ITM Cup - Round 3
Southland regain Ranfurly Shield
ESPNscrum Staff
July 24, 2011
Southland celebrate after regaining the Ranfurly Shield, Canterbury v Southland, ITM Cup, Rugby Park, Christchurch, New Zealand, July 23, 2011
Southland celebrate with the Ranfurly Shield © Getty Images

Southland regained the Ranfurly Shield on Saturday, defeating Canterbury 22-19 in Christchurch to end the reigning ITM Cup champions' tenure at just two matches.

Southland, who won the shield off Canterbury in a famous victory two years ago - their first successful challenge in half a century - only looked capable of repeating that feat when a Scott Cowan converted try gave them a 19-16 lead 18 minutes from full-time.

A third penalty to impressive Canterbury first five-eighth Tom Taylor levelled the scores in the 68th minute but Southland playmaker James Wilson had the last word with a crisply struck dropped goal with three minutes remaining.

Canterbury had led 16-9 at halftime thanks to a pair of classy tries to bruising wing Patrick Osborne and fullback Sean Maitland, with Wilson replying from the kicking tee on three occasions.

Southland let themselves down because of poor handling in the first spell, but the second-half was an entirely different affair as Southland dominated possession and territory to clinically grind down the hosts - Cowan's try setting them on their way.

Tasman suffered a third successive defeat in the ITM Cup as they lost 32-23 to Counties-Manukau in Blenhein and remain the only winless team this season.

Winger Ahsee Tuala and fullback Sherwin Stowers scored two tries apiece to lead the visiting team to victory. Tuala's open try came after just 43 seconds and Counties had gained a 10-3 advantage midway through the first half thanks to the boot of Tasesa Lavea.

Tasman hit back with a try from lock Joe Wheeler after a turnover from Jonathan Poff and a searing midfield break from prop Fai Mika. However Tuala scored his second of the game before Stowers touched down following an inside ball from first five-eighth Lavea to lift Counties-Manukau to a 25-16 lead with a quarter remaining.

Tasman threatened to come back into the game with some promising field position. But by the time Mitchell Scott had crossed with two minutes remaining, Stowers had already grabbed his second try and confirmed the win for Counties.

Hawke's Bay ended Otago's unbeaten start to the season with a 27-13 victory at McLean Park in Napier on Sunday.

Hawke's Bay took a 13-6 advantage into the break thanks to two penalties from Andrew Horrell and a try from prop Sona Taumalolo in a scrappy, disjointed opening 40 minutes. Fullback Glenn Dickson kept Otago in touch with two penalties but the home side's forwards took charge in the second half with their solid platform allowing five-eight Dan Kirkpatrick to cross after a burst from centre Tua Saseve.

Replacement TJ Ioane set up a try for winger Joe Hill to cut the deficit to seven points but a slick backs move saw Kahn Fotuali'i surge over to double the home side's lead. And from there the Hawke's Bay pack squeezed Otago out of the game as they denied late replacements Tony Brown and Ben Smith any chance to turn the game around.

On Saturday, a disciplined Auckland outfit withstood a late Wellington charge to win 21-17 at Westpac Stadium.

Down 21-10 with less than 10 minutes remaining, Wellington battled back with a late try to captain Jeremy Thrush before Auckland regathered to secure the match. Both teams struggled all night with kicking and handling in a strong, swirling Wellington southerly and steady rain. Despite scoring a try apiece in the first five minutes, it took nearly an hour before either team managed to dot down again.

Once winger Charlie Piutau crossed, Auckland never looked like relinquishing their hold on the game, and dominated the second-half to secure their first win in three games.

The visitors took less than four minutes to cross Wellington's line, recycling the ball efficiently and with minimum risk until blindside flanker Nathan Hughes burst over from close in. First five-eighth Gareth Anscombe made a difficult conversion, and Auckland were out to a 7-0 lead, but Wellington took barely a minute to make their reply as hooker Dane Coles proved unstoppable after a quick recycle.

Bay of Plenty picked up their second win from as many starts with a bonus-point 38-17 victory over North Harbour.

With winger Lelia Masaga bagging a brace of tries, Bay of Plenty controlled the game from the first whistle, and although the visitors picked up two second-half scores, the result was never in doubt.

Harbour's defence again leaked early points, as Bay of Plenty found good field position and moved the ball wide to find openside flanker Sam Cane rampaging down the right wing. Cane showed good strength to power over in the corner, first five-eighth Chris Noakes added the extras and the home team led 7-0 after three minutes. Masaga was over in the same spot seven minutes later after quick work at the breakdown before Noakes added two penalties, with Ben Botica getting Harbour on the board.

Masaga worked a nice wrap-around with centre Phil Burleigh to pick up his second after the break butHarbour battled back, working hard to improve ball retention and proving threatening from the breakdown. They finally managed to establish some field position, and No.8 Mat Luamanu powered over from a quick tap.

Botica's conversion meant Harbour trailed by 15 at the 60-minute mark, but another Noakes penalty soon after extended Bay of Plenty's lead to 28-10. Botica was then replaced and Codey Rei made an immediate impact, touching down in the left corner after taking the inside pass from replacement halfback Brenton Helleur.

Fullback Willie Walker's conversion made it 28-17, but Bay of Plenty continued to dominate possession and were rewarded for consisent pressure when winger Ben Smith crossed on the final whistle for the bonus-point try.

Manawatu halfback Aaron Smith was a pivotal factor as Northland were beaten 30-22 in Palmerston North.

Smith's contribution was undeniable as his quick thinking helped Manawatu sneak into a 23-22 lead 15 minutes from full-time. A penalty near the tryline saw the scrum-half opt for a quick tap to earn himself a try, which was built on 10 minutes later when flanker Callum Gibbins also crossed from close range after he extracted himself from a ruck.

Earlier, nothing separated the teams at halftime when two tries apiece saw the scores locked at 15-15. Jared Payne bagged the first for Northland but Manawatu responded when space was created for Asaeli Tikoirotuma to cross in the right-hand corner.

The home side landed another blow within two minutes when centre Johnny Leota scored thanks to a well weighted cutout pass from Smith. By this stage Manawatu were threatening to dominate but Northland dragged themselves level in the 38th minute when hard-working No-8 Cam Eyre detached from a lineout drive to crash over the line.

Taranaki overhauled a second-half deficit to defeat Waikato 30-23 at Waikato Stadium on Thursday.

The home side raced into an early 14-0 lead thanks to a Toby Smith try and a moment of quick thinking from scrum-half Tawera Kerr-Barlow maintained a nine-point advantage at the break following Andre Taylor's try for the visitors.

Taylor and Trent Renata traded penalties at the beginning of the second-half before Taranaki took the game by the scruff of the neck. Playmaker Beauden Barrett set them on their way by carving through to set up a try for Jayden Hayward, with Taylor converting.

Renata responded with a penalty but quick tries to replacement flanker Chris Walker and Blade Thomson gave the visitors the points, with a missed conversion by Taylor handing Waikato a losing bonus-point at the death.

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