For the sixth time in its history, Taranaki gets to write a new chapter in the story of the Ranfurly Shield.

After a winter which delivered New Zealand its fifth Rugby Championship in six years - a title which not a few fans greeted with a distinct lack of enthusiasm - the
shield changing hands generated real excitement, at least in New Plymouth and its hinterland.

When the battered rugby trophy returned to the energy province after the men in amber and black put Canterbury to the sword in spectacular style, hundreds were on hand
at the airport to cherish the moment.

Scores more lined New Plymouth streets as the proud team - accompanied by their mascot Ferdinand the bull - showed off the silverware from a flat-bed truck.


If the All Blacks mark the peak of achievement on the New Zealand rugby ladder, the sinews of the game are woven in the century old traditions of the shield. Only Auckland, Canterbury, Waikato, Wellington and Southland have made more successful shield challenges than Taranaki.

The team - which last held the trophy in 2012 - have proved their mettle at hanging on to the prize. They have defended the shield 44 times - more often than Wellington or Southland. The team's win over Manawatu on Wednesday means they keep it over summer.

Three days after the 'Naki went home with their booty, provincial legend Peter Burke died. The 90 year old captained the team during its famous 1957-59 era, when the game had a far greater grip on the national psyche. The thrill which settled on Taranaki this week suggests that the domestic rugby prize can stir passions which sometimes elude the game at the highest level.