Book tells story of first provincial game

A new book by Dunedin author Ron Palenski has highlighted a game of rugby in Dunedin which had an impact on the rise of the national game.

The book, entitled 1875, When rugby became the game for all New Zealand, is about the first provincial game to be played in New Zealand.

Palenski said the strength of the game in New Zealand came from its structure. Clubs were the same from the far north to Bluff.

After playing for a club, the best players were chosen to play for their province and from there came trials or island teams and eventually players would line up for the All Blacks.

Super Rugby had diluted the worth of the provincial game somewhat.

Palenski said the structure had come about almost by accident.

It was not the brainchild of the administrators or copied from overseas or another sport.

It was driven by the players who organised the first provincial game.

Auckland went on tour in 1875 and played games against an Otago provincial side.

The tour was the catalyst for the South Island unions to decide on what rules to follow and pick a provincial teams from clubs.

Ron Palenski
Ron Palenski
The first provincial game was played at what is now the Oval in Dunedin on September 22, 1875.

The Otago team was a combination of players from the Dunedin and Union clubs.

Auckland wore blue and white and Otago had crimson jerseys with white knickerbockers.

A goal, which consisted of a try and a conversion, was worth six points, while a touchdown, which was a try, was worth two points.

A forcedown, which was when the defending team forced the ball inside its in-goal area, was worth half a point to the opposition.

The match ended in a a good win for Otago and Auckland went on to play teams from clubs further up the country on the way back.

The game against Otago though was the only provincial game as the teams were drawn from more than one club.

Palenski said the game led to other areas in the country adopting rugby rules or making tours which led to rugby becoming the dominant sport in New Zealand.

Add a Comment