A Hawke's Bay school rugby team which had a world rugby reputation - a forward pack bigger than that of the All Blacks - has reunited to mark 40 years since they won the top schools rugby trophy in New Zealand.
The Te Aute College first XV won the Moascar Cup, the high schools challenge trophy equivalent of inter-provincial rugby's Ranfurly Shield, on June 30, 1979, with a 12-9 home-ground win over holders and traditional rivals St Stephen's School, of Bombay, South Auckland.
But the big reputation had already spread to such a stage that just three days later they had an audience of international media and French rugby stars at Napier Boys' High School as Te Aute won 27-3 in the schools' match which had originally been scheduled to be the curtainraiser to a match between France and Hawke's Bay at McLean Park later in the day.
The Hastings Junior Rugby Council recognised the growing marketability of the wide and promoted the next game with well over 2500 people packing the grandstand at the now-gone Nelson Park in Hastings to watch Te Aute thrash through the pouring rain and mud to beat New Plymouth Boys' High School 28-14 in a particularly-celebrated defence.
It was just one in 14 matches before Te Aute was next beaten, St Stephen's reclaiming the trophy with a 12-10 win two days short of the anniversary of the day they'd had to leave the trophy behind on a trip to Hawke's Bay.
At the centre of the action were the Te Aute front row of Paul Harmer, Henry "Zack" Makoare and Mark Kopua, captain Harmer and fellow prop Kopua tipping the scales at 111kg and 121kg respectively according to reports at the time. In the imperial measures just starting to be phased-out, Kopua was about 266 pounds, or 19 stone.
Harmer and Makoare, whose nickname was derived from being called Mac (short for Makoare) were both raised in the Te Aute-Te Hauke area, were boarding at the school because it did not at the time take day pupils.
Also at the centre was Te Aute principal, coach and former St Stephen's coach Awi Riddell, who on the back of his successful career with both schools was offered the job of coaching the New Zealand Secondary Schools team on a 1984-1985 tour of the UK. He turned it down, and the man who got the job was Kelston Boys' High School, Auckland, mentor Graham Henry, effectively the start of the big-time career which included taking the All Blacks to victory in the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Relaxing as players drift-off, just as they may have at the end of their days in the first XV, they successively clasp his hand. " "Your were tough, but you were fair, and you taught us a lot, says one. "Thank you, Matua."
Significantly, just Harmer made what was possibly the first New Zealand Secondary Schools rugby team which was beaten that year by the touring England schools side, with one other Hawke's player in St John's College halfback Neil Sorenson.
Also significantly none of the 1979 side became All Blacks, most finding careers outside the game in which perhaps the most successful were Harmer, who became a cornerstone of the Manawatu front row and ultimately part of the Chiefs coaching makeup in the early days of Super Rugby, and Richard Kapa, a star of the backline who went on to be a foundation-season player for North Harbour when it was formed in 1985 in a break away from the Auckland union.
Kapa would played 111 matches for North Harbour, but Harmer would after his stint with Manawatu spend seven years as guitarist in a small show and dance band in Japan, where he in a minor way heralded the migration of New Zealand players to the professional scene in Japan.
Harmer's footy in the shaky isles however was limited to the odd game when locals realised they had a New Zealander in their midst and he must therefore be good enough to throw into the team just by turning-up on Saturday.
Harmer had, of course, been just one of the guitarists in the first XV, of whom the No 1, he reckoned, was teammate Andre Baker.
Some became businessmen (Harmer has run a security firm), there were CEOs, and there were teachers. "They've had very successful careers," said Harmer, recognising that family intentions had been not so much as to form a great rugby team as create new Maori leaders for the future.
The success at Te Aute in 1979 was just the start of a big era for the school, eventually including the first XV's first unbeaten season in more than two decades, the school's win in the third national schools Top 4 final in 1984, and a tour to Wales, which stemmed from the coach's welcome to Swansea schoolboys side while he was at St Stephen's.
But it also had a big hand in the revival of the Anglican Maori boys school which dates back to 1854. The roll had dropped to well under 100 at the time Riddell arrived, grew steadily back to over 200, but is back to levels again threatening its future.
The reunion last weekend coincided with a hui for old boys to discuss how they might help. "I'd love to come back," says Harmer.
Also on hand was the Moascar Cup itself. As it happens its currently domiciled just up the road, where it's held by Hastings Boys' High School.