29 Sep

Log of Wood heads to Christchurch
by Tracey Nelson
29 Sep 2000

What a great win by the Red and Blacks! Playing Waikato in Hamilton is always hard – the Mooloo men have a proud rugby history, and always lift an extra notch when playing with the Shield at stake, so it was a great effort to absorb the pressure and noise at Rugby Park last weekend and come away with the win.

Choosing to play into the wind in the first half was perhaps a large part in the Canterbury win, as playing into the infamous “referee’s corner” in the second half has always been a Waikato ploy. This time the tables were turned and Mehrts kept them pinned back in their own half for most of the final 40 minutes.

As per usual, this was always going to be a game won up front, and the Canterbury pack delivered. Our scrum had the slight upperhand, although David Briggs at loosehead for Waikato looks to be a very promising prop, and made life for the Cantab backs a lot easier than the Mooloo backs had it.

But the highlight from the forwards had to be the way we contested the opposition lineout throws, and won ball off them in doing so. Todd Blackadder was outstanding in this area, and he also contributed well both in the tight play and out wider – giving the pass to Justin Marshall for our all important second try to get us the win.

Even Marika “butterfingers” Vunibaka pulled one out of the box this week, scoring a cleverly worked try from a kick and chase up the sideline that bounced horribly away from the covering Rhys Duggan for Vunibaka to fall on over the line.

Ben Blair at fullback took the kicks once again, and it has to be said that this kid has nerves of steel. Against a huge uproar of noise and cowbells (and it’s loud, believe me – I’ve been there before!) he kicked goal after goal, only missing one from close to halfway. Defensively he put in one of the most important tackles of the day, dropping Scott McLeod after he had burst through a gap and looked t be likely to set up a try. On attack, he was fast and his step deceptive.

It was a great team effort from the boys, and a deserved win from a team that really seems to have it’s sights focused on each game, week to week. The commitment and team work we are seeing is commendable, and they certainly deserve to be top of the table in the NPC at the moment.

Congratulations must also go to Waikato, who have been worthy Shield holders for the last three years and have demonstrated time and time again that rugby is all about being a team, not individuals. To have defended the Shield 22 times is an almighty effort, and this team will go down in history as one of the greats.

So the Ranfurly Shield, bastion of all that is good and true in New Zealand provincial rugby, has returned south to Canterbury. Can this team go on to retain the Log and win the NPC, to join the S12 trophy that is now residing for it’s third summer down here?

This weekend we take on Otago – a team that hasn’t held the Shield since 1957. Not only is the Shield on the line this Saturday night, but so are positions in the All Black squad to tour France and Italy at the end of the year. Certainly there are one or two Otago boys who really have to front in this game to prove they should stay as All Blacks. The danger for Canterbury is that if they do manage to finally put it together, they could be a very hard team to beat.

History is on the side of the Cantabs, as Otago haven’t won at Lancaster Park for a while and have failed in every Shield Challenge in the last 40 years. But then this is Ranfurly Shield rugby, the holy grail – anything could happen…

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