ITM Cup - Round 12
Taranaki secure Ranfurly Shield
ESPNscrum Staff
August 24, 2011
Taranaki pose with the Ranfurly Shield, Southland v Taranaki, ITM Cup, Rugby Park Stadium, Invercargill, New Zealand, August 24, 2011
Taranaki pose with the Ranfurly Shield © Getty Images

Taranaki regained the Ranfurly Shield with a hard faught 15-12 victory over Southland in Invercargill on Wednesday.

Taranaki last held the shield 15 years ago, but dug deep to cut short Southland's tenure to just one month in a dour match. Neither team impressed in a stop-start first half and although Southland dominated territorially, they were unable to convert that into points on the board. Both teams worked their kicking game hard, not always to the best effect, and the match turned into something of an arm wrestle with both teams struggling to keep their games error-free. A brace of penalties apiece saw the scores tied 6-6 after half an hour, Southland fly-half James Wilson trading blows with Taranaki counterpart Beauden Barrett. And yet another penalty in the 39th minute was enough to give Taranaki a shaky 9-6 lead at the break.

In the second-half Southland struggled with their set piece, while Taranaki's troubles at line-out time continued. The mistakes kept coming and Taranaki were turned over by Southland at crucial times and with less than 20 minutes to go, Southland came away with only another Wilson penalty for their efforts. Barrett replied in kind, and with 15 minutes remaining Taranaki led 15-9. Southland halfback Scott Cowan almost stole the game when he charged down a tired Keats clearing kick, but he was bundled into touch by the desperately chasing Barrett and Ormand five metres short. Another Wilson penalty saw Southland close to within three, but Taranaki showed good discipline to close out the final minutes for the win.

In Wednesday's other match Northland prevailed 43-34 in a nine-try thriller against Hawke's Bay in Whangarei. A focused, well-organised start saw Northland out to an early 7-0 lead, the home team capitalising on good field position and a solid lineout to set up an unstoppable rolling maul which put loose-head prop Matt Wallis over. Andrew Horrell and Lachie Munro exchanged penalties before Northland produced a carbon copy of their first try through lock Bryce Williams. But Hawke's Bay hit back five minutes through Brodie Rettalick over in the corner. Down to 14 men after centre Tu Umaga-Marshall's yellow card just before the half-hour mark, Hawke's Bay conceded another try through Simon Munro to score between the posts.

Ahead 24-8 with eight minutes until the break, Northland let the game slip, conceding two penalties before Umaga-Marshall made amends for his sin-binning by setting up Horrell for a nicely-taken try. The conversion gave the home team a narrow 24-21 lead at the break, a gap they extended barely five minutes into the second-half when openside flanker Danny Mason dived over for Northland's third try off a rolling maul. Fifteen minutes into the second spell, Northland centre Warren Dunn waltzed through the Bay defence to give the home team a 14-point lead after the conversion.

Hawke's Bay battled back on a rare incursion into Northland territory, a superb long-range cut-out pass from halfback Chris Eaton finding Richard Buckman out on the right wing for Hawke's Bay's third try. Horrell's boot added the extras, with another penalty narrowing the lead to 38-34 with less than 10 minutes remaining. With Hawke's Bay threatening, an unforced error saw Northland lock Mark Burman latch onto the loose ball, turn and kick for Simon Munro to toe ahead and win the race to the line.

Bay of Plenty upset champions Canterbury with a 35-31 win at Mt Maunganui on Tuesday evening.

The home side had Chris Noakes to thank with the half-back ending the game with a haul of 25 points. Bay of Plenty stormed to a commanding 29-3 lead in the first-half with the home side not needing a second invitation to take advantage of Canterbury's panicky lack of composure, scoring tries through halfback Toby Arnold and skipper Colin Bourke while Noakes provided the rest with his trusty left boot. Arnold's five-pointer was a team affair after the hosts launched a spirited counter attack from inside their own 22, transferring the ball through six pairs of hands before the half-back dotted down. Canterbury's indiscipline was repeatedly punished by Noakes, who stretched the advantage with three penalties before closing the half with a dropped goal.

Bay of Plenty could not match their first-half intensity after the break as Canterbury showed they meant business by slashing the deficit to 32-24 midway through the spell after tries to lock Luke Romano, half-back Willie Heinz and second five-eighth Ryan Crotty. Big centre Robbie Fruean set up their bonus point fourth try when he split the defence to set up replacement wing Telusa Veainu four minutes from full-time.

With the difference now a solitary point Bay of Plenty worked their way into an attacking position in the last minute and were rewarded with Noakes' sixth penalty to go alongside his dropped goal and two conversions.

Elsewhere on Tuesday - Waikato made amends for their drubbing at the hands of Manawatu with an impressive 31-27 win over Wellington.

The visitors Wellington were the first to score in just the third minute when a nicely delayed pass from Michael Hobbs gave centre Alapati Leiua an armchair ride to the line. But the visitors paid a price for the sinbinning of flanker Scott Fugistaller in the 17th minute with Henry Speight profiting in the corner from the resultant scrum.

Waikato then had their best period of the half as they recycled the ball through numerous phases which resulted in a try for halfback Tawera Kerr-Barlow in the 34th minute. However, Wellington nudged in front 17-15 on the stroke of halftime thanks to a fine individualistic try to second five-eighth Michael Hobbs, who spotted a gap and pierced it with ease on a 40m run to the line.

The match turned midway through the second spell as a succession of Wellington indiscretions resulted in three penalties for Waikato fullback Trent Renata. And they stretched their lead when a Sam Christie half-break helped create space for wing Tim Mikkelson down the left flank and the New Zealand sevens representative did not waste the opportunity to score his team's third try. Renata added the extras from a wide angle and Waikato looked comfortable at 31-20 with 15min remaining. Ironically, it was the concession of three quick penalties by Waikato which enabled Wellington to secure a bonus point after the final hooter as the visitors rushed up field through fly-half Lima Sopoaga who fed fullback Apoua Stewart.

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