September 13 1981
The Sunday match between Wellington and Manawatu on September 13 1981 at Athletic Park, won by Wellington 28 – 10, seems at first glance to be a routine National First Division encounter. But it was important in terms of the Championship with both sides well in the running. It attracted the largest crowd (over 24,000) to attend a provincial match in Wellington in over 25 years. Eventually Wellington did take out the Championship, with Manawatu runners-up.
What helped make the match remarkable was the number of players who backed up after playing an All Black test the previous day.
Nine players in the Athletic Park match had appeared for the All Blacks against South Africa in the series deciding “flour bomb” test at Eden Park the day before. They were:
Wellington: Allan Hewson, Stu Wilson, Bernie Fraser and Murray Mexted.
Manawatu: Lachie Cameron, Doug Rollerson, Mark Donaldson, Geoff Old and Gary Knight. Knight in fact had suffered a direct hit from a flour bomb.
The player’s appearance for the provincial teams reflects something of the importance and standing of provincial rugby in the amateur era.