July 28 - 1973 Marlborough win the Ranfurly Shield

Marlborough captain Ray Sutherland (partly obscured) raises the shield. Alex Wyllie of Canterbury stands to the left. Copyright Stuff

One of the biggest, perhaps the biggest, upset, in Ranfurly Shield history. For Canterbury, the Shield holders, were one of the powerhouses of New Zealand rugby and Marlborough were a minor union, albeit one with a useful team.

“And what of the game itself, won so stunningly 13-6 by Marlborough? Boiled down, it was a very simple story of one team wasting its many opportunities of scoring and another making the most of what little came its way. On a firm ground but under an overcast sky Canterbury had all the ball in the first half and opportunities galore. But instead of leading by at least 15 points at the interval, as it probably should have, Canterbury found itself 6-all. The try which Duncan Hales scored was converted by Fergie Mccormick and against this Graeme Cocks, Marlborough’s goal kicking lock, had landed two penalties. In spite of its dominance the signs were ominous for Canterbury and the famous hooker Dennis Young was but one who sensed at this point the match was as good as lost for the home side.

Marlborough sensed it, too, and accordingly lifted its game. Under the Sutherlands the forwards rallied and in the midfield backs young Steve Marfell made many crunching tackles on his All Black opposite Ian Hurst and even one on the powerful Canterbury prop Billy Bush. In the final eight minutes Marlborough sent its supporters – it was estimated that of the moderate 15,000 crowd at least 3,000 had come from Marlborough – into a dancing ferment. It was here that first-five Goddard and left winger Ford made their momentous mark on the game.

With eight minutes to go Goddard kicked deep. Canterbury flanker John Phillips booted the ball over his own deadball line and from the scrum on the 22 metre mark the stocky Goddard calmly positioned himself for the drop goal. Marlborough 9, Canterbury 6.

Four minutes later Ford launched himself into one of the most famous runs in all shield history. The ball squirmed from a ruck. Ford grasped it, broke three weak tackles and suddenly 70 metres away the goal- line beckoned. From the corner of his eye Ford knew he had only the great Canterbury fullback McCormick to beat. By now Ford was in full clip. As he neared McCormick he slowed and this was sufficient to make this renowned master of last line defence hesitate. Ford accelerated just as McCormick made his tackle and his powerful legs enabled him to break the grasp. Now Ford was clear and unstoppable. Pounding behind, offering short, terse words of encouragement was hooker Tom Forrest, one of Marlborough’s fastest players and midway between the posts and the touchline Ford scored his try. Marlborough 13, Canterbury 6.

Because it was essentially a team effort Marlborough that day didn’t have any special hero. It had 15 of them, in fact, but if two had to be sorted out it was only natural that it should be the crucial points scorers, Ford and Goddard. By coincidence they had links with Canterbury which were seized upon by some of the Canterbury media representatives. One radio interviewer asked Ray Sutherland how did it feel to have the shield won by two ex-Canterbury men. It was a rather silly question, which invited the obvious retort: How did Canterbury feel to have an ex Hawke’s Bay B representative (Hales) score its only try. However, Ford and Goddard did have just cause to bask in their respective triumphs.”

SHIELD FEVER by Lindsay Knight.Pub. 1980 by Rugby Press Ltd p 229.