As anti-apartheid protesters marched and chanted outside, the South African national rugby team, the Springboks, easily defeated an Eastern Rugby Union all-star team, 41-0, tonight in the second match of their three-game U.S. tour.
In a driving rainstorm that quickly turned the playing field at the city's Bleecker Stadium into a sea of mud and under the protection of more than 150 police and sheriff's deputies, the controversial match was played without interruption before a crowd of about 500.
Although protesters had predicted that as many as 10,000 demonstrators might appear, the rain-soaked crowd outside the stadium numbered no more than 2,500 at its peak. By the time the match ended, it had dwindled to fewer than 1,000.
"It happened just as we planned it. This is wonderful. I look forward to having many more successful rugby matches in Albany," said Tom Selfridge, president of the Eastern Rugby Union and coordinator of the Springboks' tour.
Not until late this afternoon did organizers finally receive word that the event could take place here as planned.
This morning, the state of New York asked a federal appeals court in Manhattan to overturn yesterday's injunction by a federal judge in Albany barring Gov. Hugh Carey from ordering the match canceled.
Carey had ordered cancellation of the match last week, citing the possibility of violence, but Judge Howard G. Munson ruled the governor's order violated the First Amendment.
When the appeals court declined to overrule Munson this afternoon, the state made a last-ditch appeal to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, but Marshall declined the appeal without comment.
As word of Marshall's ruling reached the organizers, protesters were beginning to assemble on the streets and in a park just outside the stadium. Many protesters were from the Albany campus of the State University of New York.
For the next three hours, they listened to speeches and songs. There were several standoffs and confrontations between groups of protesters and riot-equipped police, but there was no serious attempt to enter the stadium.
Mike Dollard, Albany coordinator of the protest, said, "Our rally is directed against the Republic of South Africa and the concept of apartheid, not against the game or any of the spectators." Selfridge said organizers had been prepared to call off the game if it appeared that crowd violence was imminent on the field.
The day had begun violently when a pipe bomb exploded near the downtown offices of the Eastern Rugby Union in nearby Schenectady shortly after 1 a.m. The blast caused only minor damage to the rugby union offices but severely damaged some adjacent offices.
Police said they had no suspects.
After tonight's game, the Springboks were whisked from the 7,000-seat stadium under heavy guard.
The match here, with its heavy police presence, was in marked contrast to the Springboks' first U.S. game, at a neighborhood field Saturday in Racine, Wis., with one policeman present.
The Springboks' final U.S. match is scheduled Saturday against a U.S. all-star team. Neither the site, somewhere in the Northeast, nor time of that match has been announced.
In Washington today, a House resolution opposing the Springboks' U.S. tour won a bare majority, 200 to 198, but failed to muster the two-thirds majority required for passage.