A Press report that stated "It's been towed behind a bus ... and it got thrown out of a train once and was lost for 12 years until a farmer found it" is indication of the treatment meted out to the most battered rugby trophy in New Zealand.

September 18, 2020 is a significant milestone in the history of the Peace Cup being 100 years to the day since Thames defeated Hamilton to become the first name engraved on the time-honoured rugby trophy.

The Peace Cup, originally known as the Peace Memorial Cup, was inaugurated in 1919 to mark the formal end of the First World War. The Peace Cup was donated by Richard English, "For the furtherance of Rugby Football at Sub-Union Level and shall be a Challenge Trophy."

Thames became the first name engraved on the Peace after they defeated Hamilton 11-8, at Steel Park in Hamilton, on that September day in 1920.

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As the cup was only engraved with the current holder at the end of each season, the last Peace Cup game of the 1920 season matches the first engraving on the long-time rugby trophy.

 The Peace Cup. Photo / Ben Fraser
The Peace Cup. Photo / Ben Fraser

Amateur sports historian Barry Leabourn has written an online narrative that went live just before the Peace Cup's historic date of September 18.

In 2011, the Peace Cup was taken into the newly minted Stan Meads Cup regional sub-union competition, as a challenge trophy in order to keep time-honoured silverware alive.

"As chairman and founder of the Stan Meads Cup, I'm absolutely proud and pleased to be associated with 'Battered Silverware' which is a historical record of the Peace Cup and the one hundred year milestone," said Stan Meads Cup and Peace Cup chairman Neil Macrae.

"The ebook tells, and many from the bygone era will recall, the Peace Cup was held in the highest regard by all who were involved in the games over many decades.

"The book also tells of a decline in the Peace Cup, which led to the establishment of the Stan Meads Cup competition, with the Peace Cup on the line as a challenge trophy.

"Changing times since the Stan Meads Cup kicked off in 2011 has seen a proposal put on the table to revert to the Peace Cup competition from the 2021 season, with the Stan Meads Cup becoming the competition challenge prize.

"With Peace Cup centennial celebration plans put on hold for 12 months due to Covid-19, the re-introduction of a Peace Cup competition in 2021 will complete a full circle for the time-honoured trophy."

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In early decades, the Peace Cup ranked only in stature to the Ranfurly Shield in the region, and drew large crowds and parochial support throughout the Waikato, King Country, Thames Valley and the Bay of Plenty.

Special trains were put on to ferry parochial away team supporters to Peace Cup games, with host towns often putting on street parades that made their way to the ground on game day.

During the 1950s to the late 1960s the Peace Cup was at its zenith, and Peace Cup representative team positions were hotly contested.

The 1970s and early 1980s saw a continuation of Peace Cup interest, with the competition seen as a pathway to provincial rugby union representative selection. With little weekend trading, the country's communities were free to enjoy their weekend sporting activities

The 1990s brought a decline in the activities of sub-unions, with a number simply ceasing operation. Peace Cup Challenges dropped from a high of 17 in 1981 to single figures at the end of the 1990s.

The changes in lifestyle and technology and the introduction of a near year-long rugby season, saw a drop-off in old-style sub-union representative rugby.

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Former Samoan international Mikaele Pesamino starred in Te Awamutu's 2012 Peace Cup victory. Photo / Ross Setford
Former Samoan international Mikaele Pesamino starred in Te Awamutu's 2012 Peace Cup victory. Photo / Ross Setford

Today, the Peace Cup is a highly sought challenge prize within the Stan Meads Cup competition with the latest edition of the Stan Meads Cup with the Peace Cup also on the line having kicked off on Saturday, August 12.

Peace Cup Winners

Te Awamutu (19), Hamilton (11), Morrinsville (11), Rotorua/Central Bay of Plenty (11), Thames (10), South Waikato (9), Matamata (7), Maniapoto (5), Tauranga (4), Pukekohe (2), Hauraki Plains (2), Paeroa (2), Western Bay of Plenty (2), Ōtorohanga (1), Waihi (1), Cambridge (1), Te Puke (1).

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