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150th Celebrations

2pm, 14th May 1870

Our party may have been cancelled due to the virus but we can still celebrate the important role our club played in the establishment of our national game.

On our 150th anniversary we remember the first game of rugby played in New Zealand. An exciting match (to quote those that witnessed it) played between the Nelson Rugby Club and Nelson College, the club winning 2-0.

And the rest as they say is history.

A plaque to celebrate this important event was unveiled at the site of our first victory - the Botanics - when the Club, College and City marked the 100th anniversary of the game.Botanics Plaque

Rugby 150 Years On

The Nelson Museum has developed an online exhibition that covers the history and evolution of the game in New Zealand, the key focus is on Nelson as the birthplace of our national game.

Rugby 150 Years On

A lot has changed over the past 150 years since Nelson Rugby Football Club took the field against Nelson College on 14 May 1870.

Find out how the game’s rules have changed; how it is played now and how the game embraces inclusiveness and different formats for players with different needs.

More »

First NZ rugby game re-enactment

An estimated 5000-strong crowd turned out to watch a re-enactment of New Zealand's first rugby game at Nelson's Botanical Reserve on September 20 2011.


Re-enactment of the first game of Rugby, 2011Watch »


As part of the Rugby World Cup Game On Festival in 2011, a re-enactment of the first game of Rugby was organised by Nelson City Council. The 18 a-side game, played at the Botanics on 20th September, 2011 re-enacted the original match between Nelson College and the Nelson Rugby Club. The Rugby Club team, captained by Chris Pugh, included 15 current players and 10 retired players; the Nelson College team was their current First XV. The game was played according to the "Rugby Laws"[PDF] for 1870, as introduced by Charles Monro.

More information » The Prow

Media coverage

Event cancelled

150 NRFC logoB cancelled

At the last planning meeting (16 March 2020) the committee made the difficult decision to cancel the Nelson Rugby Football Club 150th celebrations at Queen's Birthday due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We will reassess the situation at the end of June and, if possible look at rescheduling the event later in the year.

Currently all events with more than 500 participants are banned by the New Zealand Government. This number is likely to be lowered as guidelines are revised to help fight the corona virus with Prime Minister Jacinda Adern signaling there would be additional announcements on mass gatherings in the coming days.

The committee felt that we had a responsibility to our members around their health and safety and we are aware that the pandemic may have far reaching effects on the club - not only the 150th - and that we need to manage our finances wisely.


If you have already booked and payed for your tickets you will be refunded.

We are managing this process via the TryBooking site so that there is a clear audit trail on the payment and refunds being issued. You will be send an email confirmation once your refund has been processed. It can take 3-5 business days for the funds to appear back in your account, just like a purchase