Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: All Blacks v Wales - A rivalry lost

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Modern NZ rugby followers have been raised on a glut of matches with Australia and South Africa while the colourful history with Wales is the bedrock of previous generations. Photo / David Rowland
Modern NZ rugby followers have been raised on a glut of matches with Australia and South Africa while the colourful history with Wales is the bedrock of previous generations. Photo / David Rowland

The All Blacks last rumble against Wales at Eden Park did not end well for the tourists.
When referee Guy Maurette blew fulltime on that June day in 1988 the scoreboard read: New Zealand 54 Wales 9.

The teams have not dueled at Eden Park since but there are several connections with the All Black first five that day, Grant Fox, now a national selector and right wing John Kirwan embarking on a rugby role with Sky television.

Rivalries are a matter of personal taste, someone's pinnacle is another's footrest. Modern NZ rugby followers have been raised on a glut of matches with Australia and South Africa while the colourful history with Wales is the bedrock of previous generations.

What were some of the spiky sporting contests in New Zealand which have disappeared from the frontline of attention, which premier events have eased in their attraction?

Take the Ranfurly Shield. Once it was the Everest of clashes throughout the provincial rugby season and now is an attraction at lower levels like Monday's rousing challenge from Thames Valley at Paeroa.

Auckland and Canterbury had a great rugby league rivalry in the 80's and 90's but that has ebbed as the NRL overtakes the focus and the Warriors hog the headlines.

The national soccer league brought tremendous duels in the 70s between Mt Wellington, Blockhouse Bay and Eastern Suburbs however that league could not be sustained.

It was much the same with softball when neighbours Hutt Valley and Wellington slugged it out at the inter-provincials in the late 80's. It seems extraordinary that micro-area sprouted into a national rivalry.

Some tournaments return like the Plunket Shield which used to be a significant sporting event on black and white TV screens in the 60's and 69 massive on black and was reconstituted (not in black and white) in late 2009.

Athletics found a golden seam in the late 50's and 60's with the middle and long-distance excellence of Peter Snell, John Davies, Murray Halberg, Bill Baillie, Barry Magee and Marise Chamberlain.

Nick Willis is front and centre now on the track while the nation's focus is spread through a range of other events and sports.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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