Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Rugby: Otago's 56-year wait is over

Peter Breen and coach Tony Brown with the trophy Otago has waited so long  to hold again. Photo / Getty Images
Peter Breen and coach Tony Brown with the trophy Otago has waited so long to hold again. Photo / Getty Images

The hurt is over. Indeed, it's been so long since Otago held the Ranfurly Shield, they had probably got beyond the pain stage.

But triumph they did last night, battered and bruised in a thriller, lifting the log with a 26-19 victory over Waikato in Hamilton in a game of controversy.

It is 56 years since Otago held the shield, and it has lost a lot of lustre in that time. But never mind. The long wait is over, and a year of Super 15 pain for the southerners has also been eased, if slightly. Among the heroes was Hayden Parker, who scored 21 points.

In the 63rd minute, replacement forward TJ Ioane, who had made a big difference, skidded over the line from a scrum near the Waikato line and Otago had a seven-point lead they maintained. Otago withstood a series of attacks after the final hooter, and the players danced and hugged in jubilation as the ball was finally pumped into touch. Waikato, ITM Cup premiership heavyweights, had been lowered by a battling championship side in the fifth shield defence.

Tony Brown's Otago had been so close to a tremendous position at halftime but instead found themselves with an extremely lucky 16-13 lead at the break.

Down 16-6 and under pressure, Waikato responded with a fabulous set move try in the 38th minute, centre Savenaca Tokula getting outside his opposite Michael Collins, and Tim Mikkelson finishing it off.

Similar work got Trent Renata over the line on halftime, but a harsh, almost inexplicable video call ruled the try out for a forward pass. It was a wonder that referee Glen Jackson even went to the fourth official.

The first half was stacked with clever endeavour punctuated by a couple of superb attacks, the first bringing Otago a 26th-minute try to Parker.

Gareth Evans grabbed the steal, fellow loosie Lee Allan made a fabulous charge, Parker kicked cleverly, and the No 10 then finished off the long-range move by driving through prop Toby Smith's tackle. Controversy included Waikato lock Brian Alainu'uese's ridiculous late hit on fullback Tony Ensor.

Otago 26 (Hayden Parker, TJ Ioane tries; Parker 4 pen, 2 con)

Waikato 19 (Tim Mikkelson try, Trent Renata 4 pen, con). HT: 16-13.

- NZ Herald

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