Editorial: Bring on the 97th clash

By Mark Story

There are 179 kilometres between Napier's McLean Park and FMG Stadium in Palmerston North.

Between the venues the two rugby unions have squared-off 96 times.

Not surprising really, given they formed in the 1880s, with the first clash way back in 1887.

The former powerhouses have both tasted glory, both boast stellar reigns as Ranfurly Shield holders.

Hawke's Bay has won 62, Manawatu 31, with three draws.

For a variety of reasons I've become an avid fan of this fixture.

Firstly, I spent five years at Massey University's Palmerston North campus and through ale-tinted glasses became quite fond of the green and white hoops.

Secondly, the in-laws hail from Palmy so there's much beating of chests prior, during and post match.

Thirdly, the gritty clash lends credence to the commonly held opinion that the Central Vikings was the most ill-conceived chapter in either region's history.

For good reason, most of us have opted to forget the unholy marriage of the Hawke's Bay and Manawatu unions which spanned the 1997-8 seasons. Fans looked askance at the initiative - and the garish orange, blue and white strip.

Despite the rationale to leap into first division, the merger precluded parochialism and any chance of a siege mentality at the respective home grounds.

Amalgamation, in that context, is undoubtedly an ugly word.

Yes, I see the irony of such disdain given both unions are now again contesting the provincial competition's second-tier championship division.

But with a parallel heritage like this, frankly, I couldn't care less. Bring on tomorrow's 97th clash.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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