Wade, W Payne, J Anderson, W Sotheran.

Buller:           Backs – G Scott, M Hale, H Maddison, R Colvin, F C Denham, J Kerr. W Brown.

Forwards – E Hogg, J Corbett, S Bligh, D Dennehy, P Hughes, T King, S Wonterbottom, R Layland.


West Coast 11. Sweetman, Houston tries. Wade conversion. Bennett penalty.

Buller 4. R Colvin drop goal.        

 Buller and West Coast first played in 1896 but did not meet again till 1905. This 1908 match evened the win/loss count, two wins each with the 1905 match drawn.

The two unions each played one more match in 1908, Seddon Shield challenges against holders Marlborough, and both were unsuccessful. Buller lost their match 3 – 6, West Coast drew their’s 13 all.

The 1908 meeting was also a trial for a place in the West Coast-Buller team to play the Anglo-Welsh tourists. Of the fifteen that played in the 3 – 22 loss to the Anglo-Welsh, eight were from the Coast, seven from Buller and all had appeared in the June 13 contest.      

Sam Bligh - Buller player who made the 1910 All Blacks.