- By Adam Julian
July 25, 2020, music is rumbling, the chat is short, shrieking, and joyous. Petone Rugby Club is rocking. The Premiers have reclaimed the McBain Shield from Hutt Old Boys Marist. It’s roughly 10:37 pm.
Something is missing. Goochy. Several hours earlier the Petone captain was hauled from the field seriously injured. Attempting to make a tackle, he smashes into Iona Apineru. The young lump is one of his own! Jacob’s left arm resembles a snapped, dangling paper clip as he leaves the field crestfallen.
Still, in uniform, and with a morphine smirk, Jacob Gooch staggers into the clubhouse. It’s alleged Udy Street hasn’t heard a roar louder since the days of Bob Scott. Some stragglers saw the sun. Gooch’s sling was immortalised with the date and score of the game.
Legendary All Black Billy Wallace described Alexander McBain as “the grandfather of school rugby.”
McBain was born in Scotland in 1868 and migrated to New Zealand in 1892. He was a schoolteacher for 45 years culminating in being headmaster of Eastern Hutt School from 1915-1931. A leading referee, coach, and rugby advocate, he was a President of the Hutt Club and Vice-President of the Wellington Rugby Football Union. In 1933 he died. A year later Hector McBain (Alexander’s son) and Thomas Bevan presented a Shield to the Hutt and Petone clubs to “foster good fellowship.”
The McBain Shield has been a highly anticipated fixture since. In 2022 a record 26 teams’ entered the annual golf day at Shandon 24 hours before the match. Petone won the two-team match play format 11-10 with four draws.
The first ‘McBain’ was won by Hutt 6-5 in a tussle described as a “Homeric struggle.” Struggle is only a mild description of the difficulty Hutt would soon endure trying to prise McBain from the “Villagers.” Between 1953 and 1984, Petone won the Jubilee Cup 14 times and never relinquished McBain. So imperious was Petone the equivalent of their third side often played and beat Hutt.
Former All Black captain Andy Leslie has been associated with Petone for seven decades and emphasised McBain has always been tough regardless of the standings of the two teams. In 1974 it was a 0-0 draw. Petone hung on by a point in 1979 and 1983.
Robbie Dougan is a familiar face at Petone having recently served as club president. His brother John was an All Black and uncles Jackie and Bill represented Wellington. Robbie was coach of Petone when Hutt reclaimed McBain, 4-3 in 1985.
“It’s a result I’ve never lived down,” he laughed.
“We won the game. One of our players who I’m not going to name was over the try line. All he had to do was put the ball down, but he was too busy celebrating and he got pushed over the dead ball line.”
Wellington Rugby Chairman Russell Poole was captain of Hutt that day.
“I scored our try. I was a greedy Number eight who picked the ball up off the back of the scrum. The run gets further with every beer,” Poole laughed.
A cartoon drawn by Andy Heraud hangs in Poole’s garage celebrating the match, below:
Around the same time, Phil Stratford lived across the road from the Hutt Rec. Alarmed by the demise of Hutt premiers he recruited All Blacks Steve Pokere, Mark Shaw, and Hika Reid to work for Renouf Properties with any financial arrangements conducted independently of the club. ‘Cheque Book Hutt’ surged up the grades winning McBain back to back for the first time in 1988 (10-7) and 1989 (13-4) and eventually capturing Jubilee Cup spoils in 1991.
In 1993 Hutt and Hutt Valley Marist merged to become Hutt Old Boys Marist. Since 2000 the much stronger combined outfit nicknamed the ‘Eagles’ have achieved 13 of their 20 overall McBain victories.
Mark ‘Fridge’ Masina is deeply acquainted with the Hutt/Petone rivalry. His father Karlolo was a life member and President of Petone while Mark played for both clubs. In 2022 he had his first “official involvement in a McBain” – coach of Petone.
“I grew up around the rugby club. My dad’s service motivated me to give back to the game,” Masina said.
“I went to Hutt in 2002 after college. I went to pick up a mate from Colts training and they hadn’t finished when Horie McGregor, an absolute legend of the Hutt club invited me to play, and I thought ‘Why not?’ My family didn’t talk to me for a month.
