Southland began their defence of the Ranfurly Shield with a 48-3 romp over North Otago in Invercargill last night.

The holders were held 10-3 at halftime by a spirited North Otago side, but rammed home six tries in the second half.

North Otago skipper Luke Herden admitted afterwards his side had ran out of gas in the second half.

Southland will next defend the shield against Wanganui in a fortnight.