Rugby Weather: French Storm 1961

In August 1961 my Dad took me to see my first test match. All Blacks versus France at Wellington’s Athletic Park, although with hindsight it was more like New Zealand and France combined versus the weather.

Not that wind and rain were a negative for my ten-year-old self. That seemed to be one of the great things about rugby: it was so important that you were allowed to play in the rain. There was even some thought that the muddier you got the better you had played, the more heroic your effort.

With high hopes we settled into our benched seats, four rows back but not much elevation so I missed some of the good bits when everyone stood up. Dad let me know what had happened. Fortunately, we were at the northern half of the ground, almost lined up with the 25 yard line, since the wind confined 95% of the play to that end.

The French had the southerly storm behind them in the first half but after a solid All Black defensive effort it was nil all at half-time. “A twenty point wind” my father told me. In those days rugby’s way of measuring wind strength was how many points it was worth when it was blowing in the direction you were going. If it was blowing side-on it was just irritating.

I felt a bit sorry for the French. Their first trip to New Zealand. It seemed a long way to come to get thrashed. Then the second half started and the French defence proved resolute. Time passed and the All Blacks weren’t scoring. “The wind’s so strong it’s hard to pass”, my father explained. “Blowing the slippery ball away from their hands”, he added. Then the French scored. Length of the field try, against the run of play, not meant to happen, where was the cover defence?

Time running out, France 3 All Blacks 0, the abyss gaped before me. Then Tremain scored in the far corner. That’s what Dad said, I could only see the back of the man in front, though I could feel the hysterical relief in the cheering. Tied up 3 -3, conversion attempt from the sideline regarded as impossible in such a wind. Draw better than a loss, but not much. Then the kick went over, delirium. Don Clark later claimed to have aimed the kick along the 25 yard line and let the wind take it through the posts.

Ten minutes left, time to score again and stamp our authority on proceedings. But the French held on and 5-3 to the All Blacks it finished. The guilty pleasure of a narrow victory as the crowd slowly poured away. My first taste of a moral victory and it wasn’t ours. When we were meant to be piling on the points, the French had scored into the wind through their fabulous running and passing. Something we hadn’t done.

And what a wind it was, 137km/h gust at the airport, trees down, roofs off houses, ships unable to enter the harbour, airport closed, waves breaking over roads and railway lines. One man’s hat blew from Athletic Park to Karori. And the realisation that rugby’s wind scale was circular. As the wind strength picked up a ten point wind might turn into a fifteen point wind, but if the strength kept climbing the needle went right round the dial. A hurricane strength wind favoured no-one and was worth zero points.

Situation map as at 6pm Friday 4 August 1961
Situation map as at 6pm Friday 4 August 1961



Waikato Stadium Weather

After a week of sunny weather, it appears that rain will dampen Waikato Stadium before this weekend’s Tri Nation rugby game starts there at 7:35pm on Saturday.

Waikato Stadium
Waikato Stadium

This clash between the Springboks and the All Blacks is the first Tri Nations game to be held at Waikato Stadium (capacity 25,800).

If the All Blacks win this game and score four tries and the bonus point, there is still a chance of their winning this year’s Tri Nations.  The game is likely to be played in wet conditions, with perhaps 20mm of rain falling in Hamilton on Friday and Saturday.  This equates to something like 20 litres per square metre  of water  – that’s around 10 tonnes falling on the half-hectare of  playing surface inside Waikato Stadium.

20mm of rain will be worth a bonus point as far as Waikato farmers are concerned. After a week of dry weather, that’s about the right amount of water to keep the soil moisture levels up and running, producing optimum pasture growth.

So if the All Blacks can score two points for every millimetre of rain delivered to Hamilton by this front, we will all be smiling.

Will it be raining during the game? Quite possibly. But with a light northerly and an air temperature of around 12 degrees, it won’t be too cold. Scarves are optional.

When it comes to an important event such as this, you can check out TWO of the weather models we use  here (3-day) and here (7-day). These models have different calculation schemes and treat the physics of the atmosphere diifferently, which is why their predictions don’t always agree. Our skilled meteorologists take these and other data into account to produce a forecast that is the most likely one to replicate the real world.

For Hamilton go here, or for your place go to and click on your place-name.



Picture credit

Will Richie McCaw and the ABs have the weather on their side or in their faces for this weekend’s big game?

On Saturday night at Eden Park in Auckland it’s the opening game in the 2009 Tri Nations rugby competition, and the Bledisloe cup is up for grabs as well, and New Zealand’s weather is turning nasty –again.

Auckland’s last three weekends have been wet and this coming weekend looks set to continue this cycle.   Spare a thought for Wellingtonians – they are likely to get their eleventh wet weekend in a row (mind you, they only had 0.2 mm during Queens Birthday weekend).

MetService has issued Severe Weather Warnings for heavy rain in the eastern Bay of Plenty and Gisborne hills and ranges and are keeping a watch on possible heavy rain and some snow for the northern Hawke’s Bay ranges.  This is associated with a low-pressure system which is expected to deepen as it moves past the northeast of New Zealand during Friday night and Saturday.  Its rain band should move over northern areas tonight, dampening down Eden Park after a few dry days.


MetService Weather map at 6am Friday

That rain band is likely to dump around 80 to 120 mm over the eastern North Island ranges during Saturday—but in Auckland , as the low moves away, a strong , gusty southwesterly wind is likely to prevail, blowing away the rain and replacing it with showers, ensuring a slippery field.  As Eden Park regulars know, these showers come and go, and by the time the game starts on Saturday evening they are likely to be spaced further and further apart.

As far as the weather is concerned it is very likely to be a “game of two halves”:  one with a shower and squally wind to boot, and t’other without.

The wise team will be checking the MetService radar an hour before kick-off to decide, if they win the toss, to run east towards Mount Eden in the first half or delay this privilege until after half time.

As for the spectators, dress warmly as we are forecasting the air temperature during the game to drop to around 9C and the wind chill during that likely shower to feel as if its around 3C.

That’s cold, but not as cold as the weekend forecast for the South Island.  A southwest blast straight from the Southern Ocean is likely to bring gusts of around 110 km/hr to Southland and Otago on Saturday night with snow lowering to near sea level and some thunderstorms.

Challenging weather for a challenging game. Bring it on!