Waikato crush Taranaki to lift Shield
Wed, 03 Oct 2012 11:01p.m.
Waikato have ripped the Ranfurly Shield off Taranaki in emphatic style, thrashing the holders 46-10 in New Plymouth on Wednesday.
In a sizeable upset given the form of both teams in the national provincial championship, Waikato stormed over for six of their seven tries in the first 50 minutes to claim the famous domestic prize.
Taranaki were never in contention, failing to halt a dominant Waikato forward pack and ceding the Shield after seven successful defences - the longest tenure by any team since 2006.
The Shield was hoisted high by captain Michael Bradley, adding to a memorable year for the No.8 who was a member of the Super Rugby-champion Chiefs.
He and his pack were at the heart of a performance which sets up a ninth Waikato Shield tenure, the third most behind Auckland (16), Canterbury (14) and Wellington (10).
Their most recent taste of the Shield was a forgettable one, losing it to Canterbury in their first defence in 2007 but before that Waikato enjoyed a 21-defence reign from 1997 to 2000.
This was a dramatic reversal of fortunes for a Waikato side who have struggled this season, losing heavily to Wellington and Canterbury last month before scraping past lowly Tasman last week.
In contrast Taranaki romped past Manawatu 59-18 on Saturday and they were expected to have too much class for the visitors.
Instead, Waikato stamped control from the outset and a forward-based try to hooker Marcel Cummings-Toone in the third minute set the scene.
With assistance of a breeze in the first half, they crossed two more times in the opening quarter through fullback Trent Renata and first five-eighth Sam Christie.
No.8 Alex Bradley finished off a try from a 30m Waikato rolling maul to put his side 27-3 ahead at halftime.
Any hope of a Taranaki fightback were snuffed out by two tries to outstanding winger Tim Mikkelson within 10m of the restart.
Taranaki halfback Jamison Gibson-Park crossed for their only try in the 60th minute but Mikkelson had the last say when he snaffled an intercept to cap his hat-trick in the final minute.
Waikato came into the game facing the threat of relegation from the national provincial championship Premier Division. Victory keeps their slim hopes of reaching the semi-finals alive with two matches remaining.
The second of those games will be a Shield challenge from Hawke's Bay on October 13.
Taranaki remain third and are at least guaranteed a semi-final berth regardless of the result of matches against Southland and Wellington.
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