In 1992 a tremendous fund raising effort by the club raised £60,000 to send 34 players, coaches and committee men to North Island, New Zealand for what was the first ever tour to NZ by a British club side. Until English rugby giants Newcastle’s tour to NZ in summer 2002, Dundee HSFP RFC remained the only British club to have done so.
The inspiration for such a magnificent achievement came from a conversation between club captain Ally Keys, and forwards coach David Leslie. David’s contacts in New Zealand, particularly Andy Leslie in Petone, and the massive organisational effort by head coach Sandy Hutchison were to realise the ambitious dream for the club. With the financial backing provided by a incomparable effort from Sponsor Convenor, Ron Easton, Dundee HSFP RFC arrived in Auckland on Monday 29th June 1992.
Only two days later, after a training session in Wellington, the squad lined up to face Marist RFC under lights in Masterton. Still jet-lagged from the trip, Dundee produced a supreme effort to triumph 17 – 12, scoring the only try in a game which was also notable for another Scottish first – namely Budgie being the first Scottish player to be sin-binned in a rugby match.
The following day saw the tourists return to Wellington and Petone RFC where they stayed for 4 nights before their game on Sunday 5th of July. Having shaken off the effects of jet-lag and relaxed in the company of their hosts, Dundee were to produce a commanding display of attacking dynamic rugby that Petone couldn’t match. The flair and vision on display that afternoon resulted in a 41 – 7 victory for Dundee with 5 excellent tries.
The following day after an evening’s celebrations the squad made the 5 hour bus trip to Taupo. Taking advantage of a free day to take in the sights, Dundee fielded a team against Taupo RFC on Wednesday 8th July. Perhaps still feeling the effects of Petone’s hospitality, Dundee were two tries adrift at half-time. But the team dug deep and put in the graft required to claw their way back into the match and eventually prevailed 31 – 20.
Next stop was Rotorua before travelling on to Thames for a game against local side Hauraki North RFC. The party had 3 free days before the match and took full advantage of the wonderful scenery and sights in this volcanic Maori heartland. By the time Sunday 12th July arrived the team was well rested and produced another commanding try-scoring spree to defeat their hosts 32 – 24.
With four wins out of four for the tourists, the final game of the tour offered the chance of a clean sweep, something that they had talked about as a target but never dared imagine was possible. The only side standing between them and their own North Island Grand Slam was the University Club in Auckland on Wednesday 15th July. An interesting fact about that game was that Jason Hewett, capped by the All Blacks in the previous year’s World Cup and tipped by many as the the next great All Black Number 9 was watching that day, ten years before joining Dundee as player coach. On the day, with 4 hard games under their belts, the battle hardened Dundee team that took the field that day were too much for the Aucklanders. In a scintillating display of inventive, running rugby, Dundee HSFP dispatched a strong University Club side by 30 – 10.
Three weeks and five games was a challenging schedule for any rugby side and the players who took part in the undefeated tour all came back better players for the experience. Fantastic hospitality from all five of their New Zealand hosts made the travelling and playing itinerary easier to handle and a great many friends were made along the way. Ten years on and the tourists gathered at Mayfield on July 19th 2002 to celebrate the tour’s 10 year reunion. Sadly what goes on tour stays on tour so many of the reminisces of that evening cannot be divulged here