September 2 - 1922 Hawkes Bay shaky start to Ranfurly Shield tenure

Hawkes Bay lifted the Ranfurly Shield for the first time, in 1922, from Wellington and held it until 1927 through a then record 24 defences. But they so nearly lost it in the very first defence, as these book extracts show.

From “SHIELD FEVER” by Lindsay Knight. Pub. 1980 by Rugby Press Ltd p 27.

“Hawke’s Bay 17 — Bay of Plenty 16

Hawke’s Bay faced its first challenge on Saturday, 2 September, at Nelson Park, Hastings. The weather was ideal and 4,000 were present. Play was keen from the start and the game was open and interesting throughout. The scoring proceeded almost alternately, Hawke’s Bay going into the lead just before the interval. 11-10.

Two minutes before time the score was 17-13, and then Alexander scored for Bay of Plenty to make it 17-16, but Boucher missed the kick. Hawke’s Bay were very fortunate to win. Each team scored four tries, C. J. Brownlie, Hingston, Barclay and Blake for the holders, Yates converting one and kicking a penalty goal. Wi Hapi, Borell, Montgomery and Alexander scored for the challengers, McLean and Boucher converting one each.

Hawke’s Bay: Although at this date Maurice Brownlie was again available after the Australia tour, Mr Norman McKenzie decided to play the same team that captured the shield, the only change being that W. R. Irvine replaced Wynn.

Bay of Plenty: J. Rewiti; D. Borell, Wi Hapi, A. Stewart; C. Montgomery, V. W. Wilson; N. Boucher; A. L. McLean (Capt.); J. Oneone, P. Tapsell, L. F. Cupples, J. Courtenay, C. Alexander, S. Parakuka, C. Sargeant.

The referee was Mr H. J. McKenzie of Wairarapa.

Wilson was the ex-Auckland player of 1919. Borell and Cupples had played for North Island earlier this season, and Parakuka had represented New Zealand Maoris. McLean had played against South Africa in the two last tests the previous season.”

‘Three weeks later the Bay faced its first challenger and the shakiness of that opening defence gave little inkling of the long reign that was to follow, for in that match the shield almost changed hands. McKenzie’s judgment wavered for one of the few times, for in a somewhat controversial move he retained the same side which had won the shield from Wellington, making only one change “Bull” Irvine at hooker for Marty Wynn because of injury. Thus Brownlie, the Bay’s greatest forward, was left on the sideline.

It was a move McKenzie quickly regretted, for Bay of Plenty was all over Hawke’s Bay and but for a missed conversion from an easy position right on time would have won. The fright Hawke’s Bay received is best related by McKenzie in an article he penned in later years: “Having won the shield, Hawke’s Bay, after a triumphal return, sat down to await challenges. Ned Parata (a prominent administrator of the time) was in first on behalf of Bay of Plenty. He was a wily campaigner, and had his team in “smoke” for a week prior to the game. His forwards, led by ‘Lex’ McLean, were big and energetic, McLean especially playing as never before or since. In the Bay of Plenty backs was Viv Wilson and his straight running troubled our fellows all day. Right on time Bay of Plenty scored right beside the goalpost, making the score 17-16 in Hawke’s Bay favour. The converting kick appeared to be a matter of course, but here skipper McLean faltered and fell. At first he intended taking the kick himself, then he called Boucher, the halfback, up. This little chap got an attack of the staggers at once. Trembling like a leaf, he placed the ball, with his team-mates tendering plenty of advice. He retired to kick, went forward and replaced the ball, and finally let drive — and almost missed the ball altogether. The sigh of relief that went up could, I feel sure, have been heard miles away. To me, when Boucher was preparing for the kick, the goalposts appeared about a mile apart.”

Andrew McLean, captain and Les Cupples were the sole All Blacks for Bay of Plenty