Counties Manukau will hold on to the Ranfurly Shield for 2013 after claiming a 25-7 victory over Southland in Pukekohe on Friday.
The win was secured in the first half when Counties scored three tries and raced into a 22-0 at half-time.
The match came alive in the ninth minute when Ronald Raaymakers scored the opening try, from close in, when Rey Lee-Lo was stopped just short of Southland's line after pouncing on a loose ball just outside the visitors' 22.
Baden Kerr added the extras, and shortly afterwards,Counties captain and number eight Fritz Lee rounded off in the right-hand corner after running onto a Maama Vaipulu pass inside Southland's 22. This after the flanker tore Southland's defence to shreds with a telling break.
Counties scored their third try in the 35th minute and again it was Lee-Lo who turned provider after a thrilling thirty-metre run. He offloaded to Ahsee Tuala who got in for the five-pointer, which Kerr converted.
After the break, Southland tightened their defence to keep the Steelers' dangerous backs at bay. The Stags scored the only try of the half, in the 60th minute, when Robbie Robinson dotted down under a pile of bodies after a patient build-up close to the home side's try-line.
Scott Eade slotted the conversion but Kerr added a 73rd minute penalty which sealed Counties' win and secured them the Ranfurly Shield until 2014.
For Counties Manukau:
Tries: Raaymakers, Lee, Tuala
Cons: Kerr 2
Pens: Kerr 2
Counties Manukau: 15 Ahsee Tuala, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Toni Pulu, 10 Baden Kerr, 9 Kane Hancy, 8 Fritz Lee (c), 7 Maama Vaipulu, 6 Adam Cathcart, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Ronald Raaymakers, 3 Jarrod Firth, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Sam Aiono.
Replacements: 16 Suliasi Taufalele, 17 Matt Talaese, 18 Sikeli Nabou, 19 Mark Selwyn, 20 Lucky Palamo, 21 Ki Anufe, 22 Sam Vaka.
Southland: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Bryan Milne, 13 Cardiff Vaega, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Tim Cornforth, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Scott Eade, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 Tim Boys, 6 John Hardie, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 JP Koen, 2 David Hall, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Talemaitoga Tuapati, 17 Nick Barrett, 18 Hale T-Pole, 19 Naulia Dawai, 20 Tayler Adams, 21 Calvary Fonoti, 22 Keanu Kahukura.
Referee: Mike Fraser