Carter's first match back since his sabbatical was a busy one, setting up two tries - one with a cross field kick to the corner and one with a double cut-out pass.

He was then subbed off at halftime.

He distributed cleanly, made a few solid tackles, slotted two sideline conversions, and showed several classy touches, in what he'll see to be a successful return.

He was clearly puffing after 20 minutes, with hands on hips during breaks of play.


But his concise play was the difference between the sides - Southbridge leading 20-5.

A massive crowd descended on a tiny rural Canterbury township today to watch All Blacks legend Dan Carter make his much-anticipated return to rugby.

The 100-test international star filled the number 10 jersey for his club Southbridge, where his father Neville coaches the Division 2 team and mans the bar at night.

When Carter arrived at the ground he was immediately swamped by muddy, excitable crowds of kids.

A lucky few got a high five as they followed him to the dressing room.

When they were told they couldn't enter the dressing room, theatrical screams of 'Noooooo!' rang out. They were told Carter would spend time with them after the match.

A thick fog rolled across the ground during the curtain raiser, prompting locals to recall the 2006 Super 14 rugby final played under fog at the then Jade Stadium in Christchurch.

Carter kicked four penalties and a conversion that day, helping the Crusaders to a 19-12 win over the Hurricanes to win the title.

The 32-year old Carter only played half of the Luisetti Seeds Division One playoff match against Glenmark - the famous North Canterbury club that itself boasts an impressive history of producing All Blacks, including Alex 'Grizz' Wyllie, Robbie Deans, Andy Earl, and current Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

But it didn't stop the crowds turning out to Southbridge, 50km south of Christchurch, under blue skies in their droves.

Three Leeston 11-year old mates, Will Dudley, Jed Lay and Louis Nurse excited to see Dan Carter in action today. Photo / Kurt Bayer, APNZ.

Louis Nurse, 11-year old Ellesmere College pupil, was excited to see his idol in the flesh.
"It's pretty cool that out of all the towns in New Zealand he plays for Southbridge. He's a really good player."

Jed Lay, 11, said Carter is better to watch than most players.

"He's got more spark in him - he does chip kicks and cool passes."

And Will Dudley, 11, says he's seen him on TV, and now he gets to see him live.
"That's pretty cool."

Carter at number 10 in the match programme. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Sales manager Gordon Baker, 56, has made the trip from Christchurch today to see the famed playmaker in action.

"I'm keen to see him play again - I've missed him," the fan said.

"We missed him last when and I wish he was there in Dunedin (for the All Blacks) tonight."
He said it was fantastic the public, and especially children, could get so up close to a famous international sportsman.

Carter's only previous senior game for the club, his comeback from an Achilles injury against Hornby at Denton Oval in 2009 where thousands turned out.

It is Carter's first match since he limped off the hallowed turf of Twickenham last year in his 100th test.

He has been on sabbatical since, undergoing surgery on a niggly ankle, doing strength and conditioning work, spending time with wife Honor and 1-year old son Marco, and becoming a spectator himself at some of the world's top sporting events.

Excitement had been building at the club all week.

The side's official Twitter account, which boasts 85 'followers', posted a photo of Carter in the club's blue and white hoops with the words: "Southbridge is only a very small step down from the ABs!"

One player posted last night:

Pretty excited to be wearing #blueandwhite along with @DanCarter @SouthbridgeRFC tomorrow!! #getupbridge


And last night, the club said the "lads are buzzing... It's a massive deal for a small community like ours."

While no All Blacks coaches or selector were watching today, Carter hopes to make himself available for the Crusaders in their run-in, and then the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship starting in August.