The record for the largest crowd at Levin Domain wasn't broken at the weekend when Hurricanes fans travelled from near and far to get a glimpse of their team.

But the crowd number - estimated at more than 5000 - was possibly a close second, taking into account pre-match ticket sale and the walk-up queues that stretched along Bath Street.

Horowhenua Chronicle spoke to many people at Levin Domain during the match and found a large number had travelled to see the pre-season match against the defending champion Crusaders team.

That included 72-year-old Christine Sherman, who is arguably the Hurricane's biggest fan.


There was no mistaking which team she supported, dressed in a robe of Hurricanes flags stitched together.

She had followed the team for the last 14 years, even travelling overseas to support them.

Her favourite player of all time was former All Black and Hurricanes winger Corey Jane, and she was known on occasion to sometimes - just sometimes - tell people that she was his grandmother.

The light-hearted fantasy had turned to an inside joke between the two. Ms Sherman was no relation to Jane, but said he was good-natured about it and didn't mind.

"He knows. He's okay with it," she said.

Palmerston North couple Saleno and Shavika Prasad brought their six-month-old son Shraey to the game. They supported different teams, she with a Hurricanes flag and he with a Crusaders jersey.

Darcy Fennell, nine, and James McKinnon, eight, from Ōpiki, also supported different teams. Fennell said he didn't want to support any other team because his uncle Ben played for the Crusaders.

Zinny Taputoro and his father Dimitrius had travelled all the way from Waiouru to see the match, which was played in brilliant sunshine on a firm ground.

Luckily for the players, overnight rain would have taken some of the sting out of the surface.

Hurricanes All Blacks players Nehe Milner-Skudder, TJ Perenara, Vaea Fifita and others were rested from playing, but were kept busy at the ground signing autographs for an hour before the match.

There was a long queues of youngsters wanting their signatures and a chance for a photographs with their favourite players.

There were long queues at food trucks set up at the western end of the ground. Three caravans fried food non-stop through the afternoon just to keep up.

A water truck at the northern side of the ground as also busy as patrons helped themselves.

There was a throng of press photographers at the match too, lined up behind tape allowing close access to the action, creating a scene seldom seen at the ground.

Hurricanes mascot Captain Hurricane did a few animated laps of the ground in his heavy suit which must have been thirsty work in the heat, stopping as fans tackled him for photographs.

Horowhenua-Kāpiti Rugby Union chief executive Corey Kennett said it was easy for someone to guess at the size of the crowd, but taking into account ticket sales and gate sales, his figures were 5120. The exact data would be through in a few days, he said.

Kennett said a hot day meant some people sought shade under the trees rather than sitting on the cycle track, which didn't give a true estimate of the size of the crowd. The grandstand was full.

"The main thing for us is that we genuinely do it for the community and to see so many people and families enjoying themselves and watching top-level footy players is why we do it," he said.

"Hopefully it had a ripple effect throughout the community with so many people in town."

The after-match function was held at Horowhenua College, with both teams complimentary about Raewyn's Cafe which did the catering.

Meanwhile, the score was possibly not as important as coming through the match injury-free. Crusaders won 34-19.

Hurricanes coach John Plumtree would have looked at the scoreboard, but had a longer look at his players' lack of wounds and breathed a sigh of relief. Both teams used revolving substitutions as more than 30 from each squad had game time.

An anti-1080 protest organised for the carpark opposite the ground entrance was small and failed to disrupt rugby-goers.

Crusaders 34 (Manasa Mataele 2, Dallas McLeod, Andrew Makalio, Sevu Reece, Will Jordan tries, Mitchell Hunt 2 con) Hurricanes 19 (Vince Aso, Callum Harkin, Du'Plessis Kirifi tries, Jackson Garden-Bachop 2con). HT: 19-7.