Lock Tom Donnelly is sprayed with bubbly by his team-mates inside the Otago dressing room. Photo by Getty.
That was massive. All those years of hurt, that pain caused
by those close losses. Well, those wounds have healed. They
have been cleared.
Thanks Otago. Last night, you made plenty of people happy.
Otago won its Ranfurly Shield challenge, beating Waikato
26-19 in Hamilton, based on some steel in defence, accurate
goalkicking from Hayden Parker and some great courage.
The team went out to a 10-point lead in the first half, then
got caught but managed to score the key try in the final
quarter of the match, which in the end was the difference.
Otago captain Paul Grant, whose grandfather, Cliff Bisset,
played in the first Otago side to win the shield in 1935,
said the achievement had not yet sunk in.
''You can see the excitement in the changing room, the way
the guys stuck together out there and never gave an inch,''
''We just stuck to our basics and knew we just had to keep
making our tackles and sticking with our defence.
''This is unreal. Most days just pass you by as a rugby
player but this one I will always remember.''
Otago scored the decisive try with 23 minutes gone in the
second half, and in the end that was the difference between
the two teams.
It managed to force Waikato back over its tryline and from
the resulting 5m scrum, Grant broke off the back. When he was
lowered, the ball came free and replacement loose forward TJ
Ioane picked it up and, like the raging bull he resembles, he
charged over and scored the try.
That gave the side a seven-point lead and, come hell or high
water, nothing was going to come between this Otago side and
At the end, Waikato pressed and had a monopoly of ball in the
final 10 minutes, but the Otago defence held.
Hayden Parker was the key man for Otago, scoring 21 points
and running the cutter with aplomb for the side.
He said he tried to not get too excited during the match.
''I just tried to treat it like any game. Just line the ball
up with the posts and concentrate on putting the ball between
the posts,'' Parker said.
''Just in the final 10 minutes I thought if we could get
field position and keep them in their own half then it would
be hard for them to run 80m and score a try.''
Parker shared the elation in the Otago changing room
''I'm absolutely rapt. Just seeing the way the boys are now
and playing a game like that, it brings a whole lot of
Otago looked dangerous when it had the ball in the first half
and had a 10-point lead after half an hour.
Parker slotted two penalties within 15 minutes and then
scored the first try of the game.
Gareth Evans, who again stood out, won a turnover, one of
many by the loose forward, and the ball was shifted upfield.
It came to Parker and he put in a nice cross kick into the
arms of winger Kieran Moffat. Moffat looked for support and
it ended in the hands of Parker, who burrowed over the line
He slotted the conversion from out wide and added a penalty
five minutes later to give Otago a handy lead.
Waikato needed a spark and it got it with less than five
minutes to go in the first half.
Big centre Save Tokula sliced through the defence and drew
the last man to put Tim Mikkelson over.
Right on the stroke of halftime, Waikato was in again with
Tokula making another massive break. He passed to Renata, who
went over, but the last pass was ruled forward by the third
match official, Aaron Paterson, and the try was ruled out.
That was a big call, but a correct one.
Hayden Parker, TJ Ioane tries; Parker 2 con, 4 pen
Tim Mikkelson try; Trent Renata 4 pen, con
Halftime: Otago 16-13.