Rex Blake did not reach the heights of his illustrious All Black brother Alan ‘Kiwi’ Blake but is remembered as a talented rugby player and one of the most prolific Wairarapa representatives of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Blake, who died in Havelock North on March 15, aged 87, played about 90 games and almost every game for Wairarapa and the combined Wairarapa-Bush sides from 1954 to 1963.
A loose forward or lock, Blake often partnered Sir Brian Lochore in the middle row in the early stages of the future All Black captain’s career. He was also an occasional goalkicker.
Included in Blake’s appearances were games against the touring 1956 Springboks [lost 8-19], and the 1959 British Lions, in which he kicked two penalties and a conversion in the 11-37 loss.
In 1963, he scored one of Wairarapa’s two tries and kicked a conversion when the side was beaten 8-22 by Auckland in a Ranfurly Shield match at Eden Park, the third-to-last successful defence of Auckland’s record 24- in-a-row.
Blake moved to Hawke’s Bay and played the annual Queen’s Birthday matches for a Hawke’s Bay XV against Bush at Pahiatua in 1964 and 1965, with the latter recorded in the Rugby Almanack as his 100th first-class game.
John Lett, captain of the 1956 Wairarapa-Bush side against South Africa, described Blake as a “very good lineout forward and loose forward”. He was very much like his brother, ‘Kiwi’, who played 178 first-class matches from 1941to 1960, including 108 for Wairarapa, and captained Wairarapa in the 3-0 Ranfurly Shield win over Canterbury in 1950.
Lett recalled one incident in Blake’s first game against Hawke’s Bay in Napier in 1955, when ‘Kiwi’ [the captain] had been involved in an ongoing confrontation with the referee.
Lett said that after about six lineouts, Blake jumped for the ball and was blown up for interference by the referee, who mistakenly referred to him as ‘Kiwi’.
Despite Blake’s protestations the referee persisted and called him a cheat, in obvious retribution for his brother’s frustrations throughout the match.
Rex and ‘Kiwi’ Blake were both stalwarts of the Carterton Rugby Club.