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Today in history - the All Blacks' very first game

allblacks.com     22 May 2014    

On Thursday 22 May, 1884 New Zealand faced a Wellington team (described as a ‘sixteen of Wellington’) at Newtown Park before catching the SS Hauroto to Sydney later that day for their first overseas tour. The men of that team are regarded as the first All Blacks with Otago forward James Allan credited as All Black No. 1, based on alphabetical order.

The Evening Post reported that “just before the game commenced several heavy showers  of rain descended and rendered play exceedingly unpleasant” and that “the wind was  blowing strongly across the field”.

The match started at 1.50pm, with two 25-minute halves. History records the score as 9-0 although the media reported it as “two goals to love”. Wellington's Harry Roberts scored the first try for New Zealand, while Thomas "Darby" Ryan, the three-quarter-back from Auckland,  kicked the first ever conversion and dropped goal for New Zealand. Roberts later achieved another first; when his son was selected in the 1913 All Blacks they became the first father/son pair to play for the All Blacks.

Further attempts at goal were made throughout the match but were generally prevented by the wind, while the small crowd was treated to several grand runs by the backs, in particular John Taiaroa, a cousin of rugby legends Tom Ellison and Joe Warbrick.

The team that travelled to Australia was made up of players from 12 clubs from the Auckland, Canterbury, Otago and Wellington Unions, captained by William Millton of Canterbury and managed by Mr S.E. Sleigh of Dunedin. The team played in dark blue with a gold fern leaf worn on the left breast - New Zealand’s national rugby team did not start wearing black or being referred to as the All Blacks until the 1890s.  The team won all eight of its matches in Australia, scoring a total of 167 points and conceding just 17.

Noted rugby historian Arthur C. Swan later attributed the growth in the number of rugby clubs from 1884 onwards to “the placing of a National side in the field”.

Since that first match, 1130 men have played for the All Blacks with Jeffery Toomaga-Allen the most recent to make his debut. The All Blacks have played 1235 matches, including 512 Tests, with an overall winning record of 84.3 per cent – one of the best records in
international sport. The team has scored almost three times as many points as they’ve conceded: 33,225 for and 11,751 against.

Check out the match record on allblacks.com