Rugby: Cantabs fail in Shield slog

Michael Bent of Taranaki shows the Log o' Wood to some young fans.  Photo / Getty Images
Michael Bent of Taranaki shows the Log o' Wood to some young fans. Photo / Getty Images

Canterbury have created plenty of history over the years and yesterday they added another entry - one they didn't want.

The red and blacks hadn't lost a Ranfurly Shield challenge since 1998 and were slight favourites to do it again in New Plymouth but Taranaki weren't in a generous mood. They have quite enjoyed their run with the Log o' Wood and want it to last a bit longer.

The conditions probably helped them. It was a dreadful day in New Plymouth - cold, wet and windy - and the spectacle matched it.

It wasn't a day for spinning the ball and that negated a lot of Canterbury's threat.

They have the side to be able to rumble it up and pound the corners but they have built their game this season around an expansive approach, often with spectacular results, and enjoy a dry track.

Playing with the wind in the first half, they were guilty of overplaying their hand.

The ball was often spilled at inopportune times (although there's never a good time) and they put themselves under pressure.

They didn't play for territory as often as they should have and it was one of the reasons they went into the halftime break trailing 10-6.

Andrew Ellis and Tyler Bleyendaal were guilty of letting Taranaki first five-eighth James Marshall slice through 20m out and, after an exchange of passes with Willie Rickards, cross for the half's only try.

Taranaki briefly flirted with the idea of trying to play possession rugby in the second spell but quickly worked out this was counter-productive.

Instead, they banged it into the corners and set about getting the ball back.

It ushered in a period of kicks and counter-kicks and it was not a great day to be under the high ball.

It also meant it wasn't a great spectacle but the good crowd of 10,000 at Yarrow Stadium didn't care.

The game was in the balance until the 78th minute when the impressive Scott Waldrom drove over from close range to finally give his side the breathing space they were after.

Taranaki will hang onto the Shield for at least another fortnight when Manawatu visit and, crucially, remain unbeaten this season. In comparison, Canterbury were left to reflect on a rare defeat.

- APNZ

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