Despite its isolation and the sparseness of its population at that time Poverty Bay in general and Gisborne in particular had early association with Rugby Football, in the late ‘seventies having sufficient players to justify the formation of a Club.
This first Poverty Bay Club formed was Gisborne Club, founded at Gisborne, on July 9 1878, the inaugural meeting receiving this publicity in THE POVERTY BAY HERALD (Gisborne), Wednesday, July 10:—
“At a football meeting held last evening at the Argyle Hotel there was a good number of players present. A Club was formed, and Mr.Bourke was elected Secretary and Messrs. Ward, Major, Henderson and Winter were elected as a match committee.”
Once a Club had been formed the Gisborne players lost no time in seeking an opponent. Napier Club was communicated with, the result being that less than three weeks after its foundation Gisborne Club was engaged in friendly battle in its first inter-Club contest, with its Hawke’s Bay neighbour. Napier Club visited Gisborne and won the match by by two tries to nil; at that time tries counted two points each. Played on July 29, the venue was Captain Read’s paddock, Gisborne Club fielding this side :-
G. F. Henderson (Capt.)
H.Te Kani Pere
A return match was played at Farndon, on September 3, the Gisborneites making the journey to Napier by steamer. Napier Club won again by two tries to nil. For this engagement H. B. Mill, C. E. Major and D Ferguson replaced Russell, Wi Maki and E.F.Ward.
Home-and-away matches with Napier Club were continued in 1879, and again in 1882 and 1883. No fixtures were arranged in 1880, whilst in 1881 Gisborne Club met Napier Club and Waipawa Club combined.
Details of these historical games are:—
1878 at Gisborne “lost” 0 to 2
1878 at Farndon “lost” 0 to 2
1879 at Gisborne “lost” 0 to 2
1879 at Farndon “Won” 2 to 0
1881 at Gisborne “won” 13 to 0
1881 at Farndon “Drew” 0-0
1882 at Napier “Lost” 5-9
1883 at Gisborne “Drew” 2-2
1883 at Gisborne “Won” 5 to 0
1883 at Napier “Drew” 2-2
In 1884 Hawke’s Bay Union was formed, and Gisborne Club found itself without an opponent. However, the following season Gisborne Club met Hawke’s Bay, for record purposes being known as a Poverty Bay XV. That title was retained by Poverty Bay sides until the formation of Poverty Bay Rugby Union. But Gisborne Club did not have to battle alone after the first engagement with Hawke’s Bay, for in 1886 a second Club was founded in Gisborne. This was Union Club, formed on April 5, and which joined with Gisborne Club to meet the southern Union that season and again the next. On April 6, 1888, a third Club, Rover Club, came into being at Gisborne, but as it turned out the new organisation took players from both existing Hubs, in sufficient numbers to cause Union Club to fail; A Poverty Bay XV from then on was comprised of an amalgamation of Gisborne and Rover Clubs’ members. Another Club instituted in Gisborne also in 1888 was Turanganui Club, a junior side which was to play a prominent part in Rugby affairs for some years after the formation of Poverty Bay Union, and which actually supplanted Rover Club; the latter Club was unable to resume activities in 1890.
In all, a Poverty Bay XV. played Hawke’s Bay on five occasions, the series resulting:-
1885: v. Hawke’s Bay At Napier Lost 0 to 9
1886: v. Hawke’s Bay At Gisborne Lost 0 to 7
1887: v. Hawke’s Bay At Napier Lost 0 to 14
1888: v. Hawke’s Bay At Gisborne Lost 4 to 7
1889: v. Hawke’s Bay At Napier Lost 3 to 10
Thus ended what may be called the initial period of Poverty Bay’s Rugby History. The Game’s roots were firmly embedded in the area’s soil, and with an increasing number of players the next move was the formation of a Rugby Union.