Ranfurly Shield on the move ‘again’

Ranfurly Shield on the move 'again'
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On the move ‘again’ the Ranfurly Shield is capturing the attention of rugby fans for not only its quick transition but also, the quality of the matches.

For the third time this season alone, the Ranfurly Shield has been taken away from the holder. To the delight of rugby followers – or to the torment of host fans – the shift is promoting the old-time values that the Shield can engender.

That is, the joy of supporters when the victorious team brings the Log of Wood back, and how it can motivate the challenger. Even though with multiple changes of holder you might imagine some rugby fans would feel bad, yet it does not wholly apply. For whatever reason, they all just enjoy it in a celebratory way.

Maybe that is because there is a separate competition – teams can return their focus to the Mitre 10 Cup post-match – even though, to go from huge highs, to the lowest of lows, does take some mental adjustment but, it has always been like that.

The publicity, the immediate reporting, and social media endorsements, the excitement generated is what is now different. Just as fervent as any era, yet escalated due to the times and to an increased impression that it’s a value that is close to the heart of New Zealand Rugby fans.

Ranfurly Shield on the move ‘again’

As the victorious Hawke’s Bay player’s arrived home, it brings with it a community vibe that is incredible to behold. Proud of their province, it is a social awareness that as a collective, they all have a shared delight at winning; as they all do when on the losing side.

Canterbury first, who had won the Ranfurly Shield in 2019 against Otago, was the first team to be vanquished. Losing to Taranaki, who were boosted with the services of Beauden and Jordie Barrett.

That first change of hands was expected to boost the fortunes of Taranaki however, nobody told Otago. They supremely countered the ‘amber and blacks’ to walk away with the shield. They quickly ended the ‘Naki sides hold on the Log of Wood yet even with the excitement that Otago fans showed when embracing ‘Shield fever’ none would have planned for it to be over so quickly.

While a few will be less pleased for the continued quick exchanges of the shield, there are many who think it makes the prize relevant.

As a comparison, in 2019, Otago held the Shield over six successive challenges. Quite an achievement, as they withstood Southland, Manawatu, Taranaki, and a Waikato encounter. Wonderful yet, the repeated wins earn less ‘press space’ than does a successful challenge. That is because the defence is recorded more importantly in the local region, rather than elsewhere in this country.

The natural view of any interested or even mildly interested rugby fan is raised more so by a change in holder, than it is in long terms as defender. Less thrilling and less newsworthy. Otago were quiet achievers in 2019, until Canterbury would take the shield away to begin this current sequence.

When it is ‘on the move again’ it’s popularity rises with it. As does the anticipation. Who’s next?

Record book; the longest, and shortest Shield tenures

Already, the pundits are lining up the next challenger. That will be Northland, who after coming off a big win over Taranaki, and will be incredibly motivated for their October 16 challenge.

It will no doubt be reported widely this week and next. Ever popular, it can make for healthy banter between regions, workmates and family members. As will discussion of matches and records over past tenures. Otago, having just lost it, has in fact, held it on six occasions. While this last week will be seen as one of the shortest Ranfurly Shield eras down in Dunedin, others will quickly point to their high number of defenses overall: 38.

That is below those of current holders Hawke’s Bay though. That province has on five occasions won the shield but has had over 50 successful defenses – harking back a golden era in the 1960’s when ‘the bay’ was a rugby colossus in NZ Rugby.

This current team will be reminded of that, and it should prove a good motivator for their next home defence [the shield is only defended at home, never away].

While on the topic of statistics, records come, and records go. So a brief reflection on some figures can put these recent short reigns into perspective.

  • Longest shield reign: SOUTHLAND – 8 years, 10 months, 23 days. 1938-47
  • Shortest shield reign: HAWKE’S BAY – 6 days in 2013.  Defeating Otago on September 1, before losing it to Counties-Manukau on Sept. 7
  • Most consecutive shield defenses: AUCKLAND – 61 matches between 14 September 1985 and 18 September 1993 (8 years and 4 days)

Team match records

  • Highest score: 139–5, Auckland v North Otago, 1993
  • Biggest winning margin: 134
  • Most tries scored: 23, Auckland v North Otago, 93

Player match records

  • Most points: 40 | Most tries: 8, John Kirwan, Auckland v North Otago, 1993
  • Most conversions in a match: 12 – Brett Craies, Auckland v Horowhenua, 1986; Grant Fox, Auckland v Nelson Bays, 1991; Glen Jackson, Waikato v West Coast, 2000; and Lachie Munro, Auckland v North Otago, 2008
  • Most penalties: 7 – Robbie Deans, Canterbury v Counties, 1984; Cam McIntyre, Canterbury v Wellington, 2003

Records aside, it is the human element that many enjoy most. How communities are brought together, the neighbourhoods, the old teammates, and friends who recall the old stories and eras. Those can entertain young fans too, who (if they can) will be eager to witness a Ranfurly Shield win in their province.

For fans in Northland, they will be anticipating if the 2020 season continues the trend of short tenures. While Hawke’s Bay fans will hope that trend stops, and the Bay can withstand the next few challenges, and keep the Log of Wood in Napier this Summer.

 

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