Taranaki 41
Manawatu 21

Lukewarm congratulations to the Wallabies – you're not the only rugby team suffering through a lengthy drought for a major piece of silverware.

Come on down Manawatu, who for the 11th consecutive time, failed in their quest to wrest away the Ranfurly Shield.

It's been nearly 40 years to the day since the men in green last raised the Shield aloft, and they've had another opportunity go to waste tonight, losing 41-21 to Taranaki.

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Sound familiar? Well, Manawatu were in the exact same position last season, getting the sole challenge against Taranaki in October, but being swept aside 46-25 at Yarrow Stadium.

After Taranaki had two simple defences against Heartland sides, Manawatu had a chance for redemption, being the first challenger of the 2018 Mitre 10 Cup season.

The result was the same. The Turbos had brief potency on attack, fleeting moments of promise, but nowhere near the defensive fortitude needed to halt a talented Taranaki backline.

Of New Zealand rugby's historic major provinces (Sorry, Tasman, you're don't count), Manawatu have the longest drought without winning the Shield, and that's not the only drought the province is suffering - they haven't beaten Taranaki since 2013, or won in New Plymouth since 1986.

It was such a golden opportunity too. Manawatu had ground out a 24-19 win over Waikato to start their season in solid fashion, but more importantly, Taranaki looked rather uninspiring in their opening 30-10 defeat to Bay of Plenty.

Turns out, as we probably knew all along, Taranaki are a fair bit better than Waikato, and their backline ran riot in the generous space provided to them by Manawatu.

Theirs is a backline with a slew of Super Rugby talent, with the only question mark coming into the clash perhaps being inexperienced first five Daniel Waite. However, Waite proved to be a quality distributor, and charged over for a try of his own, which he celebrated with glee.

By then, the game was already gone, after Manawatu missed 16 first half tackles and were dominated in the territory battle. They had no answer for Manasa Mataele on the wing, who combined well with fullback Beaudein Waaka as Taranaki built their early lead, and tries to Teihorangi Walden and Toa Halafihi – via a pushover scrum – put Manawatu in a hole by halftime.

Manawatu have talent - Junior Laloifi beat two defenders to race 60 metres to score his third try of the season, but the likes of Nehe Milner-Skudder and fellow winger Te Rangatira Waitokia weren't given enough ball as the visitors' basic skills were lacking under pressure.

Such deficiencies were always going to be impossible to overcome against Taranaki, who will lock the Shield away for their next two road games, before Waikato will try to repeat their 2012 heist, and disprove the aforementioned hypothesis, on September 9.

Taranaki 41 (Manasa Mataele, Beaudein Waaka, Teihorangi Walden, Toa Halafihi, Daniel Waite tries; Waaka 5 cons, 2 pens)
Manawatu 21 (Junior Laloifi, Nick Crosswell, Rob Thompson tries; Sam Malcolm 2 cons, Jade Te Rure con)
HT: 31-14