Counties-Manukau rugby fans now have a worry-free 20 days in which to enjoy having the Ranfurly Shield.

Their team beat Waikato 37-25 at Pukekohe yesterday, outscoring their neighbours four tries to three and notching up a second successful shield defence in a week.

The tries were executed clinically and the defence was rigorous.

Waikato threatened throughout, and had an early 8-7 lead. But they were down 20-11 by halftime.

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Counties fan Daryll Robson said there were nervous moments. "It was a top game; it could've been anybody's - a real nailbiter. By the last 10 minutes we probably had it sewn up. They deserved to win."

Waikato fan Shirley Hawkings was magnanimous in defeat.

"I'm pleased for Counties. Tana [coach Tana Umaga] has been working hard getting his team up to standard. Waikato would have loved a second go this season, but it wasn't to be."

Counties' next defence is against Southland on October 11.