Waikato will have the Ranfurly Shield under lock and key as they try desperately to keep their names out of the history books.
Jono Gibbes’ men put on a first-half show to steal the Shield away from Taranaki, but will put their prize back up for grabs in just four days time.
Waikato claimed the famous Shield for the 11th time in the union’s history on Sunday, after holding off Taranaki 33-19 in New Plymouth and ending their five-match reign.
Five first-half tries saw the side take a 33-7 lead into the sheds, but they were unable to continue that attacking momentum and were held scoreless in the second spell.
A Taranaki comeback started to rear its head when the province scored two quick second-half tries through 2018 Crusaders Manasa Mataele and Seta Tamanivalu, but Waikato were able to hold out for the final thirty minutes and reclaim the ‘Log o’ Wood’ for the first time since 2016. It was also their third consecutive time ending Taranaki’s reign.
The victory was Waikato’s second of the year after they beat Wellington 43-31 on Wednesday to snap a three-game season-opening losing streak. They will now host the Hawkes Bay Magpies at FMG Stadium Waikato on Thursday and try to avoid breaking the record for the shortest Shield tenure – currently held by the visiting Hawkes Bay.
In 2013 Hawkes Bay won the Shield from Otago and held it for just six days before losing to Counties Manukau. If Hawkes Bay can beat Waikato – the team that ended their eleven-game Shield stretch from 2014 to 2015 – they will also lose the dubious title of shortest tenure, and Waikato will be stuck with a record that will be close to unbreakable as they play their third match in eight days.
If Waikato are able to retain the Shield on Thursday, they will only have to defend it twice more in 2018 with upcoming home fixtures against Southland and Otago.
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