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Great days in club rugby 001: Hang on to your seat

Above: Petone scores on fulltime to beat Poneke 28-21 in their 125th anniversary match this week in 2010

In this new series for 2024 to usher in a new season of community rugby in Wellington, we have broken into the ‘Today in Club Rugby History’ files, selected a small sample of these matches and divided them up into similar categories of occurrences.

Since the first season that the Jubilee Cup was contested in 1929 there have been approximately 8,000 Senior A/Premier club rugby matches contested in Wellington.

This entry looks at some instances of ‘wins at the death.”

Club Rugby had a family friend who attended all the big matches at Athletic Park, but always left 5 minutes early to beat the traffic on his way home. This article is dedicated to those thrilling endings of matches he would have missed!

10 instances of wins at the death

3 June 1933: A sizzling finish in perfect conditions at the Hutt Recreation ground today, as Hutt score the match-winning try on the stroke of fulltime to beat Athletic 18-17. The Hutt team, who are wearing black armbands in respect to the recent passing of Alexander McBain, are troubled by the sun in the first half and scores are locked at 8-8 at halftime. Athletic gain a 17-14 lead late in the contest before Hutt wing Stevenson dives through to score in the corner and former Canterbury and now Wellington All Black and railway worker Herb Lilburne converts from the sideline to give Hutt the win. Wellington College Old Boys win the 1933 Jubilee Cup, but 1931 champions Hutt will triumph again next season.


3 May 1952: Red-hot University are beaten in the forwards by Onslow but survive on scraps to beat Onslow 13-8 courtesy of scoring a last-minute try. Jim Fitzgerald combines with Ron Jarden to turn a certain draw into a win for the students. Jarden and Fitzgerald are both former Hutt Valley High School students, with Jarden a couple of years older. Left wing Jarden is already a prominent All Black, while midfielder Fitzgerald will make his All Blacks debut alongside Jarden against Australia in September this year. Like Jarden, Fitzgerald is a noted attacking player, light on his feet and fast to seize on a gap. University will go on and win the first of three consecutive Jubilee Cups later this winter and Jarden and Fitzgerald are two of nine University players who will to play for Wellington in 1952.

Jim Fitzgerald – fleet-footed attacking centre, who formed a lightning-rod attacking partnership with Ron Jarden. Look out for his profile in this website’s Pioneers of Rugby series later this year.


25 June 1960: Petone score a sensational late converted try to beat Wellington 13-11. The ball is spun through most of the team from Athletic Park’s western bank touch to the grandstand touch and back again before captain Don McIntosh scores the match-equalising try and his second of the game. Stu Claridge converts for the win. Petone are defending champions and will win again next year, but Marist will win the 1960 Jubilee Cup later this season.


25 April 1978: Wellington College Old Boys beat Petone 9-6 in their Anzac Day fixture, with Paul Rolls kicking a dropped goal with time almost up, to the thunderous applause of his supporters and heartbreak of Petone’s. The previous week Paul also dropped a goal to beat University. Of WCOB players in 1978, Stu Wilson makes in the All Blacks, Hamish Vance in the Junior All Blacks and Laurie Holmes the NZ Colts. Captain Al Keown will captain Wellington to its maiden NPC title.


28 April 2007: Upper Hutt overtake Wainuiomata with a last-gasp try to win 19-17 and register their first win of the season. Halfback Daniel Beckett proves the hero in the shadows of fulltime, charging down a clearing kick and scooting over in the corner for the winning try.


8 May 2010: Petone celebrate their 125th anniversary weekend with a stunning 28-21 win over long-time rivals Poneke. In a fairytale finish and with scores locked up, Petone captain and hooker Eugene Smith scores after 20 phases and first five-eighth Ben Aoina adds the fulltime conversion.


9 May 2015: The Upper Hutt Rams leave it to the last play of the game to pip Northern United 31-30 to take the Terry Farrow Memorial Trophy. Fullback Joyner Key takes a pass from prop Apa Heemi in his 100th game for the club and runs through to score under the posts and he then Key converts from in front. The Rams had led 10-0 after 10 minutes and then 18-6 at halftime, but in a helter-skelter affair, Norths take a 30-24 lead when Inoke Rasabale scores in the corner.


16 April 2016: Old Boys University win their fifth straight match and their 14th overall with a last-gasp 25-24 win over Oriental-Rongotai at home at Nairnville Park. Replacement OBU wing Maile Koloto scores in the corner with the last play of the game. Ories were leading 24-20 and looked to be holding on, but a final assault on the Magpies line resulted in the winning try.


14 July 2018: A dramatic last-play win today for Oriental-Rongotai over Northern United. Ories score a try with the final play of the game to beat Norths 37-33. Down 33-30, and deep into referee’s time, second five-eighth Alex Ropeti scores the winner for the Magpies.

 22 April 2023: At the Polo Ground, Ories score a try on fulltime to right wing Daniel Tafili in the clubrooms corner to give them a 30-29 win over last year’s Swindale Shield champions Petone. Tafili he latches on to the final pass in front of the clubrooms after an Ories scrum on the opposite side of the ground. Moments earlier, Petone thought they had saved the game when Ories crossed the line from a scrum in similar position, but the try-scorer was held up over the chalk. The game was close throughout, and when Losi Filipo scores it puts Petone up 29-25. Ories had got back to 19-19 after earlier trailing 16-0 late in the first half, and then 19-7 at half time.

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