1996: The first professional rugby game played in New Zealand didn’t disappoint with two star-studded teams playing out a thriller in Palmerston North.
The scene: 1 March 1996, Hurricanes vs Blues at the Palmerston North Showgrounds
Key players: The Blues were stacked with current and future All Blacks including Jonah Lomu, Zinzan Brooke, Craig Dowd, Olo Brown, Ofisa Tonu’u and Carlos Spencer. The Hurricanes big names included Mark ‘Bull’ Allen, Alama Ieremia, Jon Preston and Christian Cullen.
The moment: In front of a packed home crowd, it was the Hurricanes who made history by scoring the first Super Rugby try. Halfback Jon Preston took a quick-tap from a messy scrum and fed the ball to blockbusting midfielder Alama Ieremia. The Hurricanes centre shot through a small gap and outpaced the defence for the historic try. The try helped the Hurricanes to a 16-3 lead before the Blues surged back. With a few minutes left on the clock, the Blues went in front through a Carlos Spencer try before Zinzan Brooke landed the only conversion of his first-class career.
Result: The Blues won 36-28 and went onto win the inaugural Super Rugby championship (played between 12 teams) by beating the Sharks in the final. Despite playing entertaining rugby, The Hurricanes slumped to ninth on the Super Rugby ladder with just three wins in 1996.