May 14 down the years
The dawn of rugby in New Zealand
A modern painting of the first game of rugby in New Zealand on this day in 1870 ©

New Zealand's first inter-club match was played at Nelson in New Zealand. Town beat College by two goals to nil at the Nelson Botanical Reserve in front of 200 spectators. The Town side played in "street clothes" while the local newspaper tried to explain to readers the differences between rugby and football. "some player runs with it [the ball], and a general scrimmage ensues; it is all shove, pull, rush, and roll about in a confused mass till 'down' is cried, and away the ball goes again till perchance it gets in touch or caught." Rugby had been brought to New Zealand in the late 1860s by Charles Monro, who had picked up the sport while studying at Christ's College in England. While this game was a milestone it would be a further nine years before the first rugby union was formed in New Zealand, with Canterbury coming in to existence in 1879.

Clive Woodward starred for the Lions in the role of goal kicker, landing three penalties, two conversions and a dropped goal in the 28-6 win against a SARA Invitation XV in East London. The match had greater significance as the SARA XV (locally known as the Leopards) was a multiracial side. It had been expected they would be an all-black XV as they had been in 1974, but a lack of black talent meant seven whites were drafted in. As a result, the game was switched from an African township to a designated White area.

Laurence Dallaglio earned bragging rights over Martin Johnson in his final match - as Wasps thumped Leicester 39-14 in the Premiership final at Twickenham. For Dallaglio it was third successive final win, and the third time Wasps had done so after finishing second in the table. "When I woke up this morning all I heard was Leicester, Leicester, Leicester and it gets to you a little bit because we are the champions and people should know our pedigree by now," said Dallaglio.

En route to South Africa, the All Blacks played five warm-up matches in Australia, with two a day on May 14 and 17. On this day at Sydney's Moore Park they beat Queensland 32-3 after shutting out New South Wales 27-0. It was all very low-key, as shown when former Australian Test wing Eddie Stapleton turned out for the New Zealanders against Queensland and scored the first try of the afternoon.

Ciaran Fitzgerald's ill-fated Lions opened their tour of New Zealand with an encouraging 47-15 win against Wanganui. Dusty Hare kicked 21 points and John Rutherford landed two dropped goals.

More than 9,000 packed into Vicarage Road for the final outings of Michael Lynagh and Philippe Sella, and they obliged by helping Saracens to a 43-20 win which took them to the top of the Premiership. The Northampton and Saracens players formed a guard of honour as Lynagh, Test rugby's greatest scorer, and Sella, the most-capped, ran on. There was no happy ending as Newcastle's win three days later secured them the title.

In the Super Ten final in Durban Michael Lynagh steered Queensland to a 21-10 defeat of Natal kicking three late penalty goals. Transvaal had won the inaugural Super 10 the year previously, before Queensland's first win in 1994. They repeated the feat in 1995.

The entire management team at Neath walked out in protest at a decision to accept £1000 sponsorship from British Steel. Brain Thomas, the team manager, led the walkout claiming the company failed to supply him with material to start a new business.


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