May 31 - 1919 Maori Pioneer Battalion v Canterbury

The Maori Pioneer Battalion, having returned from the battlefields of Europe, had 5-6 weeks at home before coming back together and taking on a challenging internal tour of New Zealand. They had beaten Hawkes Bay and Southland but lost to Otago. They went down for the second time, 16 – 6 against Canterbury. It was a game that was in the balance for a long time and was perhaps closer than the score indicated.

It is not an easy tour that the Pioneer Battalion are on. Having played two of the larger unions (Otago and Canterbury), their next matches are against Wellington and Auckland.

The Maori Battalion flag

The Maori Pioneer Battalion team photographed in the UK in February



The first big rugby game of the season attracted a good crowd to the Addington Showgrounds on Saturday, and anticipations of an enlivening display of football were fully realised. Victory rested with Canterbury by a good margin of points, but there was not that much margin between the two teams. The game was played in the best of spirit throughout. The members of the Maori Pioneer team are a very sturdy lot and, generally, they are possessed of much pace. Their play is full of nip, and they throw the ball about with delightful freedom. They were lacking though in the finishing element of combination. Canterbury also had more lone-handed sparklets of achievement than united efforts.

In the early stages the Maori backs displayed acuteness in seizing any opportunity, but the Canterbury forwards held thorn in check. Jacob was prominent in a Maori attack when nice work by Penberthy saved. Murray and Fitzgerald were noticeable in stopping a hurricane attack of the Pioneers led by Gardner. Thompson now distinguished himself by some lovely tackling, and soon after had the honour of scoring the first try of the match. It was rather a lucky one, the ball rebounding from the full-back, but it was a case where following up fast gains the day. Penberthy’s kick at goal was a failure, and so also was an attempt he made from a free kick. With his forwards getting the ball in the scrum, Fitzgerald was given some opportunities to shine. Particularly fine throwing in on the line-out was shown by both teams, and this had the effect of opening up play considerably. It. was a treat to watch the tackling of all the Canterbury men. They went true and hard for their man, and seldom missed. Mullins, Murray and Grant were particularly clever on occasion.

The Maoris’ first score came from a. clever piece of play by Barclay. He secured about mid-field, and cutting in punted high. The bounce of the hall was out of Penberthy’s reach and Barclay gathered in, in lovely style, and scored. A great dash by Wilkinson, the fleet Maori wing three-quarter, saw Canterbury again in trouble, and a red scrum was stove in on the line and Canterbury was forced. The play now become spirited with even scores, and the enthusiasm of the supporters of the visitors was mingled with characteristic cries. A clever kick and dodge by Mullins drove play back to the Maoris’ twenty-five flag. Wilkinson made another strenuous dash for the Maoris, and M’Cormick replied, but was tackled. The Canterbury backs generally were not working well together; in fact, up to this point there had been very little concerted action among them. The Maoris freely attempted passing at all times, but it was of a rather haphazard nature, lobby and indecisive. Grant and M’Leod were busy on these occasions in Rugby Football defensive work, and Penberthy was also found solid. A fine kick by Mullins was the prelude to Canterbury’s second score. A Maori back foozled, and Fitzgerald seized the opportunity. The Maoris came away and started to throw the ball out merrily. Wilkinson seemed in for a score, but M’Leod caught him. Fitzgerald was also handy when the Red forwards broke away, and sent a timely pass to Thompson, which enabled that player to score his second try, from which M’Leod converted, giving Canterbury a lead of 11 points to 3. The Reds then instituted their most pronounced attack of the day. The movement went without a hitch, and when the ball reached M’Leod the Maori defence was shattered and the Christchurch player touched down behind the posts. The Maoris made a strong rally, and Hall, the captain, gained a try after a scramble near the posts.- The remaining portion of the game was briskly contested, but Canterbury stalled off the Maoris’ rushes and won by 16 to 6.

It was anybody’s game up to halfway through the second spell, when the Maoris seemed to tire. They are certainly keen players, and do not spare themselves, but their efforts could be more effectively directed. Speedy they nearly all are. In their full-hack, Hingston, the Pioneers have a most energetic stamp of player. He takes the ball and kicks well, and on Saturday put in many serviceable runs. Wilkinson shone particularly at wing three-quarter, and Barclay and Jacob were prominent among the other backs. The forwards may have had a shade the better of the weights, but both in the scrum and the loose work the local men held their own and at times fairly worried the opposition.

Penberthy at full-back for Canterbury, solidly earned his place in the team. Mullins at wing three-quarters played with plenty of dash throughout, and with Grant at centre expelled many strong rushes by the Maoris. M’Leod scored an exceedingly nice try, but on one or two occasions he was close to being out-generalled by his vis-a-vis. M’Cormick was inclined up to a certain stage to hold on too long to the ball. Most pleasing was the exhibition given by Thompson, the other five-eighth. The Old Bovs’ representative played a sterling all-round game, and thoroughly deserves both the tries he scored. Fitzgerald was ubiquitous, and with the fine pack in front of him, each of whom without exception carried his share of the load, he was given plenty of chances.——-10–1—-0–


Canterbury. Backs: G Penberthy, J C Mullins, R A Grant, A McLeod, A Thompson, D McCormick, E Fitzgerald. Forwards: N Carnegie, H Sparrow, C R Murray, L C Petersen, I C Gray, J Smith, G Chrystall, E H Ellis.

Pioneer Battalion. Backs: L Hingston, H Wilkinson, W P Barclay, A Apanui, W Mapu, G Rogers, M Edwards. Forwards: H Jacob, J Ormond, H Hingston, P Te Urupu, G Gardner, J H Hall, T Carroll, A Auhana.


Canterbury 16: A Thompson (2), E Fitzgerald, A M’Leod tries. M’Leod 2 conversions.

Pioneer Battalion 6: W P Barclay, J H Hall tries.

Referee. Mr J F Peake (Canterbury).