What next for the Ranfurly Shield?

By Alex McLeod

Canterbury captain Luke Whitelock celebrates with the Ranfurly Shield last night following their win over Waikato. Photo / Photosport
Canterbury captain Luke Whitelock celebrates with the Ranfurly Shield last night following their win over Waikato. Photo / Photosport

After coming away with a 29-23 victory over Waikato at FMG Stadium last night, Canterbury claimed the Ranfurly Shield for the first time since 2011, their 15th successful challenge in Ranfurly Shield history, placing them at first equal alongside Auckland.

Before last night, the last time Canterbury had won the Ranfurly Shield was in a 26-15 victory over Southland in Invercargill at the backend of 2010.

However, after just two defences against Counties Manukau and North Otago, Canterbury lost the shield back to Southlande the year after, who claimed 22-19 win in Christchurch.

The Cantabrians will be looking to hold onto the shield for longer than just two matches during this tenure, and the first task they face is against Championship side North Harbour at AMI Stadium next Friday.

North Harbour, currently sitting in fourth spot in the Championship standings, will be relishing the prospect of attempting to snatch the Ranfurly Shield out of the hands of the reigning NPC champions, especially after their failed attempt to win the Log o' Wood earlier in the season in week two against Waikato.

Should Canterbury hold off the North Harbour threat, they will keep on of New Zealand rugby's most prized trophies over the summer as a result of not having any more home matches in the regular season for the rest of the year.

This would mean they would not have to put the shield on the line until the Mitre 10 Cup pre-season of 2017, where they would take on a selection of Heartland Championship teams.

Despite their dominance in the competition over the past nine years and their seven-match unbeaten run at home dating back to week eight of last season, the Cantabrians are not guaranteed anything in regards to retaining the shield over the off-season.

North Harbour, of course, will be looking to upset the apple cart with an unlikely win over the Premiership juggernauts, which would see them win the Ranfurly Shield for just the second time in their 31-year history as a union.

If they were to defeat the Cantabrians, it would be two weeks over a decade since they defeated the boys from Christchurch at Jade Stadium to win the Shield for the first time.

A Canterbury defeat at the hands of the Albany-based side would be the fourth-equal shortest shield tenure in history, putting it on par with Otago's nine-day run in 2013.

A win for North Harbour would mean they would face a solitary challenge for the shield in 2016, as they host Tasman at QBE Stadium on 12 October.

The match would be just Tasman's third shield challenge since forming as a union in 2006, following matches against Wellington in 2008 and Taranaki in 2012.

Both matches ended in a loss, so a win against North Harbour would result in Tasman's first ever tenure as Ranfurly Shield holders, meaning they would lose the tag as the only Mitre 10 Cup province not to have held the trophy at some point in their history.

If North Harbour were to defeat Canterbury and then lose to Tasman, they would record the equal shortest Ranfurly Shield tenure of all-time, as they would have held the title of Ranfurly Shield holders for just five days, the same length of time Hawkes Bay held the shield for in 2013 after they defeated Otago.

This would all be good news for Southland, who would then go on to challenge Tasman for the shield on the final day of the Mitre 10 Cup regular season.

If Southland were to come away with a victory from that match, they would hold onto the shield for the first time since 2011, and would keep the Log o' Wood over the off-season.

A loss for Tasman would cap off a sequence of short-lived tenures for 2016, as they would be the third side to hand over the shield in two and a half weeks, and in doing so would make them the holders of the record for the shortest Ranfurly Shield holders in NPC history, keeping hold of it for a minuscule four days.

As entertaining this potential roller-coaster ride of Ranfurly Shield challenges and hand-overs seems, it is unlikely to eventuate, as Canterbury will be firm favourites heading into their clash against North Harbour next week to retain the Shield through to 2017.

- NZ Herald

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