Remember ‘The Boot’ of the 60s
Although it was more than half a century ago, older Wanganui rugby fanatics still recall the Ranfurly Shield challenges of 1963 and 1964 when goal-kicking winger Colin Pierce (The Boot) scared the daylights out of Taranaki.
Wanganui has run reasonably close in a few of its 30 attempts to win the “Log” since 1907 but none have been so dramatic as the two clashes with Taranaki at New Plymouth’s Rugby Park in the early 1960s.
The record books show the amber and blacks retained the trophy 14-12 in 1963 and 15-all the following season before more than 20,000 spectators including thousands who travelled by bus and cars from the River City.
The records do not indicate that the fate of the shield went right down to the final few seconds in both those epic fixtures, and it was the boot of 14-stone Pierce that played a dominant role in the two challenges.
On September 14, 1963, he kicked four penalties with Wanganui ahead 6-0 after 13 min and later 12-11 with time almost showing up on the ground scoreboard clock.
Joyous Wanganui supporters, anticipating an historic first shield win for the Butcher Boys, rushed to the side lines ready to flock on to the field and congratulate the players.
Fullback Barry O’Dowda had landed a penalty goal to creep Taranaki to within a point of the challengers.
Pierce took a quick drop out from the 25 yard line and the ball sailed into the Wanganui supporters.
The Taranaki linesman could not decide where the kick had landed because of the mass of people packing the side line and Auckland test referee John Pring ruled it had gone out on the full and ordered a scrum back.
Taranaki halfback Kevin Briscoe worked the blindside with fellow All Blacks John McCullough and Ross Brown also involved as replacement winger Kerry Hurley put in a grubber kick when blocked by the Wanganui defence.
To the delight of the roaring relieved local fans Hurley raced through in fairy-like fashion for the shield-saving 14-12 victory try, to the horror of the Wanganui supporters.
It was a heart-breaking experience for Wanganui and resulted in a long and thoughtful return trip home.
That 1963 Wanganui side comprised Don Dormer (Marton Athletic), Colin Pierce (Kaierau), Trevor Spencer (Waverley), Brian Watson (Kaierau); John Bamber (Tech COB), Paul McAndrew (Waiouru); Colin MacPhee (Marton Athletic); Rodger Green (Hunterville); Laurie Penn (Kaierau), Colin Rodgers (Kaierau), Graeme Lance (Waverley), Winston Caldwell (Marton Athletic), Neville Lomax (Huia), Geoff Byres (Kaierau) and Barry Dempsey (Kaierau).
It had not been a very successful season for Ron Crombie’s coached side apart from a 23-16 home win over Horowhenua and draws with Taranaki (9-all) at Spriggens Pak on Queen’s Birthday Monday morning and away against Manawatu (16-all) in the final match of the year.
Earlier in the year Wanganui had challenged Auckland for the Ranfurly Shield at Eden Park on August 24 and managed 18 points, thanks to five penalties from Pierce and a drop goal by Dormer, but with the assistance of the switching wind the hosts finally won 41-18.
Wanganui finished 1963 with one win, two draws and nine defeats but that season will always be remembered for the extra time shield loss to Taranaki.
Came 1964 and no-one could foresee yet another heartstopping shield challenge in New Plymouth and it was again Pierce who stole the limelight with four penalty goals and a try right on time to level the score at 15-all.
Wanganui went to New Plymouth on August 1 with a mixed record of away wins over Manawatu¯ (14-11) and Horowhenua (16-9) and home losses to Taranaki (0-20 on Queen’s Birthday) and to King Country (15-23).
Ross Brown potted a shield record three field goals to help the amber and blacks to a 15-9 lead but Pierce slotted his fourth penalty goal and to the dismay of the local fans finished off a movement initiated by underrated Paul McAndrew with a try in the corner.
Time was up and the game locked at 15-all when Pierce attempted the vital conversion, right from the sideline and with a heavy ball. He struck the kick well but it sailed outside the goal posts to the relief of the Mountain Province players and supporters.
This time Wanganui’s team included nine changes from the 1963 shield side and comprised Peter McDonald (Waiouru); Colin Pierce, Lindsay Meads (Hunterville), Brian Delves (Wanganui Pirates); Allan Pickard (Tech COB), Paul McAndrew; Colin MacPhee; Arthur Firmin (Huia); Bill Tunnell (Tech COB), Colin Rodgers, Lyle Condon (Tech COB), Winston Caldwell; Jack Cooney (Huia), Ossie Perry (Waiouru) and Barry Dempsey.
Five days after the shield game Wanganui held the touring Wallabies to 14-0 on Spriggens Park.
The 1964 Wanganui team, again under coach Ron Crombie, finished with two wins, two draws and seven defeats.
Pierce also played in a 1965 shield challenge against Taranaki in 1965. kicking a penalty goal in the 9-23 defeat.
