Wellington scoop Ranfurly Shield in action-packed weekend

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That pulled Waikato back to only a three-point lead in the Odds Conference while Wellington are in second place, on 28 points, three points behind, although Bay of Plenty, who beat Southland 54-21, are one point behind in third with a game in hand.

Hawke's Bay, despite its loss, remains in fourth with a three-point lead from Otago.

Canterbury is 11 points clear in the Evens Conference on 36 points with Auckland second on 25 and North Harbour on 22. Northland, after their 48-21 loss to North Harbour slipped to fifth, one point behind Tasman.

The Shield win was achieved in Wellington's 100th Ranfurly Shield challenge.

Results from the eighth round were:


Waikato 54 Southland 24

Waikato Cortez Ratima cut Southland's defences to ribbons early and prop Robert Cobb crossed early to be followed by wing Daniel Sinkinson using his speed and skill to chip a kick ahead and win the race to the in-goal. But Southland showed its spirit with lock Caleb Aperahama breaking into space and off-loading a backhand pass to halfback Jay Renton who scored. Southland were denied a penalty try when Mitch Jacobson was sin-binned for pulling down a maul inches from an unprotected Waikato line, but from the resulting play prop Morgan Mitchell ensured seven points saw the teams level at 14-14 at the break.

The second half was a different story. Although fullback Robbie Robinson's penalty goal gave Southland a brief time in front, Waikato responded with wing Tana Tuhakaraina capping some typical Waikato continuity play to regain the lead. Then fullback Tepaea Cook-Savage cut loose from his own 22m area. He broke the line, kicked ahead, won the bounce and then raced to the line. When tackled just short, he flung a pass inside where first five-eighths Taha Kemara was on hand to score. Kemara punished Southland from a turnover when kicking through for Sinkinson to score the second of three before Kemara and Damian McKenzie completed the scoring action.

Waikato 54 (Roy Cobb, Daniel Sinkinson 3, Tana Tuhakaraina. Taha Kemara 2 Damian McKenzie tries; Kemara 7 con) Southland 24 (Jay Renton, Morgan Mitchell, Jack Macleod tries; Robbie Robinson 2 con, pen; Macleod con). HT: 14-14

Taranaki 34 Manawatu 24

Slick Taranaki backline passing, drawing the man as required, freed space for wing Vereniki Tikosolomone to sprint in down the sideline.  But Manawatu's response with halfback Luke Campbell broke blind and had hooker Siua Maile spin in the tackle to score. Then the backline orthodoxy gave wing Kini Naholo his chance to put his pace to use to score. But he did even better moments later off a fluffed Taranaki lineout throw. The ball bounded beyond the lineout and Naholo grabbed the ball and from a standing start he accelerated, beating three late tackle attempts for his second try.

Campbell then took advantage of sleepy Taranaki defence to scoot around a ruck and run in beneath the crossbar. Then before halftime Manawatu fluffed a lineout just out from their 22m and Taranaki worked the ball to the line and it was hooker Ricky Riccitelli who drove low to score. Manawatu played a lineout maul from a penalty kick to the corner and replacement hooker Ben Strang before the game ended with wing Tima Fainga'anuku across when two long passes opened up the spack to score.

Taranaki 34 (Vereniki Tikosolomone, Kini Naholo 2, Ricky Riccitelli  tries; Daniel Waite 4 con, 2 pen) Manawatu 24 (Siua Maile, Luke Campbell, Ben Strang, Tima Fainga'anuku tries; Brett Cameron con; Sam Clarke con). HT: 28-12

Counties Manukau 39 Canterbury 44

It was obvious from the manner of Counties Manukau's opening try that the home team were keen to take on Canterbury. Halfback Cam Roigard caught Canterbury napping when tapping and running a penalty when his 50m run was stopped a metre short of the goal-line but No8 Sam Tuifua was handy to score. Canterbury came back with a rolling maul try to hooker Brodie McAlister. However, Roigard took space again, around a ruck and raced 40m to the line and off-loaded to flanker Alex McRobbie for the try. McAlister was unleashed again to get back in front before the Punivai brothers Ngatungane and Isaiah combined in the midfield to get the latter over before the break.

Scrum power from Canterbury saw first five-eighths Fergus Burke put the kick to the line for Ngatungane Punivai to run onto the ball for a try. Flanker Tom Christie extended the lead to 37-18 before wing Tevita Ofa benefited from some classy interpassing by the home forwards to close the gap. Midfield back AJ Alatimu got the score within five of Canterbury with his try. But Canterbury gave themselves a buffer when centre Dallas McLeod ran a great angle to score. The home team got themselves a loser's bonus point after the final hooter when  replacement wing Esau Filiemoehala scored.

Counties Manukau 39 (Sam Tuifua, Alex McRobbie, Tevita Ofa, AJ Alatimu, Esau Filiemoehala tries; Riley Hohepa 4 con, 2 pen) Canterbury 44 (Brodie McAlister 2, Isaiah Punivai, Ngatungane Punivai, Tom Christie, Dallas McLeod tries; Fergus Burke 3 con, 2 pen; Chay Fihaki con). HT: 18-23

Auckland 30 Tasman 27

Auckland had to work hard to come out of this contest with a win. Tasman scored four tries to three, but their indiscipline allowed Auckland to stay in touch through penalty chances. Centre Bryce Heem's grubber kick to in-goal, sat up nicely for AJ Lam to score Auckland's first try. Fullback Salesi Rayasi made a probing run to the line and from the breakdown second five-eighths Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, at halfback, went over the top of the maul to score. Soon after Tasman centre Levi Aumua flicked a ball back infield just before going over the sideline. It deflected for No8 Sione Havili Talitui to grab it and run in to score. A tricky bounce from an Auckland kick ahead bounced for Aumua, who beat a defender, and let left wing Macca Springer do the rest.

