Steelers finally win Ranfurly Shield
September 7, 2013
Counties Manukau players celebrate with the Ranfurly Shield
© Getty Images
Counties Manukau have won the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in their 58-year history, defeating Hawke's Bay in their ITM Cup fixture at McLean Park in Napier to end the Magpies' tenure after just five days - the shortest reign on record.
The Steelers' victory - their first in 24 challenges - continued a remarkable run of results that have seen four teams in as many weeks hold the Log o' Wood. Waikato started the season with the shield in safe keeping only to lose to Otago in week two; the Razorbacks then lost in dramatic fashion to Hawke's Bay in Dunedin in week three, and now the Steelers take the trophy back to South Auckland.
Counties Manukau won the shield for the first time after Sikeli Nabou scored a try in the final five minutes, and they will place it on the line against Taranaki on Sunday having won two of their opening five fixtures.
Gillies Kaka and Mark Atkins scored tries for the Magpies, for whom Ihaia West kicked 14 points to punish the Steelers' ill-discipline. Sherwin Stowers and Sean Reidy scored tries for the Steelers, but the hosts led by two points - the margin of the sole successful conversion in the game - until towering lock Nabou broke their hearts with his try four minutes from time.
Former Magpies player Hika Elliot celebrates victory with his daughter © Getty Images
Counties hooker Hika Elliot, dumped by the Magpies in April after eight years of service, handed the home side their first attacking opportunity with a silly penalty, but the Steelers claimed the lead through a penalty goal from Baden Kerr before Augustine Pulu made a 20-metre break to set up the opening try to Stowers. The Steelers fullback, in his fourth shield challenge, was kicking himself just minutes later when he was caught out of position and scrambling defence could not prevent Kaka posting a reply.
Kerr and West traded penalties thereafter in a scrappy game of mistakes and handling errors before Atkins capitalised on a mistake from Kerr to score his try. West slotted another penalty to claim a seven-point buffer but the Steelers would not lie down.
Reidy crossed for an unconverted try that took the visitors within two points of victory, and Nabou carried two defenders over the line three minutes later to steal the lead and write the next chapter in Ranfurly Shield history.
Counties Manukau players celebrate the match-winning score © Getty Images
Hawke's Bay's Ihaia West and Adam Bradey show their disappointment after losing the Ranfurly Shield © Getty Images
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