Otago have retained their grip on the Ranfurly Shield, seeing off Waikato 45-35 this afternoon.

It was their fourth defence, having previously beaten Southland, Manawatu and Taranaki, and leaves them needing to beat Canterbury next week in order to lock the Shield away for the summer.

Today's win was their most impressive to date, beating the first Premiership side who had contested the Shield, and a team out for revenge after Otago had wrestled the Shield away from them late last season.

However, Waikato's chances of retaining the Log o' Wood were dealt a major blow within the first half hour, when Otago ran in three tries, taking a 20-0 lead.

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The visitors reduced the gap to 27-21 early in the second half, but a yellow card to pivotal first-five Fletcher Smith for an offside infringement saw Otago extend their lead, and two late Waikato tries only made the margin more respectable.

The defeat also sees Waikato miss out on a chance to move into the top four in the Premiership, instead still sitting three points behind Auckland with two games to go.

Otago remain third in the Championship and look set for a semifinal berth, though by beating Canterbury they could lock in that accomplishment - and lock away the Shield for the summer.

Otago 45 (Vilimoni Koroi 2, Slade McDowall, Jona Nareki, Henry Purdy, Aleki Morris-Lome tries; Josh Ioane 3 cons, 3 pens)
Waikato 35 (Samisoni Taukei'aho 2, penalty try, Mitchell Jacobson, Simon Parker tries; Fletcher Smith 4 cons)

Otago v Waikato as it happened: