Waikato Beat Wanganui To Retain Shield

Waikato beat Wanganui at a wet Memorial Park in Cambridge New Zealand 32-12 to retain the Ranfurly Shield.

In a six try performance, the current holders of the Ranfurly Shield gave plenty of opportunities to their youngest players. Some new, unheard of members of the provincial team scored for Waikato, justifing their selections by head coach Sean Botherway. Wanganui, competing in the Heartland Championship were never going to be an easy opponent for Waikato, and the Meads Cup champions put in a respectable two-try performance.

Waikato captain Whetu Douglas praised Wanganui and said he was impressed with how his side performed.

Wanganui put up a good fight and it goes to show that New Zealand Rugby is in a good place. I’m happy with the result, the young guys that are coming through our systems are showing some real talent.

It was Waikato’s third successful Shield defence this year. Botherway’s men have also beaten Thames Valley and King Country in earlier challenges that have seen Waikato take Mitre 10 Cup pre-season fixtures out into the regions. Todays game was played in front of a healthy rural crowd of thousands, in the heartland of the district.

Waikato Beat Wanganui To Retain Ranfurly Shield

Iliesa Tavuyara scored Waikato’s first try as the home side dotted down early. That followed a botched Wanganui clearance into the wind and the shield holders opened the scoring. Playing scrumhalf, Isaac Boss; a Waikato legend and 503 cap veteran, struggled in the difficult conditions. Wanganui didn’t make it easy for Boss, being sure to keep the pressure on at the back of the breakdown.

The match was being fought on a sodden ground, after much rain. After withstanding a kicking barrage from the guests, Tevita Taufui scored Waikato’s second try. Unconverted, it took the home side out to a ten-point lead, punishing the visitors for scrappy ball possession in their own half.

Wanganui showed positive signs throughout the first half and spent a lot of time close to the Waikato line. in the heat of a ruck, lock Sam Adams was sent to the sin bin for punching. In full view of the cameras, he would have felt awful and Waikato were allowed to escape the pressure. Sean Botherway’s men held a 10-0 lead at halftime but would have been disappointed with the quality of their play, albeit in difficult conditions.

Second half tries seal home team victory

Known for their stamina, the Wanganui team–known parochially as the ‘Butcher Boys–would not back down. With a man off the field, home team fans might have hoped to slaughter the opposition.

Jordan Trainor has been a great find for Waikato during the off season after spending some time with the Chiefs during Super Rugby. The young fullback had a tough day off the kicking tee, but dotted over for two tries. His first came soon after the restart, and locals might have thought the ‘gates would have opened’.

Not entirely. While the captain Douglas scored a try of his own, the Heartland team are renowned for reacting well to pressure. They did not go down without a fight and even when they were down 27-0, captain Peter Rowe pushed him men. To their credit, Wanganui gave Waikato an almighty test and made the home side work for their victory.

Credible Performance From Wanganui

Ireland Under-20 representative Gavin Thornbury scored Wanganui’s first try of the afternoon. An intercept, it saw many in the crowd cheer on the ‘underdog’ but it only put a dent in Waikato’s lead. At 27-7, they would need a huge revival.

As full time approached, replacement Jamie Hughes powered his way over the line after a successful Wanganui driving maul. The visitors deserved their two tries, and potentially left a couple more out on the park.

Steven Misa earned his try right at the end of the game, as the conditions made for a messy second half. 32-12, not an ideal exhibition game but it was a genuine New Zealand provincial clash. No quarter given and credibility earned by both host and visiting team.

Botherway’s men will play one more pre-season match before the Mitre 10 Cup gets underway on Thursday August 18.

Waikato 32

Tries: Iliesa Tavuyara, Tevita Taufui, Jordan Trainor 2, Whetu Douglas, Steven Misa. Penalties: nill. Conversions: Jordan Trainor 1. 

Wanganui 12 

Tries: Gavin Thornbury, Jamie Hughes. Penalties: nill. Conversions: Dane Whale 1.