Hearty wel­come for tourists

Matamata Chronicle - - Front Page - REXINE HAWES

It’s not ev­ery­day Mata­mata ju­nior rugby play­ers get to play a game with All Black and Lions rugby le­gends on the side­lines.

But that’s ex­actly what hap­pened when the Ride of the Le­gends New Zealand tour stopped in Mata­mata.

Ride of the Le­gends New Zealand 2017 was an ex­clu­sive week­long cy­cling event from Welling­ton to Auck­land.

Held from July 2-7, be­tween the sec­ond and third tests of the 2017 Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions Tour, the cy­cle helped raise funds for the Con­duc­tive Education char­ity, ca­ter­ing for chil­dren from birth through to adults who have a range of dis­abil­i­ties.

The tour in­cluded a host of rugby le­gends, such as for­mer All Blacks Buck Shelford, Ian Jones and Frank Bunce, and Lions stars Peter Win­ter­bot­tom and Roger Ut­t­ley.

Along the jour­ney the tour stopped overnight at rugby clubs in Master­ton, Palmer­ston North, Mata­mata and Thames.

The tour ar­rived in Mata­mata late Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon and headed to Bed­ford Park.

Ju­nior rugby teams cel­e­brated the ar­rival of their he­roes with a rugby game.

In the sec­ond half the ju­niors played with a few of the Le­gends watch­ing from the side­lines.

How­ever United Mata­mata Sports Club cap­tain Allen Pryor said the priv­i­lege may have been lost on the young­sters.

‘‘I think the par­ents got more of a buzz than the kids, cause a lot of the kids didn’t know who the play­ers were. But once they were told they were for­mer All Blacks, they were ex­cited.’’

Pryor said the feed­back he re­ceived from the tour or­gan­is­ers was Mata­mata put on the best wel­come - and were the only stopover along the tour that in­volved chil­dren wel­com­ing the play­ers.

An auc­tion was in­cluded in the evening, with the out­come sur- pris­ing many.

A signed All Blacks jer­sey was auc­tioned off for $2050 and a rugby ball signed by Buck Shelford went for $500. Buck­ets to col­lect do­na­tions were also be­ing passed around dur­ing the event.

‘‘They made $4000 from the auc­tion,’’ said Pryor.

‘‘I thought it was ‘blim­min’ mar­vel­lous and fan­tas­tic for our lit­tle com­mu­nity.’’

Mata­mata Public Re­la­tions man­ager Sue Whit­ing said she was pleased with how warmly the club and the com­mu­nity wel­comed the rid­ers.

‘‘UMS put a great amount of ef­fort into it, and they did a great job.’’

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