Result: Wellington 19 – Scotland 15
When: 30 May 1981
Weather: Fine and sunny
1981 was a controversial year for international rugby in New Zealand and a famous one for Wellington rugby.
The big international tour of the year was by the Springboks, dominating the rugby landscape that winter – but mostly for the wrong reasons. The country was divided along pro and anti tour lines owing to South Africa’s apartheid policies, protestors were out in force in all matches and the match against Waikato in Hamilton was abandoned after a pitch invasion. For the record, the All Blacks won the Springbok series 2-1 with Wellington fullback Allan Hewson kicking the match winning penalty in the dying seconds of the decider.
For Wellington, 1981 was a watershed season, the Lions capturing the Ranfurly Shield off Waikato – and holding on to it for the summer – and winning the NPC [ITM Cup] for the second time.
The Springbok tour (July-September) and Wellington’s successful domestic season were both in the future when Scotland arrived for an eight-match tour taking in most of June. This was Scotland’s second New Zealand visit after their first in 1975.
With five wins in eight matches, the Scots had a reasonably successful tour – losing only to Wellington in the provincial matches and to the All Blacks in both Tests. After beating Canterbury (23-12), the Scots lost to the All Blacks 4-11 at Dunedin, and then again 15-40 at Auckland. Wellington players involved in the two-Test series were Hewson (Petone), Bernie Fraser (Hutt Valley Marist), Stu Wilson (Wellington College Old Boys) and Murray Mexted (Wellington FC).
This was their second match of the tour and was expected to be a big step up from the opener in which they had beaten King Country 39-13.
Scotland had also beaten Wellinton 36-25 when they had last met in 1975. Loose forward John Wootten (MSP) was the only survivor of the first game. Nevertheless, the team was out to avenge their defeat and claim another international scalp.
As well as Wellington’s current All Blacks involved in the Test series, other prominent players included Jamie Salmon (Athletic), Tu Wylie (MSP), Mike Clamp (Petone) and Scott Crichton (Athletic).
Playing in gold jerseys, Wellington came out fizzing and got on top early.
Wellington was rewarded with the first try to Fraser who sprinted 50 metres and beat two defenders. Fraser was in again soon after, following up a Hewson chip kick, regathering possession on the fly and sprinting clear. Hewson’s conversion put Wellington ahead 10-3.
Scotland added two penalties to an earlier dropped goal, but Hewson kicked a 30 metre penalty to put Wellington 13-9 ahead at halftime.
Lock Brendon Gard’ner (Wellington FC) celebrated his birthday by reining in a Tu Wylie high kick and opening the second half scoring with Wellington’s third and final try of the match. Hewson’s conversion put Wellington ahead 19-9.
The Scots hit back with two long-range penalties but Wellington did enough to hold on to victory.
By scoring two tries and also stopping another with a big first half tackle on Scotland halfback Gordon Hunter, Bernie Fraser was the Dominion’s Player of the Match.
The Dominion summed up the encounter: “The splendid contest was hard and fast and did a lot for rugby. An estimated 26,000 fans watched the duel and for the first time in a long while, really got behind the home team. It was a fine compliment to the team’s approach.”
For Wellington coach Ian Upston, this was his first win over an international touring team. As was his habit, Upston left the stand and went for a walk when Wellington led 19-9, only returning when he heard loud cheering at the end.
Wellington: 1. S. Crichton, 2. F.B.H. Walker, 3. K. MacAulay, 4.B.F. Gard’ner, 5. S.P.Hinds 6.W.J Wootton,7. M.W. Standish, 8. M.G.Mexted, 9.J.R. Heale,10 T.Wylie, 11. M.Clamp, J.L.B. Salmon, 13, S.S. Wilson, 14. B.G. Fraser, 15. A.R. Hewson
Scotland: 1. N.A Rowan, 2. C.T. Deans, 3. J. Aiken, 4. W. Cuthbertson, 5. A.J. Tomes,6. D.G. Leslie, 7. J.H. Calder, 8. I.A.M.Paxton, 9. I.G. Hunter, 10. J.Y. Rutherford, 11. J.M.Renwick,12. S.Munro, 13. R.W. Breakey, 14. B.H. Hay, 15. P.W. Dods
Scott Crichton was a 170kg soccer player out of Wanganui when he moved to Wellington and took up rugby. He started out in the lower grades at Ories and Karori, before finally settling at the Athletic club. After a lifestyle change, he slimmed down and focused on rugby. He made the Wellington Colts in 1977 and the Wellington B team the following year.
Crichton soon broke through to the Wellington side and was the side’s first-choice tighthead prop and had a storming match the day they beat Waikato 22-4 later this season and took the Ranfurly Shield.
In 1982 he was selected to play for the New Zealand Maori side and in 1983 he became a full All Black on the tour of Scotland and England – making his Test debut against Scotland in Edinburgh. Domestically, Crichton was also a key member of Wellington’s side that won the NPC again in 1986, retiring in 1987 after playing 111 matches for his adopted province.
In 1981, Allan Hewson was in his third season with the All Blacks and fifth with Wellington, who were coached right up to his last full year in 1985 by his Petone club coach Upston. 1981 was also his second NPC triumph with Wellington after playing at centre in Wellington's first title winning season in 1978.
Hewson had made his All Blacks debut against South of Scotland in 1979 and was to make his Test debut in the Dunedin Test a fortnight after this touring match. He went on to play 19 Tests, scoring 201 points in internationals.
Midfielder Jamie Salmon had the distinction of being a dual international, playing for both the All Blacks and England between 1981 and 1987. He first appeared for the All Blacks on their European tour later in 1981 against Romania in Bucharest, and also played in both tests of the 2-0 series victory against France. When he next took the field in an international four years later it was for England against the All Blacks in Christchurch.
Salmon came to New Zealander as a teenager in 1978 and became a regular Wellington representative as a midfield back between 1980-1983, making 64 appearances before heading home and resuming his career for Harlequins.
In 1980 he played for the New Zealand juniors on a five-match internal tour, before making the All Blacks.