Shield, players warmly welcomed

Otago captain Michael Collins brings the Ranfurly Shield with him through Dunedin Airport...
Otago captain Michael Collins brings the Ranfurly Shield with him through Dunedin Airport yesterday. Otago won the shield on Sunday with a 30-19 victory over Taranaki. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN
A game  on a Sunday afternoon during school holidays — and with the Ranfurly Shield at stake — could draw quite a crowd.

And if there is a vocal crowd at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium, that will give Otago’s players a boost in their quest to keep the shield a bit longer, Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley says.

"It really does lift the players," Kinley said.

In its first shield defence since toppling Taranaki 30-19 last Sunday, Otago will be against a team that has previously taken the log o’ wood off it after just one week in Hawke’s Bay.

In 2013, Otago won the shield after a 56-year drought.

In its first defence, the side lost a pulsating game — and the shield — when going down 20-19 to the Bay in front of a packed house at the stadium.

Since then, Otago has won the shield twice more.

The prized trophy yesterday travelled from Taranaki and arrived with the Otago team at Dunedin Airport, where fans and family of players gathered to give a warm welcome amid chilly conditions outside.

Aaron Hill (10), from Abbotsford School, said it was special to be part of celebrating the shield’s return.

"Not a lot of people can hold this," he said.

Felix Newell (11), from Fairfield School, said it was "really heavy".

The shield is going on a mini tour through Otago this week.

"If the shield is out in your part of the region, come along and see it," Kinley said.

Otago’s first home game this season, against Auckland, took place in front of no crowd, because of Covid-19 restrictions.

This Sunday’s fixture — the team’s second home game — is part of a double-header also featuring the Otago Spirit taking on the Manawatu Cyclones.

"It will be a big event," Kinley said.

Tickets for the double-header have gone on sale.

 

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