He scored 222 points (13 tries, 48 penalties, 15 conversions and three field goals) in his 41 games for Wanganui between 1962 and 1965, 45 of the points coming in four Ranfurly Shield matches. He also played rep rugby in Poverty Bay and Wellington.
There was little changing of players during a game, with no replacements for Wanganui in the 1963 and 1964 shield fixtures.
Over recent seasons Wanganui has used a full quota of 22 players in most successful Heartland championship campaigns.
Colin Pierce’s son Scott became a talented three quarter back, playing four times for New Zealand XVs in 1992 and for NZ Emerging Players in 1986 and repping for North Harbour between 1988 and 1998 and for Northland in 1998.
This weekend there will be strong local support for Wanganui when it plays its 31st Ranfurly Shield match against the Taranaki Bulls at 2.35pm on Saturday in Ha¯ wera. It is live on TV Sport One.
Wanganui has played 27 firstclass matches in Ha¯ wera between 1890 and 2000 and winning just six times, the last victory being 9-7 in 1987.
The first of seven Wanganui shield challenges against Taranaki was in 1914 at Ha¯ wera with the hosts winning 17-3. Last time the Butcher Boys played at Hicks Park (now The TSB Hub) was in 2000 with Taranaki romping home 88-5.
Young Ruapehu winger Shaquille Waara has topped the try scoring in Wanganui Tasman Tanning premier club rugby for 2018 with 16 tries. Waara, son of 1989-90 Wanganui rep Thomas Waara (Raetihi) and nephew of 1992-93 rep Regan Sue (Kaierau), scored four tries against Ra¯ tana at O¯ hakune, three against Nga¯ matapouri (away) and a rare hat-trick in a grand final, against Pirates at Cooks Gardens.
Waara looks certain of a place in the Wanganui under-20 rep team this season.
He headed off 2017 top try scorer Harry Symes (Border) by two tries, speedster Symes finishing on 14, one less than last winter.
Third highest scorer this year was Ruapehu halfback KahlElers-Green with 12 tries.
Border mid-field rep Kaveni Dabenaise, who finished with 10 tries along with club-mate Nick Harding and Marist rep Cameron Crowley, scored what is believed to be a local club record of six tries when Border beat Nga¯ matapouri 102-7 up the Waitotara Valley.
Meke Magele (Pirates) scored five tries against Ra¯ tana on Marton Park with Tom Symes (away v Nga¯ matapouri), Vaovasa Afa (Pirates at home v
Nga¯ matapouri), Troy Brown (Ruapehu away against
Nga¯ matapouri) and Waara (home against Ra¯ tana) bagging four tries each.
Three tries each in a game went to Waara (twice), James Dorgan (Kaierau at home v
Ra¯ tana), Seruwalu
(Nga¯ matapouri away v Pirates), Harry Symes (Border at home v Ra¯ tana), Stuart Brosnahan (Kaierau away v Nga¯ matapouri), Tyler Rogers-Holden (Border v Ra¯ tana at Marton Park) and Sam Monaghan (Marist at home v Nga¯ matapouri).
The top individual try scorers this year were —
16 Waara, 14 Harry Synes, 2 Elers-Green, 10 Harding, Dabenaise and Crowley, 9 Josaia Bogileka (Marist), Junior Ainea (Pirates), Jaye Flaws (Taihape), Seruwalu and Rogers-Holden (Border), 8 Raymond Salu and Magele (Pirates), Troy Brown (Ruapehu) and Jack Yarrall (Marist).
Api Koroi (Kaierau), brother of NZ Sevens play-maker Viliame Koroi, holds the Wanganui club record of 29 tries, scored in 2010.
The other top try-scorers with 20-plus tries in a season are — 27 Asaeli Tikoirotuma (Marist) 2007, Pati Fetuia (Kaierau) 2006 and Stu Selby (Kaierau) 1992, 26 Asalusi Nagicu (Hunterville) 1995, 25 Lance Walker (Kaierau) 1980, 23 John Hainsworth (Marton OB) 1988 and Corey Pardoe (Ratana) 2000, 22 Chris Carrick (Waverley) 1991 and Johnny Muir (Marist) 2001, 21 Sunia Sevu (Marist) 2002 and Jerry Meafou (Kaierau) 2004, 20 Adam Kirkcaldie (Tech) 1997 and Kaveni Dabenaise (Border) 2016.
The team try scoring this year was Border 89, Ruapehu 84, Pirates 59, Marist 57, Taihape 54, Kaierau 51, Nga¯ matapouri 33 and Ra¯ tana 29.
Ruapehu winger Shaquille Waara has topped the try scoring in Wanganui Tasman Tanning premier club rugby for 2018 with 16 tries.
This cartoon featuring the frightening monster Pierce’s Boot appeared in the Taranaki Daily News before the 1964 Ranfurly Shield challenge.