McLean Park, Napier. Saturday, July 6th, 1968
HAWKES BAY 31, EAST COAST 0 (Half-time: 9 – 0)
For Hawkes Bay: Tom Johnson 2T, Mick Duncan 2T, Blair Furlong T, Doug Curtis T, Bill Davis T, Gary Condon T, Ian Bishop 2C & P
Hawkes Bay: Ian Bishop, Dennis Smith (replaced by Doug Curtis), Bill Davis, Mick Duncan, Ian MacRae, Blair Furlong, Aidan Thomas, Tom Johnson, Gary Condon, Rod Abel, Kaaran Crawford, Kel Tremain, Neil Thimbleby, Gus Meech, Hilton Meech.
East Coast: Ken Gilvray (Tokomaru Bay United), Martin Haua (Hikurangi), Arthur Cross (Waima), John Grayson (Tawhiti) replaced by Johnny Morice (Hikurangi), Murray Haisman (Tauwhareparae), Steven Waenga (Hicks Bay) replaced by David Skudda (Mata) Morgan Awarau (Tawhiti), Robert Penetito (Hicks Bay), Puni Nepe (Ruatoria City), John Manuel (Ngati), Barry Colbert (Tawhiti), Thomas Poi (Ruatoria United), Bill Stewart (Hikurangi), Ian MacDonald (Hicks Bay/captain), Rangituatini ‘Tene’ Henare (Te Araroa Wanderers)
Referee: N (Noel) Scott (Wairarapa) Crowd: 13,292 Net profit to HBRFU: $5,454.92
“Looking at each game, I was particularly pleased with the opening defence against Bush, because it proved that Hawkes Bay could play wet weather rugby. I wasn’t so pleased with the way we went against East Coast.”
Colin Le Quesne (Shield ’68)
The talking point of the week between the Bush and East Coast matches, turned from the lowly rated side from the Eastern Bay’s who would try their luck next at wrestling the prized Ranfurly Shield from the grips of the holder, to very much being about what Marlborough had done to the French in the tour opener on Wednesday. The tourists shaky defeat in Blenheim by 19 – 24, had sent shock waves as far reaching as Napier.
Marlborough – a province severely restricted in senior playing strength – defied the odds against the tourists and turned in a unified performance with a ‘businesslike’ approach, which left the tourists looking back on the match with distress and ahead to the rest of the tour with a good degree of anxiety.
The French appeared to lack organisation, played the match in a rather single-minded fashion and as their tactical errors mounted up, the home side took full advantage. There were several substantial ‘dust-ups’, with blows exchanged willingly and fiercely, which did not help the French cause as they continued to be ineffective and undisciplined, especially when behind on the scoreboard.
The East Coast were to be lambs to the slaughter and everyone knew it. Marlborough, on the other hand, had already started a shield campaign of their own and news of this future onslaught had already reached the good folk of the Bay, made all the more poignant by their victory against the current five nation’s champions.
The East Coast side had recently returned from a four match tour of the lower North Island, with loses recorded against all unions as follows; Bush at Pahiatua (0-8), Wairarapa at Masterton (3-38), Horowhenua at Levin (0-6) and Manawatu at Palmerston North (9-34). After their shield challenge, the season would only get worse for them, losing all eleven outings, culminating in a 8-72 loss at home in Tokomaru Bay against Counties on September 11th.
The team was led by hooker, Ian McDonald, a veteran of over 160 first class games, having also represented Thames Valley and Taranaki. The 34 year old McDonald had received both a North Island trial and an All Black trial in his lengthy career.
33 year old Bill Stewart had captained the combined Poverty Bay-East Coast side against the touring British Lions of 1966 and for he and John Grayson, the 6-9 loss must certainly have been a career high light. Arthur Cross and Martin Haua had played for the aforementioned combined unions against the 1965 Springboks, won by the tourists in their first match in New Zealand by 32-3.
On the morning of the match, the Hawkes Bay players – breaking with tradition – left their hotel and went to watch club matches, scheduled an earlier start than normal owing to the Shield challenge. Neil Armstrong – a reserve for the big game later – turned out for his club side, Hastings. No matter how they tried to prepare for the match, the players found it difficult to mentally get past the hurdle that it was all going to be too easy.
And to Colin Le Quesne’s disappointment, that attitude was taken onto the park. Later, Kel Tremain would also comment that this had been their ‘worst shield performance so far’.
Following all the rain of the previous week or so, McLean Park had dried out remarkably. There were a few patches devoid of grass but the surface was perfect for play. The wind had died away, the sun had come out and memories of 1967 returned once more. But that is where comparisons stop! The fire and zest which this team had become renowned for was certainly missing on this afternoon.
All the pundits were right and the speculation of the majority spot on; Hawkes Bay murdered East Coast. The margin of victory – 31 points – was a record for the current tenure. It was the first time the opposition had failed to score at all. The eight tries scored by the Bay were also the most racked up in nine challenges. The amount of quality possession received was nigh on embarrassing and the ease with which many of the tries were scored, almost in training ground fashion, was borderline farcical. Even Ian Bishop was having an off day, only managing to convert two of the tries.
Tom Johnson was one Magpie to give a very good account of himself and he crossed the East Coast line twice, as did Mick Duncan. Gary Condon scored his first try of the shield series, following big forward surges by Rod Abel and Karaan Crawford. Doug Curtis also dotted down for the first time, after coming on to replace Dennis Smith. Bill Davis scored his obligatory try and right near the games conclusion, Blair Furlong lay under the posts for his first try of 1968.