September 23 - 1959 Shield goes from South to North

Southland won the Ranfurly Shield from Taranaki on September 5 with a clear cut 23 – 6 (four tries to nil) victory. With a strong side and just one challenge to face, from Auckland who were not having a great season, there was every chance Southland would be able to tuck the Shield away over the summer. But, Auckland came good on the day.

Wilson Whineray - Auckland captain

Robin Archer - Southland captain

To take the shield Auckland beat Southland 13-9 and this was a notable victory for Southland had a useful side in those days. Indeed Southland went into the match as favourite for in taking the shield it had handed a comprehensive thrashing to Taranaki, winning 23-6.

Just 11 days before its challenge Auckland played Taranaki at New Plymouth, winning by only 9-6. One of the Auckland forwards, Albie Pryor, recalls the Taranaki men painting a gloomy picture of Auckland’s chances against Southland. “Apparently, the Southland pack had been shoving the Taranaki forwards back yards at a time,” Pryor says. “They were convinced in Taranaki we didn’t have a show.”

“But I can remember before we played Southland and Wilson Whineray, who was our captain then, giving us a team-talk with his last words he called for a supreme effort and that’s exactly what we gave.

And Fred Allen rates that shield win as perhaps Auckland’s finest performance in all of its era, greater even than when the side was at its peak in the 1961-62 seasons. “Southland technically were a very fine side then with a well drilled pack and good backs. They were a little stiff to strike us so early and when they themselves had a bit of an off day. Had they got past us they would have held the shield for a very long time.”

As it was, Auckland did have quite a battle lifting the shield. Within five minutes it was down 0-6 as a result of two penalties by Lloyd Ashby, Southland’s fullback. Auckland hit back with tries by Terry Lineen and Steve Nesbitt, which Tony Davies converted. At 6-10 down Southland threw off some of its lethargy and Wilson Whineray recalls: “They started getting into us with their forwards. Indeed, they were beginning to barrell us.” Another penalty by Ashby made it only one point the difference, but then Paul Little scored Auckland’s final try to seal it at 13-9 and to give, incidentally, Auckland’s Marist club a big hand in the successful challenge. All three try scorers were members of its club.

Auckland’s winning team was Davies, Lyn Russell, Little, John Sibun, Lineen, Nesbit, Tony Edgar, Whineray, Graham, Pryor, Dave Caughey, Maunga Emery, Snow White, Frank Colthurst and Geoff Perry.

Davies, Little, Lineen, Nesbit, Whineray and White were either All Blacks or were to become All Blacks, while Emery soon after was to switch to rugby league and become a Kiwi international.

Joint manager of the Auckland team with Arthur Main was Ron Burk, then deputy Chairman of the Auckland union to Tom Pearce. ……………………For years after Burk would make many business trips back to Southland and says the Southlanders would never let him forget what they considered to be the ploy which lost them the match. “Everytime the game was mentioned they’d straightaway get onto what they called ‘Pryor’s Hollywood’. They reckoned Albie Pryor had pretended to be injured just at a crucial time when they were putting the pressure on. They were hot about it for years after. But I must say they lost the shield with a tremendous grace even though, since it was their first defence, it must have been a big disappointment to them.”

From “SHIELD FEVER” by Lindsay Knight. Published 1980 by Rugby Press. p. 140-141.

  • On Aucklands initial success over Southland
    “I never experienced a public so much behind its team as that of Southland, not even Waikato’s when Mooloo was at its peak. In Southland they had their own mascot, a bantam. And they used to have this special crow of what I think they called, ‘Banty’. At the time I remember in Invercargill on the local radio station they had all these little jingles going all the time. Someone would ask, ‘Where will Lineen and Little (Auckland backs Terry Lineen and Paul Little), be tomorrow?’ And someone else would reply, bursting into song, ‘Underneath the Archers’ a reference to Robin and Watson, of course, the five eighths brothers in the Southland team. The last 12 minutes of that match were the most hectic I’d known in my life. Southland just kept winning ruck after ruck and were running us from one side of the field to another. There was a certain bit of acrimony from the Southland side because during this period Albie Pryor suddenly went down with an injured ankle. They still call it ‘Pryor’s Hollywood’ down there. Was Albie injured? I don’t know, but I do know it was a hell of a good time for him to be injured. It gave us a breather and we really needed. it. Southland were very disappointed to lose it naturally. They hadn’t seen the shield for a while and they did have a very good team. But we had done our homework on them very well. We knew they were good at wheeling scrums, for example, and had counters for this.”

Ibid p. 161. H L “Snow” White’s recollection of Auckland’s 1959-63 Shield tenure.

The Southland View.

It then returned home to await the final game of the season, a challenge from Auckland, 11 days after the Manawatu game.

With Southland on a high the public went wild and the mascot, Banty, was in full throat. Some felt his use on the Southland radio station was overdone on the day of the challenge and played into Auckland’s hands.

Southland lost the Shield in that game, going down 9-13 and the reasons offered have been many.

Ward (Ron Ward, Southland selector/coach and a 1936-7 All Black) said Southland lacked a game at home. East Coast had been supposed to come south but was unable to afford the trip. “That was something I could never understand. The SRFU should have considered flying them down. Even though we were training we were not getting the hard physical contact necessary.”

In the game itself Ward had issued the instruction: “If you are in Auckland’s half hold it.” He felt that the way Ashby was kicking it would have produced some points. “But they held it in every scrum in the first half. Robin was the captain on the field but he didn’t change it.

“The Auckland captain, Wilson Whineray, was quick to realise what was happening and Auckland just screwed the scrum to muck up our possession and get the put in.”

Grieg Spencer shared Ward’s view about the gap between games. But he added that the SRFU had made a mistake getting the team together for lunch before the game.

“You can’t blame them, they thought they were doing it right. Even if we had arrived half an. hour before the game it would have been better. When you’re talking tactics with a team there are only two or three players that you are concerned with. They had us at the ground too soon but they did it because that was what the Taranaki people had done,” he said.

Miller’s comment was: “When we got onto the bus to go to the ground we knew we had lost it. If the game had been at 11 am. that day they wouldn’t have seen us. We got worked up then, but by 2.30 p.m. I could have gone and had a sleep. Getting together beforehand was a thing we were never used to. I felt sorry for the people of Southland who had backed us. There was no lack of fitness involved.” he said.

From “Something to Crow About” by Lynn McConnell. Pub. 1986 by Craig Publishing Co. Ltd. P.84-87.