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Pioneers of rugby in Wellington: 015 H.H. Dawson

H.H Dawson (in the Wellington team shot in 2010 above, front row second from the left) appears to be the first player to have scored four tries or more in a first-class rugby match for Wellington.

Operating on the left wing, and out of the Wellington College Old Boys club, H.H. Dawson achieved this feat when scoring four tries for Wellington against Southland on 17 September 1910.

Wellington won the match 60-0, with All Blacks Teddy Roberts (Melrose) also scoring a hat-trick in this match and Dawson’s WCOB teammate Harry Avery scoring two tries in the 14-try romp.

At the time, this was Wellington’s biggest margin of victory (by 60 points) but fewer points than the 62 (62-9) they had scored against Wairarapa in 1906.

It seems Dawson could have scored more than four tries as well – all four of his tries coming by early in the second half and the last of which putting Wellington ahead 31-0. He was involved in at least one more try but the other 29 points were scored elsewhere on the park.

In its report of the game on the Monday, the Dominion carried this assessment:

Dawson played for Wellington representative sides in 1905, 1907 and 1910.

His first recorded representative try was for Wellington “B” against Horowhenua in 1905. He scored his maiden “A” team try that same season against Taranaki in a 6-0 win.

The next four years of Dawson’s career are sketchy. He played some games for Wellington in 1907 and turned out for his club WCOB in these years, although he is missing from their famous 1909 team photo that includes later Sir Bernard Freyberg, perhaps out of action with injury or work commitments. At the start of 1909 he was in WCOB’s team that won the WRFU seven-a-side tournament.

But Dawson was firing on all cylinders in 1910, his four tries against Southland part of his record of 10 tries in nine first-class games for Wellington that season.

This included scoring a try for Wellington in their 17-26 loss to the All Blacks on 3 June, another one for Wellington in their 8-8 draw with the Māori All Blacks on 20 July and two for Wellington against Whanganui in their 24-3 win on 27 August.

Moving into September 1910, Dawson went from hero to zero and back to hero in the space of a few weeks.

Dropkick in the Evening Post noted that the “nuggety Old Boys’ three-quarter has improved so much that he is now our best winger,” after scoring his four tries the following weekend against Southland.

The next Saturday Wellington beat Otago 19-6 but Dropkick’s praise for Dawson turned to sharp criticism after he dropped several passes and seemingly bombed several more tries.

Dawson read his press and came out and played much better against Canterbury and came up with two more tries in this match. Wellington beat Canterbury 26-9.

Dawson made the North Island team in 1910, that played the South Island side, along with Wellington players R. Leahy, E. Perry, T. Rapson, H.E. Avery, E.J. Roberts, H. McLeod, T.M Grace and F.E. Mitchinson. The South Island won 14-10.

In terms of try scoring, the first player to score four tries in an inter-union match in New Zealand was Peter McDonnell: for Whanganui against Manawatu at Whanganui on 9 July 1886.

Dawson was the first to cross the line four or more times for Wellington in a first-class rugby match, but there were several other instances of others following him whilst playing for Wellington over the next three decades or so leading up to the outbreak of World War two.

In 1913, C.T. Young (out of the St James’ club) crossed for four tries for the Wellington “B” side against Hawke’s Bay in an 18-0 win.

Then in 1920, George Aitkin (University) had a hot fortnight. The centre who would captain the All Blacks in two tests against South Africa the following year scored four tries in a 24-3 win for Wellington against Wairarapa in Masterton on 26 June.

The following week, Aitkin scored two tries in a 22-3 win at home against Bay of Plenty. This was Wellington and BoP’s second ever encounter. In their first in 1912 Wellington prevailed 24-9 and C.T Young scored a hat-trick in that game.

In 1923, K.S [Kenneth] Svenson (Athletic) scored four tries for Wellington in their 22-9 Cooks Gardens win over Whanganui on 12 September of that year. This was a sort of homecoming for ‘Snowy’ Svenson, who was educated in Whanganui and who he made his first-class debut for in 1918.  He played four tests and 30 matches for the All Blacks between 1922 and 1925. Svenson also scored two hat-tricks for Wellington, against Taranaki in 1925 and against Auckland in 1926. The latter game against Auckland was as part of a losing cause, Wellington going down 12-16.

Then in 1929 Bill Elvy (Petone) broke the record again for most tries in a first-class fixture by an individual for Wellington. Elvy crossed for five of nine tries in Wellington’s 35-7 win over Southland. Ely also scored a try against Otago three days later and a week after that scored a hat-trick against Canterbury in a 34-6 win in Wellington. Elvy was born in Canterbury so must have enjoyed toiling with the South Island provinces.

Moving along to 1933 and J.L. [Jack] Griffiths (Poneke) scored four tries for Wellington in a 44-9 win over Taranaki. Griffiths played seven tests and 23 games for the All Blacks between 1934-1938 and captained them.

In 1937, A.G. Hansen (Hutt) crossed for five tries for Wellington in a 60-8 win over Wairarapa.

In 1939, J.R. Sherratt (Wellington) scored four tries in a 47-14 win over Ashburton County [later Mid-Canterbury].

Later in 1939, a “Wellington XV” met Marlborough at Blenheim and won 44-20. Jas. Gillespie (Marist) scored six tries in this game. But it is unclear if this was a first-class match (presumably it was) or an official Wellington fixture.

This was equalled by Ron Jarden who scored six tries for Wellington against East Coast in their 1953 Ranfurly Shield defence match in Wellington.

Article references:

  • The Dominion and Evening Post various reports and columns September 1910
  • Swan, Arthur C.; Jackson, Gordon F. W. (1952). Wellington’s Rugby History 1870 – 1950. Wellington, New Zealand: A. H. & A. W. Reed.
  • Wellington College Old Boys Football Club. Golden Jubilee 1898-1948 Souvenir Booklet

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