“I went back to Petone in 2009 to help coach the premier women. In 2010 a close friend passed away so ‘the Brotherhood’ was formed. From that, I went into coaching fulltime in 2018.
“I never played McBain and never got the whole thing as a kid. I knew it was big because they had cheerleaders and put up small grandstands. It wasn’t until I went to Hutt and saw how hard they celebrated wins that I really understood it.”
“The thing about McBain is this. In Lower Hutt and Petone everyone goes to school together, church together or has friend and family connections, but as soon as you put that jersey on something happens inside, even in pre-season. McBain is that one chance to have bragging rights over your closest mates for a whole year. It’s hard to watch because you’re always on the edge.”
Watch above Wednesday night’s Huddy Hui with the McBain Trophy itself in-studio, and with Petone halfback Cam Ferreira.
McBain 87 provided no expectation to the “on edge” sentiment. Down 20-5, Petone never led until the 84th minute; the winning moment was a genuine miracle when it arrived.
The considerably larger Hutt pack hammered away at the Petone line and perfectly positioned Brandyn Laursen for the winning drop goal, straight in front of the post five metres out at 20-20. Laursen (a Wellington Lion) snapped the ball precisely only to be met by a full-length dive from Tupou Sopoaga. How the No.8 (brother of All Black Liam) could get airborne and block the ball is beyond normal logic.
The ball rolled into vacant pasture and Petone reserve back Sam Blackburn dribbled it to halfway, dribbled it to the 22 and the ball bounced into his chest; Blackburn running into McBain folklore. Petone: 27: Hutt: 20.
A video of the try set to the sound of the Celine Dion smash ‘My Heart Will Go On’ went viral. English recruit Blackburn hadn’t touched the ball until the winning moment. He couldn’t believe his luck.
“I was hoping we would hang on for the draw. I was screaming at the big boys to keep smashing them. Some of the contact at the end was mad,” Blackburn reflected.
“Brandyn Laursen was closer to the ruck than I expected which gave Tupou (Sopoaga) the chance to get to him. When the charge-down happened, I thought we’d closed the game out, but the ball got loose.
“The wind helped get it rolling end over end. Typically, the ball tends to pop up every third bounce. I was lucky that it happened, and I didn’t slow up when I got it.
“It’s a privilege to play in a match like McBain. It only dawned on me afterwards how big the try was. I saw the reaction of the crowd, old boys and some videos which were captured on the sideline. It was insane.”
2023 Key Points
- Petone are third in the Swindale Shield with a 7-3 record, H is seventh at 6-4. Both teams are on a roll with the Villagers having won their last three matches and the Eagles their last five after a poor start where they were embarrassed in the third round 7-42 by Johnsonville.
- Simon Malaeulu, Ben Power, Brett Manaia and Teofilo Paulo were the first four names on the team sheet for Hutt in their 23-22 win against Tawa on Saturday. The quartet are among the largest and most experienced forwards in the competition.
- Brandyn Laursen has scored 111 points in the Swindale Shield for Hutt. The former Wellington Lion is a key figure in a backline that’s had a lot of change this season.
- Young backs Sapati Tagoai (HOBM) and Stanley Solomon (Petone) have been a revelation for their respective clubs this season. Midfield Tagoai has played eight matches and scored five tries, including four against Marist St Pats. Winger Solomon has scored 10 tries in six matches, including four against Tawa.
- Cam Ferreira scored two tries against Wellington on Saturday. He scored in McBain last year and passed 50 games for Petone this season. If the Hurricanes Logan Henry doesn’t play, Ferreira is a key figure.
- Both sides have kicked 11 penalties, but Hutt has converted 37 out of 47 tries. Petone has converted 34 out of 53 tries.
- The points scoring and left foot kicking ability of TJ Clarke is something unique for Petone. Carne Green is their leading scorer in 2023 with 68.
- Petone second-five Riley Higgins has scored 24 tries in 23 matches. Losi Filipo is a Samoan international at centre for Petone.