Super Shield Challenge
By Roger Childs
Should the leading team in the country playing at home, concede a match after leading by 31-7? Definitely not.
However, Canterbury did just that last night, in losing the Ranfurly Shield to Taranaki by an incredible 55-43!
It was 13 try ball game and the crowd witnessed one of the greatest provincial matches of all time.
This was rugby at its best and the quality was exemplified in the excellent goal kicking which saw home town boy Richie Mo’unga and Taranaki’s Marty McKenzie slot 14 goal kicks out of 15, most of them from wide out.
Going into the match, Canterbury were top of the first division competition and had won their earlier Shield games easily.
It looked like another handsome victory was in the offing when they scored at the rate of a point a minute in the first half hour.
The home side ran in four tries, all of which Mo’unga converted and he added a penalty for good measure. Taranaki scored two 7 pointers late in the first half and it was 31-21 at the break.
Taranaki surges ahead in the last few minutes
With 12 minutes to go the score was 38-38, and the crowd could not have imagined that another 22 points would be scored. A try in the corner to the outstanding Taranaki flanker, Laclan Bosher, gave the visitors a seven point lead and then an amazing charge down, catch and corner try to Manasa Mataele stretched the margin to 14.
With five minutes to go Taranaki first five, Stephen Perofeta, put the result beyond doubt with a neat drop goal.
A wonderful spectacle
Over the past 113 years, contests for Log o’ Wood have either seen “cricket scores”, when the challengers have been weak, or dour struggles between top teams with the result often settled by penalty kicks.
This match was between the two leading teams in the competition and there has never been a shield challenge involving top sides with so many points and 13 tries.
Once again rugby fans saw plenty of young talent on display and with over 30 players away on All Black duty, the quality of play demonstrated augurs well for the future of the game.
So the shield heads north to Taranaki and the team will face a challenge from the Manawatu Turbos on Wednesday. No doubt Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth will be packed.
There was just one disappointment last night: having seen one of the greatest ever shield challengers, most of the crowd slunk off home and didn’t do the visitors the courtesy of watching the Log o’ Wood change hands.