Training under lights had been around for a few years but it was 1955 before the first floodlit provincial rugby match took place, and without any interruption to club play.
“The facts surrounding the first New Zealand provincial rugby match played at night have now been unearthed. I raised the issue some weeks ago and asked readers to assist. Thanks to Pat Sheahan, I now have many more details.
The idea of staging the first inter-provincial rugby match under lights seems to have originated from the Whangarei sub-union, with wholehearted support from the North Auckland Rugby Union, whose chairman, Duncan (the Fox) Ross, addressed the crowd at Rugby Park, Whangarei, on the night of Saturday May 7,1955 before the 9.15 kick-off. He welcomed the Auckland team and made reference to their long journey after playing their club matches that afternoon. His friend Tom Pearce, chairman of the Auckland union, replied.
The club matches in Auckland must have taken their toll because there were several changes to the Auckland team from that listed in the programme. Despite having the best of the first 20 minutes, Auckland could not score and at halftime the game was still locked at 0-0.
During the second spell, Auckland tired visibly and North Auckland steamed to a 16-0 lead. Auckland captain Jack Skeen scored between the posts, but the attempted conversion was charged down and North Auckland’s Fred Graham touched down to seal a 19-3 win to the home team.
It had been a bright, open game and the experiment of night rugby under lights was judged most successful. Not only did the match make history as the first inter-provincial game under lights, but surely it would be the only occasion in which all the participants in a representative contest had earlier that same day turned out in club games. And not a mention of that dreaded term “burn out”!”
From “NZ Listener” June 9 2001. Further details not known.
North Auckland 19. F J Graham (2), K A Murphy, P F Jones & R J McEvoy tries. Dixon Wright 2 conversions.
An Auckland XV 3. J R Skeen try.
Referee. Mr C E Shanks (North Auckland).
Whilst the Whangarei match was the first inter-provincial match under lights there had been a previous floodlit first class fixture. Auckland finished their 1953 programme on October 10 with a night match at the Epsom Showgrounds against the Barbarians, and won handsomely 23 – 8.
Auckland 23. R F McMullen (4), R R Cossey, P R Hall and D W Reeves tries. T R N Edwards conversion.
Barbarians 8. Murray Menzies and M R O’Connell tries. K C Stuart conversion.
Referee. Mr R L Burk (Auckland).
D F Menzies, J R Skeen, T J French (Auckland) and L J Dean (North Auckland and Barbarians) played in both matches.