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August 1, 2011 | by  | in Opinion |
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7th Inning Stretch – The Log o’ Wood goes South again

Rugby fans are fortunate right now to be part of a deluge of rugby that will not stop until the Rugby World Cup Final on October 23rd.

The Super 15 seems to have only just ended, the Tri-Nations has already begun and the ITM Cup is quickly getting into full swing, with games being played on every day of the week except Mondays. Then there will be the small matter of 48 World Cup games.

But the competition that seems to continue to provide the most passion and excitement has to be the Ranfurly Shield. The Ranfurly Shield is probably the most coveted trophy in provincial rugby in New Zealand and it seems to know this, serving up great games every single time it is on the line. Last weekend was no exception.

Southland challenged Shield holders Canterbury, who had taken it from them at the end of last year’s season. The game promised so much as it was being contested by two teams who have had some mighty battles for the Log o’ Wood in recent years, and it delivered.

Canterbury flew out to a strong lead in the first half, scoring two tries in the first twenty minutes which gave them a 16-9 lead going into half-time. The second half was to be all Southland though, as they proved why they are a force to be reckoned with in this year’s ITM Cup. For the first twenty minutes of the second half, Southland camped down in Canterbury’s 22, forcing them to make tackle after tackle as they lunged for the line time and time again.
Southland finally crossed the line in the 63rd minute, courtesy of halfback Scott Cowan, after Canterbury left an inevitable hole in their defence around the fringe. That can happen when you’re subjected to making near a hundred tackles in 25 minutes. That swung the score in Southland’s favour at 19-16, however Canterbury were not done.

Canterbury scored a penalty with only 10 minutes to go, levelling things up which would have meant they retained the Shield, but Southland first-five Wilson had a drop-goal left in him which eventually gave Southland the game 22-19 after a nail-biting last few minutes in which Southland softly hit the ball up and retained possession.

The passion and desire for New Zealand’s oldest and most revered rugby trophy was obvious in this game, which epitomised the gritty, merciless rugby that Shield challenges and provincial rugby are known for. This game was certainly one that will go down in the exciting history of the Ranfurly Shield, which along with a few other games from the first two weeks of the ITM Cup has definitely reignited my enthusiasm for the game in what will be a rugby-saturated year.
It will also have a dramatic effect on the spirits of Southland rugby fans who over the past year have had significant trouble with the financial situation of their rugby union. And as I am sure most neutrals will agree, it is always good to see a Cantab hand over some rugby silverware.

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