For the Turnbull boys, Dave and John, and their wives Moira and Lorraine, the first stop in Hamilton 50 years ago after they drove up from Napier was quite fitting.

It was a fine hotel.

But it was more than just a spot to get a refreshing drink after the long haul up in John's Mk II Zephyr.

"That was where the Hawke's Bay team was staying and we wanted to see them," Dave Turnbull said.

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So it seemed did pretty well every other Magpies fan who had travelled to the heart of the Waikato to see their lads in black and white take on the Mooloo boys for the Ranfurly Shield at Rugby Park on September 24, 1966.

Most of the stars of Hawke's Bay's 1966-1969 Ranfurly Shield rugby era will be in Napier tomorrow to mark the 50th anniversary of that day. "Yeah, it was pretty chocka in there but we saw some of the team - it was all building up nicely."

Like the rest of the black and white army, the Turnbull quartet were devoted followers and supporters of the Magpies, and knew the team possessed something special.

So it seemed did the locals - particularly the spokesman for the Waikato Rugby Union who in the programme for the match wrote "It is opportune to congratulate Hawke's Bay on the great progress made in recent years and on its grand form in many important matches.

"Waikato people followed with great interest the fortunes of the Hawke's Bay team against the Lions and congratulations are still in order for the fine form shown by the Bay team in the drawn match."

Indeed, for the Magpies had drawn with the mighty Lions 11-all at McLean Park in that season of '66.

"We were a good side - we could all see that," Mr Turnbull said, adding that with the shield on the line there was no way they were not going to be there.

So they packed his brother John's Mk II, which he said "went as well as Hawke's Bay did", and headed north.

"We all slept in the car on the Friday night," Dave Turnbull said.
"Not sure exactly where - somewhere up the track - may have been Tokoroa."

When they arrived in Hamilton the first stop was the hotel.
"It was like being at the Hawke's Bay Spring Show on public day," his brother said.
They had a couple of jugs of ale then found a taxi to get to Rugby Park.

"It was absolutely packed," Mr Turnbull said, adding the landscape was filled with black and white.

There were huge cheers when Bill Davis scored and Ian Bishop grabbed a penalty, and there were some groans when the ball was occasionally spilled.

Mr Turnbull said his late wife Moira was a huge Magpies fan, and rugby fan across the board, and if a shot at goal ever went astray would loudly declare "I could have kicked that in my slippers!"

After the final whistle the locals were gracious in defeat and took it on the chin.
"They knew we were a very good side and I think a lot of them knew we were going to get it.
"Their supporters were excellent - there were no ill feelings at all," Mr Turnbull said."
And as the group discovered, there was also no accommodation in Hamilton at all.
They had figured on finding rooms somewhere but the surge of Bay supporters northwards had dealt to that.

"There wasn't a room anywhere so we drove down to Cambridge and looked all around there but they were all booked out too."

So they continued south until they got to Taupo and there were rooms there.
"But we were so close to getting back home John said 'naa, we're nearly there, we might as well keep going'."

It had been a long, tiring but effervescent day.
"We took the shield," was Mr Turnbull's simple summation.

And for the rest of the Magpies' tenure of it, right up to and including the day it went south with Canterbury on September 27, 1969, Mr Turnbull went to every game, as his complete collection of programmes from that era shows.