The stunning, spectacular and the sentimental, lists the top ten sporting matches of 2013.

Hawkes Bay 20 Otago 19
44 years is a long time. Obviously not as long as Otago's 56-year drought but long enough for Hawkes Bay fans to think if they'd ever get their hands back on the Ranfurly Shield. But as the Magpies flew down to Dunedin there was hope after the new holders only a week earlier ended their own Shield drought by beating Waikato to lift it for the first time since 1957.

That hope quickly turned into a strong possibility with 23 minutes left in the match.

Top matches of 2013
7: Drawn in the USA! Ferns make history
8: Bayern knock Barca off their perch
9: Great Scott! Aussie wins Masters
10: Murray wins Wimbledon


In a tense encounter helped by a vocal Dunedin crowd, first-five Ihaia West's individual try halfway through the second half pushed the score out to 20-9 and virtually shut the door on the home side. He run 55 metres untouched, cutting through two Otago players as Sky TV commentator Scotty Stevenson cried out "Ihaia West you are a freak".

But like many great Shield encounters there was still plenty more to come.

Otago gave themselves a chance of overhauling the big deficit when centre Jayden Spence capitalised on No8 Paul Grant's big break but Hayden Parker's missed conversion made the task that much harder.

At 20-14 it was Hawkes Bay's match to lose, and incredibly, they almost did. Buxton Popoali'i scored Otago's second but another missed conversion left the holders one point down with seven minutes left.

Magpies prop Ben Franks should have been penalised in the final seconds, as he desperately tried to regain possession thinking Hawkes Bay were trailing, but his infringement wasn't spotted and instead the match ended with an attempted Parker drop goal charged down before an Otago knoc- on in the ensuing scramble for the ball.

The Magpies finally had their hands on the Shield for the first time since 1969. Of course the joy only lasted six days. Counties came to town to take the prized trophy for the first time in the union's 58-year existence. 56 years, 44 years and then 58 years. History depleted.

That ended a wild 15 days that saw Waikato, Otago, Hawkes Bay and Counties-Manukau all held the log o' wood.

What they said:
I thought we were down by one point so when the whistle went I was like 'ohhh we've lost' and then I looked up and saw the boys were jumping up and down so it took me a few seconds to realise we'd won the game.

Hawkes Bay lock Mark Abbott
Some of the boys have played in six challenges and never got close. It was a great atmosphere and everyone played so well.