Shield stays in Cow Country
Waikato fought off a brave Northland challenge to defend the Ranfurly Shield for a fourth time.
Waikato fought off a brave Northland challenge to defend the Ranfurly Shield for a fourth time in the opening round of the 2013 NPC at Waikato Stadium.
It took until the final minutes for Waikato to secure the result with a late try from prop Toby Smith getting the Mooloo Men home by a scoreline of 31-22.
Waikato made a steady start to the match going on attack early and then opening the scoring with a penalty from fullback Trent Renata in the 12th minute.
Shortly after they were able to turn their good territory into more points with loose forward Rory Grice scoring after a well constructed build up. Renata added the extras for a 10-0 lead.
Northland responded well and deservedly got themselves on the board at the end of the first quarter with a penalty from first five Ben Seymour.
But Waikato replied with another strong attacking movement which led to a break down the right wing from centre Save Tokula, who flicked a nice pass to wing Joe Webber to score Waikato's second try of the evening.
For the rest of the first half play was settled down by both sides with lots of kicking for territory. Renata added another penalty for Waikato while Seymour kicked two for Northland, as the home side took an 18-9 lead into halftime.
With Waikato looking reasonably comfortable as they came out for the second 40 minutes, almost from the kick off Northland halfback Sonatane Takulua found a massive gap from the back of scrum to score. Seymour's conversion brought the margin to just two points.
That set the tone for a tense period of play with both teams reining in their attacking instincts and opting to kick a lot of possession away in search of territory.
The two kickers, Renata and Seymour, added two more penalties each with both having very accurate nights off the tee.
With 10 minutes remaining the lead was still just two points in Waikato's favour and a classic Ranfurly Shield finish was set up.
Waikato slowly worked their way towards the Northland line with controlled play under pressure, and eventually it was Toby Smith who rumbled his way over the line. The decision went to the TMO for what seemed like an eternity for the Waikato fans, but the try was awarded.
Renata continued his good evening with the boot to convert from out wide and open up a 31-22 lead with just minutes left on the clock.
Northland threw caution to the wind in the final minutes and looked to have scored a consolation try but it was called back for a forward pass.
Fulltime was blown after the disallowed try to deny Northland an NPC bonus point and the Ranfurly Shield was safe for at least another week.
Next up for Waikato is a Ranfurly Shield defence against Otago next Friday, August 23.
NPC scores and scorers:
Auckland 27-20 North Harbour
Tries: Visinia, Weepu, Prattley, Braid
Cons: Hickey 2
For North Harbour:
Tries: Parsons, Niuia
Cons: Elrick 2
Pens: Elrick 2
Otago 32-29 Bay of Plenty
Tries: Green, Ioane
Cons: Parker 2
Pens: Parker 6
For Bay of Plenty:
Tries: Nemani, Royal
Cons: Ripia 2
Pens: Ripia 5
Counties Manukau 16-55 Wellington
For Counties Manukau:
Try: Maama Vaipulu
Pens: Kerr 3
Tries: Sinoti, Toomaga-Allen, Coles, Proctor, Bateman, Treeby, Koroi, Hill
Cons: Sopoaga 6
Canterbury 30-6 Taranaki
Tries: Osborne, Todd, Katene, Whitelock
Cons: Bleyendaal 2
Pens: Bleyendaal 2
Pens: Taylor 2
Hawke's Bay 45-18 Manawatu
For Hawke's Bay:
Tries: O'Connor, Kaka, Veainu, Guildford, Mathewson, West, Lowe
Cons: West 5
Tries: Marshall, Templeman
Con: Te Rure
Pens: Te Rure 2
Southland 15-25 Tasman
Pens: Eade 5
Tries: Lowe 2
Pens: Symons 2, Guyton 3
Waikato 31-22 Northland (RS)
Tries: Grice, Webber, Smith
Cons: Renata 2
Pens: Renata 4
Pens: Seymour 5