In the second half, Tasman second five-eighths Alex Nankivell's cross-kick was taken by wing Fetuli Paea who made no mistake to secure a try to take a 20-17 lead. Springer was on the end of a long pass from Paea and raced in for his second try and a 27-20 lead. But, a penalty goal got Auckland back within touch. And, with two minutes left, the Auckland loosies had the final say. Some powerful work by flanker Adrian Choat, who was prominent throughout, set up chances for Auckland to drive at the line, and it was fellow flanker Blake Gibson who drove low at the line to stretch out and put the ball over for the winning try.

Auckland 30 (AJ Lam, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Blake Gibson tries; Taufa Funaki con; Harry Plummer con, 3 pen; Simon Hickey con) Tasman 27 (Sione Havili Talitui, Macca Springer 2, Fetuli Paea tries; William Havili 2 con, pen). HT: 17-15

Hawke's Bay 12 Wellington 19

Ranfurly Shield rugby has always been about winning the game up front and Wellington managed that by applying pressure to a Hawke's Bay side that became increasingly pressured as time counted down. It is also about scoring tries when the opportunities exist and Wellington managed that. It was no coincidence that two of its more experienced players, wing Julian Savea with a barging run to start the movement, and halfback TJ Perenara, who capped a follow-up break by No8 Peter Lakai, by being on hand in support to take a pass and score the game's only try.

Both sides conceded penalties under the pressure of the occasion, home stalwart and first five-eighths Lincoln McClutchie showing accuracy and power from all over Wellington's half to land four penalty goals while less experienced Wellington first five-eighths Aidan Morgan landed four penalty goals as well, and the conversion to give the challengers the win in their 100th Ranfurly Shield game.

Hawke's Bay 12 (Lincoln McClutchie 4 pen) Wellington 19 (TJ Perenara try; Aidan Morgan 4 pen, con). HT: 9-9

Bay of Plenty 54 Southland 21


Southland wing Michael Manson pulled off an intercept and ran 80m to open the scoring but that only seemed to get Bay of Plenty's dander up. Flanker Kohan Herbert's try set in train a reaction that produced 33 points without answer by halftime. They unleashed all their tricks, all the time competing at speed, in the perfect conditions with wing Emoni Narawa crossing twice.

Replacement back Solomone Alaimalo gave Southland another good start, to the second half, but the visitors were stretched to contain the home attackers and too many missed tackles meant Southland were unable to get back in the game. They did get Manson over for his second try, reward for having an earlier try ruled out for touch-in-goal.

Bay of Plenty 54 (Kohan Herbert, Tevita Mafileo, Emoni Narawa 2, Kaveinga Finau, Lalomilo Lalomilo, Justin Sangster, Viveni Lasaqa tries; Lucas Cashmore 6 con; Manaaki Selby-Rickit con) Southland 21 (Michael Manson 2, Solomone Alaimalo tries; Robbie Robinson 3 con). HT: 33-7

Otago 27 Waikato 20

Three elements led to the opening try, a lovely chip ahead by second five-eighths D'Angelo Leuila, a perfect bounce and offload from centre Bailyn Sullivan and perfect support play from fullback Damian McKenzie who scored. A carbon copy kick by Leuila moments later saw Sullivan go in for the second try. Otago went to their pack to respond and off a lineout move it was lock Josh Dickson who went low to the line to score. They got close often enough but were unable to convert their chances before halftime.

Two McKenzie penalty goals took Waikato to a 20-13 lead, but 12 minutes from the end, replacement forward William Tucker squeezed over in the corner. A superb conversion from first five-eighths Cameron Millar drew them level. Then, with Waikato looking to break the deadlock, centre Josh Timu pulled off an intercept and had the legs to just make it over for what proved the winning try.

Otago 27 (Josh Dickson, William Tucker, Josh Timu tries; Cameron Millar 3 con, 2 pen) Waikato 20 (Damian McKenzie, Bailyn Sullivan tries; McKenzie 2 con, 2 pen). HT: 10-14

Northland 21 North Harbour 48

It was tit-for-tat first-half try-scoring at Semenoff Stadium as loose forward Tamarau McGahan, lock Isoa Nasilasila and fullback Shaun Stevenson cross for North Harbour with halfback Sam Nock, lock Josh Goodhue and centre Tamati Tua responding for Northland. But two penalty goals to first five-eighths Bryn Gatland gave North Harbour a six-point lead at the turn.

In the second-half, North Harbour's defence stood the test against the determined home side before Stevenson got over in the 55th minute to extend the lead. Halfback Jamie Booth followed soon after and the game ended with Stevenson completing his hat-trick in his 50th game for North Harbour to lift itself into play-offs contention in the Evens Conference.

Northland 21 (Sam Nock, Josh Goodhue, Tamati Tua tries; Rivez Reihana 3 con) North Harbour 48 (Tamarau McGahan, Isoa Nasilasila, Shaun Stevenson 3, Jamie Booth tries; Bryn Gatland 6 con, 2 pen). HT: 21-27