Shield Fever Lifts Taranaki Over Premiership Leading Canterbury

Mitre 10 Cup Rd 8 - Canterbury v Taranaki

It is those moments; whatever the sport, that players together reach a combined goal. As individuals, they perform their part in an orchestrated drive to win. And tonight, it was ‘Shield Fever’ that lifted the Taranaki team to defeat the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership leading Canterbury side, 43-55.

In total, 98 points were scored at AMI Stadium, in a rugby match where the shield holders appeared to have the wood over their challengers. But when the ‘Log of Wood‘ is placed on the line, strange things happen.

Teams play above themselves, men gain strength from their team mates and in the case of Taranaki, they were down but seemed to resurrect themselves to beat a side–who up until recently [in the Mitre 10 Cup]–had seemed indestructible.

Shield Fever Lifts Taranaki Over Premiership Leading Canterbury

The shield will lift any team. It can be a seminal peak in the season for many sides. And while this match was two thirds through the season, it actually impacts on the competition standings. And it was the lift that Taranaki’s Premiership hopes needed.

If you watch the highlights package [see above], this is surely going to be a memorable outcome. Spell bounding, super-exciting, and demonstrates all the best of NZ rugby. In the grand scheme of the game, it is close to a fairy tale–the big comeback win.

And one that might affect the Premiership title reign in all reality.

Taranaki Take Shield and Premiership Points

Taranaki, sitting second on the table, were going to be a tough opponent anyway. So the confrontation was one to look forward to. Then, to consider the added weight of defending the shield, head coach Glenn Delaney’s men were still the favoured side.

The final result was a superb example of ‘never say die’ rugby.

Down by 21 points, the comeback would put Lazarus to shame. It was a reversal of fortune too, inspired in part by Taranaki players like Seta Taminivalu and Ricky Riccitelli. The ‘Super Rugby rich’ side could also bring on a player like Charlie Ngatai–returning to action, after far too many occasions troubled by concussion–and these players all showed their outstanding talents.

It was sheer brilliance at times. Tries followed tries, with Canterbury caught on the defensive. Even when aiming to attack, Richie Mo’unga kicked directly to Manasa Mataele, who showed speed to sprint away for a pivotal scoring play. It was those moments which belonged to Taranaki, and it was their tenacity that ultimately saw them win the Mitre 10 Cup clash.

Top-of-the-Table Clash see’s Taranaki Rise to the Occasion

That involves shield fever. Where perceived form can often go ‘out the window’. Canterbury had only suffered just the one loss in 2017, but nothing prepares a team better than a Ranfurly Shield game.

And the challenge has done that for both sides many times before; in fact for Taranaki–they have the experience on both hands [winning and defending]. However this time, the reward on hand brought a team together, to reach a new level. Something both Taranaki and Canterbury, have felt over their proud Shield histories.

But the result tonight was not apparent from the outset. With Canterbury leading at halftime by 31-21, not many will have predicted the huge change in fortune. Especially played in the ‘red and blacks’ hometown, it was widely presumed that – as good as Taranaki are – the Canterbury machine had gotten ‘back on course’.

That was, until shield fever took hold of the ‘Taranaki Bulls’ team.

In a results based industry, winning the shield is the ultimate ‘cherry on top’. For the Taranaki side, beating Canterbury per-say is the achievement. Not yet time for the Premiership playoffs, tonight was that type of match, and for a talented Taranaki side, a big step towards their ultimate goal.

For Canterbury, after the 60 point loss to Wellington, they must look internally to repair the damage. To the Premiership hopes, as much as to their pride. Like the saying goes ‘put it behind them, and learn from the mistakes’.

Canterbury 43 – Tries: Rob Thompson (2), Tom Sanders, Tim Bateman, George Bridge, Brayden Ennor; Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (5); Penaty: Mo’unga

Taranaki 55 – Tries: Seta Tamanivalu, Stephen Perofeta, Pita Sowakula, Ricky Riccitelli, Lachlan Boshier (2), Manasa Mataele; Cons: Marty McKenzie (7); Pen: McKenzie; Dropped goal: Perofeta.

Head Coach Colin Cooper of Taranaki poses with his players and the Ranfurly Shield after the win in the round eight Mitre 10 Cup match between Canterbury and Taranaki at AMI Stadium on October 6, 2017 in Christchurch. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Tonight’s result will go down in the Ranfurly Shield history books. As much for the excitement of the second half heroics by the visitors, as it will for the power of the Log ‘o Wood. It has an allure and magic that is sometimes missing in NZ Rugby today.

The traditional values and strengths of a one-on-one challenge is both a motivator, and a highly sought after prize. It is great reward too for the outgoing Taranaki head coach. Colin Cooper (see above picture), former Hurricanes and NZ Maori head coach, who is ending his long time in amber and black.

The win earns ‘Coops’ his third Taranaki shield reign, and will be a fine memory for him before he takes over the Chiefs Super Rugby position.

Also, it is a fine tribute to the fallen Taranaki rugby figure of Peter Burke. The former player/former All Black player and head coach, and a leading figure in the Taranaki region passed away this week. And Last Word on Rugby can think that this was no better tribute, than to win an Ranfurly Shield match–a prize that Burke won as a player–and to honour his contribution to the game of rugby.

In a memorable match, players today did themselves and their region proud. The comeback will be spoken of in rugby clubs and supermarkets throughout the region tomorrow. A game too where the ‘cherry on top’ was the satisfaction of winning the shield off the old enemy, of Canterbury.

Shield fever, still runs deep in the heartland of New Zealand rugby.


“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images