Wellington end 14-year Ranfurly Shield drought with win over Hawke's Bay
It’s been a long time between drinks for Wellington, but the Lions have finally ended their Ranfurly Shield drought with a 19-12 win over Hawke’s Bay in Napier.
Not even the experienced TJ Perenara had previously had the opportunity to get his hands on the coveted Log o’ Wood, which Wellington last held in 2008, but the experienced All Blacks halfback will certainly be celebrating tonight.
Peter Lakai was once again a stand-out for the Lions and has surely already secured himself a Super Rugby contract for next year, while Julian Savea had a big second half on the wing and Perenara was always prominent.
The Challenge was a tight affair throughout, with both teams entering the break sitting on 9 points apiece.
Both sides struggled to hold onto possession in the second spell, with knock-ons and lineout errors making it difficult for either team to build any real momentum, but Wellington were able to strike early after a Lakai offload close to the Hawke’s Bay line saw Perenara profit.
Five additional points off the boot of Aidan Morgan saw Wellington take a 10-point lead into the final quarter but Hawke’s Bay were able to bring themselves back within a converted try with a penalty to Lincoln McClutchie.
When it looked like the Bay might start finally building a strike back, a 73rd-minute penalty kick to the line from Lincoln McClutchie never found touch, and the Magpies soon found themselves defending a lineout on the 22 instead of setting up an attack at halfway.
It eventually led to a penalty attempt almost in front of the posts for Aidan Morgan but the young No 10 wasn’t able to slot the kick – giving the home side a slither of hope. A draw, after all, would be enough to secure the Shield for another week.
It looked like the game was done and dusted when, with 15 seconds left on the clock, Wellington secured themselves a turnover on halfway – but a penalty quickly went the way of Hawke’s Bay, and they punted the ball into the stands for the lineout.
With time up on the clock, the Magpies launched another onslaught and Perenara soon found himself in the sin-bin after slapping the ball down at the breakdown, handing the Shield holders a five-metre lineout. The first one went to plan but when the Magpies set up for one more following another infringement from the travelling Lions, things turned to custard and the ball ended up on Wellington’s side.
The ball eventually found its way into touch and that was the end of the ball game – Wellington were the victors, 19-12, ending Hawke’s Bay epic 14-game tenure with the Ranfurly Shield.
The Lions won’t be able to rest on their laurels, however, with the Ranfurly Shield set to go up for grabs in Wellington next weekend when the undefeated Waikato travel south.
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