Little precedent for Otago’s shield clash

The Otago rugby team train at Forsyth Barr Stadium ahead of their final Ranfurly Shield defence...
The Ranfurly Shield will be up for grabs in Inglewood on Sunday. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Usually, when Ranfurly Shield challenges crop up, the history gets rolled out.

Tough battles which will forever be etched in memory.

Auckland clashing with Canterbury in many, many grand encounters. Waikato winning against the odds and Wellington always coming up short.

Well, this weekend when Otago heads to Taranaki to take on the new holder of the log o’ wood, there is little to call on.

Taranaki and Otago hardly have much of a record of big games. The rivalry is nothing to write home about. Even away from the Ranfurly Shield, in the past 10 years the sides have met only three times.

Taranaki has defended the shield a total of 47 times, and in those six shield reigns the Amber and Blacks have played Otago just once.

That was in 1959 when Taranaki had a convincing 23-3 victory over Otago to retain the trophy. Tuppy Diack scored the only points for Otago that day.

Taranaki won the shield last week when it beat Canterbury 23-22 in Christchurch and will be keen to hold on to it for the rest of the season.

It had the trophy for seven defences in 2012 before losing it to Waikato. In 2018 it had the trophy for just four defences before again losing to Waikato. Otago was to take it off Waikato later that year.

The sides have only met three times over the past decade because of the structure of the two division national championship.

Taranaki was in the top premiership division from 2011-18 while Otago has never got out of the second-tier championships division. In that time the teams only played each other once.

Otago actually won that game 34-27 in 2015 with a try in the final minute by replacement halfback Kaide Whiting.

Last year, the sides did battle for the Ranfurly Shield, with Otago the holder.

Taranaki blew some chances in the match in the first half and Otago was more clinical, running out winners 35-27.

The other game over the past decade was in 2010 when Taranaki had a 25-15 win over Otago at Carisbrook. It was then that a young Beauden Barrett made his starting debut for Taranaki.

The match on Sunday will be played at Inglewood, about 20km outside New Plymouth, as Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth is still out of action because of earthquake risk. The Taranaki union has moved its home games to TRT Stadium. It has a capacity of 4500 and the union is hoping for a large crowd.

Taranaki — if it holds the shield on Sunday — also has defences against Auckland on October 10, Counties-Manukau on November 1 and Hawke’s Bay on November 15.

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