Hawke’s Bay stuns Wellington and grabs the Ranfurly Shield in a classic clash

At Sky Stadium Wellington: Hawke’s Bay 20 (Olly Sapsford, Jonah Lowe, Sam Smith try; Lincoln McClatchy with pen) Wellington 18 (Xavier Numia, Penieli Poaza tries; Aidan Morgan with 2 penalties) HT: 8-10

Hawke’s Bay stunned Wellington to end their unbeaten run and claim the Ranfurly Shield title after 80 minutes of brutal and compelling rugby.

Replacement flanker Sam Smith was the hero as he attacked from close range with a minute left to give the Magpies a two-point lead after Lincoln McClatchy converted.

The Lions had a last-gasp bid to snatch victory but the Magpies held on to claim a famous win that adds another chapter to the rich history of the Ranfurly Shield.

It was no less than they deserved after a great performance against the reigning NPC champions.

Hawke’s Bay put Wellington under enormous pressure in the second half and the Lions had to work hard at times to fight back.

Wellington even survived a 31-phase attack on their line in the 52nd minute – a remarkable display of defensive resilience that culminated in a vital penalty won by captain Du’Plessis Kirifi.

In fact, everyone was counting on Wellington to have done enough to secure victory as substitute hooker Penieli Poasa came from a lineout to give Wellington an 18-13 lead with five minutes remaining.

However, the drama didn’t end there as the Magpies played out the restart and built the stages that eventually led to Smith winning the match.

The Hawke’s Bay clash was on fire for much of the first half, with Magpies pair Joel Hintz and Puri Rocket-Stones enjoying victory from Xavier Noumia and young number three Siale Lauaki.

Rocket-Stones, in particular, gave Lauaki a hard time.

Hawke's Bay captain Tom Parsons celebrates winning the Ranfurly Shield against Wellington.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Hawke’s Bay captain Tom Parsons celebrates winning the Ranfurly Shield against Wellington.

However, Wellington won a crucial penalty just off their line with 10 minutes left in the first half and the temperature began to boil.

As the Lions loudly celebrated the penalty, players came rushing in from all directions and it threatened to degenerate into a good old fashioned brawl before fizzle out.

Referee Nick Bryant tagged Hawke’s Bay midfielder Chase Tiatia and Wellington captain Du’Plessis Kirifi and play resumed.

This moment summed up the passion between the teams, which did not subside until the final whistle.

Big moment

Trailing 18-13 with five minutes left, substitute hooker Jacob Devery managed to catch McClatchy’s restart and the Magpies spent the next four minutes in possession before eventually cracking Wellington’s defense under the posts.

Hawke's Bay winger Ollie Sapsford scores in the first half.

Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Hawke’s Bay winger Ollie Sapsford scores in the first half.


There were worthy candidates on both sides, and Kirifi and Billy Proctor again stood for Wellington to continue their brilliant provincial campaigns. Flanders, Rocket-Stones and Tom Parsons played superbly for the visitors, while winger Ollie Sapsford scored a try to make it a memorable 50-22. But number 10 McClatchy really held his own in the second half and helped them cross the line.

Match ratings

9/10. There is no substitute for genuine feeling in the game of rugby and there was plenty of it in this Shield match. There was tight play on the ball and there were frequent thrills in defense from the likes of Kirifi and Magpies No 6 Devan Flanders. They may have been Super Rugby teammates in the Hurricanes, but there was no love lost between the two teams on Saturday. Some of the execution was off in the windy conditions, but it was a classic provincial competition.

Big picture

Wellington will finish the season top of the table with the play-offs ahead, but the Ranfurly Shield will spend the summer in Napier. Hawke’s Bay are also looking forward to the playoffs.

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