Southland shocked defending champions Canterbury 9-3 in Christchurch to win the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 50 years.
Southland shocked defending champions Canterbury 9-3 in Christchurch on Thursday to take home the Ranfurly Shield for the first time in 50 years.
Not only is the famous Log o' Wood staying in the Stags' trophy cabinet until next year, the men from the deep south had more reason to celebrate by qualifying for the Air NZ Cup play-offs.
Having survived all season on gutsy defence, the southerners did it again, going into the half-time sheds with the score tied at 3-3. They had the better of the second spell, and would have been unlucky to lose as they repelled a series of late Canterbury raids.
Canterbury were always guaranteed top qualification for the semi-finals and lacked the vigour of the visitors, whose tactics of defending stoutly and relentlessly kicking for territory in damp conditions couldn't be cracked.
But it was the Ranfurly Shield that meant most to the team and their supporters, who grew in confidence as fly-half Robbie Robinson slotted three penalties, in the 35th, 47th and 71st minutes respectively.
His three-from-three return contrasted with a none-from-two effort from opposite number Stephen Brett, whose 17th-minute drop goal was Canterbury's only points.
Shorn of eight All Blacks, Canterbury still managed to dominate early possession and territory. However, despite averaging 30 points a game, they rarely threatened the tryline.
Canterbury's tenure lasted just three defences and captain George Whitelock cut a dismayed figure as he handed the Ranfurly Shield to Southland skipper Jamie Mackintosh, his team set to begin their sixth tenure as holders next season.
Pens: Robinson 3
Canterbury: 15 Colin Slade, 14 Sean Maitland, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Tu Umaga-Marshall, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Tyson Keats, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 George Whitelock (c), 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Broadhurst, 4 Isaac Ross, 3 Peter Borlase, 2 Ti'i Paulo, 1 Andrew Olorenshaw.
Replacements: 16 Steve Fualau, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Sam Whitelock, 19 Matt Todd, 20 Willi Heinz, 21 Casey Laulala, 22 James Paterson.
Southland: 15 Glen Horton, 14 Matt Saunders, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Jason Kawau, 11 Tony Koonwaiyou, 10 Robbie Robinson, 9 Scott Cowan, 8 David Hall, 7 Tim Boys, 6 John Hardie, 5 Joe Tuineau, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Fai Mika, 17 Dave Gannon, 18 Dion Bates, 19 Hua Tamariki, 20 Sonny Rangitoheriri, 21 Seminar Manu, 22 James Wilson.
Referee: Chris Pollock