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For more than a century it has been a Garden of Eden ablaze with sporting colour..
Saturday November 11, 2006
By Kevin Norquay

For more than a century it has been a Garden of Eden ablaze with sporting colour, scene of many dramatic moments in New Zealand history.

Auckland's Eden Park in 1956 hosted the first New Zealand test cricket win, over the West Indies, and 31 years later the All Blacks' only Rugby World Cup final victory.

The opening game of the 1987 inaugural Rugby World Cup was played at the ground, highlighted by the stunning end-to-end try by All Black John Kirwan against Italy.

And in 1950, Eden Park was home to the Empire Games, the first time New Zealand played host to the Commonwealth's sporting extravaganza.

New Zealand rolled Australia in a cricket one-dayer to open the World Cup there in 1991, with Martin Crowe knocking up a century while hobbling on one good leg.

And one of the most enduring quotes in NZ history was uttered on Eden Park, in 1956.

All Blacks No 8 Peter Jones turned the air blue after his team sealed their first rugby series win, 11-5 over the Springboks.

Jones, who rampaged 35 metres to a try that opened up a winning 8-0 gap, told an exuberant crowd at Eden Park, "I'm absolutely buggered."

In those days "buggered" was not regarded as acceptable language, even by an over-excited sports hero.

In 1988, the Kiwis forsook their beloved Carlaw Park to play the rugby league World Cup final at the home of rugby, only to be thrashed by Australia before a huge crowd.

All Blacks prop Gary Knight was felled by a flour bomb dropped from a light plane buzzing the ground, as the protester-besieged Springbok tour limped to a bitter end in 1981.

Cricket fast bowler Ewen Chatfield nearly died in his 1975 test debut when he was struck on the temple by a ball from England's Peter Lever.

Only mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and heart massage by England physiotherapist Bernard Thomas saved his life. Chatfield recovered to forge a distinguished international career.

Other New Zealand sportsmen might wish ill upon Eden Park, among them the test cricketers rolled for 26 there by England in 1955 - a world record low for a test-playing nation.

Even the All Blacks have suffered pain at Eden Park: the outstanding British and Irish Lions sealed the 1971 test series at the ground.

Eden Park, once a swamp, has been a sports ground since 1900. In 1910 it became the home of Auckland cricket and in 1925 Auckland rugby adopted it.

It was named after the First Earl of Auckland, George Eden.

While the final whistle may not have yet blown, the 1956 utterances of Peter Jones echo down through the years as an accurate reflection of Eden Park's international future.

Absolutely buggered.