Old New Zealand

...Nelson Football Club Vs Nelson College (1870)...

Charles Monro

On May 14, 1870 at Nelson's Botanical Reserve in a game which is now recognized as the first game of rugby football played in New Zealand, Nelson Foot-ball Club took the field against Nelson College running out the winner by 2-0.

The game had been introduced by Charles Monro, son of Sir David Monro, speaker of the house of Representatives, who had recently returned from studying at Christ's College, London. The headmaster of Nelson College, The Rev. F.C. Simmons, was himself a former student of Rugby School.

Above Left: Charles Monro "The Father of NZ Rugby"

FOOTBALL Match The first match of the season was played on Saturday last. The match was between the Town and College Clubs, eighteen on both sides. This match last year was very closely contested, the game lasting three afternoons, but was finally decided in favour of the Town. Everyone, therefore, expected a good game, and they were not disappointed, far though the College had lost one of their best players since last season, yet they sent a capital eighteen to the ground, and they looked very well in their tight-fitting shirts and blue caps. The Nelson Club was also well represented, though, owing to their having no distinctive uniform, they did not look so well as their opponents. The game commenced soon after two p.m.; the College won the toss, and had the kick off; and now the fuss commenced in earnest. The Collegians came on with a rush, and for some time had it all their own way, till their opponents warmed to their work, and then, bit by bit, the ball was slowly forced behind the College goal, and being touched down, the Town had a kick fifteen yards out, and notwithstanding the charge of the College boys, Drew succeeded in kicking a goal. After a short pause, the sides changed goals, and the game recommenced. The advantage of weight was now seen; most of the youngsters in the College were getting tired, while their adversaries seemed to be just getting into good form, and carried the ball resistlessly along with them towards their enemy's goal. The College played well, and made a hard fight of it, determined not to give up, but at last a sudden rush by Monro and Clark decided the matter, the latter managing to kick a goal. It was not expected that the game would be finished in one afternoon, but no it happened, and there being several lookers-on anxious to play, a fresh game was started, and continued until all had had enough of football for one afternoon. A lot of spectators assembled to witness the game, and seemed to enjoy it as much as the players themselves, laughing heartily at the various spills, &c. A match is in contemplation between the old Collegians and those who have never been to the Nelson College among the Town Club. The day is not yet fixed, but it will most likely come off in about a fortnight.
Courtesy of National Library: Papers Past

In September the Nelson players crossed Cook Strait for a game against a Wellington team, a fixture that had also been arranged by Charles Monro. The match was won by Nelson two goals to one. This match prompted the Wellingtonians to form their own club. In 1881 they played two games against the Armed Constabulary and one against a combined Nelson Club/College side. Match report

Contact oldnewzealand.info