Ranfurly Shield History
The Ranfurly Shield is a provincial challenge trophy that was donated to New Zealand rugby by the Earl of Ranfurly, the country’s Governor General between 1887 and 1904. The trophy was initially played for by Auckland and Wellington in 1904, with Wellington winning the inaugural ‘challenge’ 6-3 in Auckland. It has since been held by 16 of the country’s 27 provincial unions in its history, with North Harbour the most recent new addition to the shield holding club after it won the trophy for the first time, in the union’s 21st year of operation, against Canterbury in 2006.
Canterbury first bid for the trophy in its second game in 1904, and challenged for the shield on 11 occasions before it was finally successful for a first time, when beating Manawhenua (an amalgamation of the modern day Manawatu and Horowhenua Kapiti provincial unions) 17-6 at Palmerston North.
Canterbury’s longest term as shield holder, and the equal second longest by any side in the history of the prestigious trophy, was achieved between 1982 and 1985 when a Don Hayes-led side resisted 25 defences.
The province’s next best run is 23 which has been achieved twice: by the 1953-56 side, and also between 2000 and 2003.
The 1931-34 Canterbury side held the shield for 15 matches, while the 2004-06 edition retained the log of wood for 14 games before the 17-21 defeat by North Harbour.
Canterbury’s first run with the shield lasted just two games, with the 17-6 win over Manawhenua in 1927 being followed by a successful defense early in 1928 against South Canterbury before Wairarapa snuck an 8-7 win at Lancaster Park to return the trophy to the North Island.
The province became shield holders again in 1931 when Canterbury beat Wellington 8-6. This success was followed by three years of red and black dominance through 15 successful defences before Hawke’s Bay successfully raided Christchurch, spiriting the shield away on the back of a 9-0 victory.
Canterbury’s next two stints as shield holders were relatively brief affairs in 1935 and 1950, but the trophy returned in 1953 when Wellington was emphatically conquered 24-3 – a then record winning margin for the challenging side.
The Canterbury grip on the shield was so strong that it was not to be prized free for three years when, after 23 successful defences, Wellington regained the trophy with an 8-0 win.
Canterbury’s sixth shield reign began after an 18-11 win over Hawke’s Bay at Napier in 1969. It was subsequently lost to Auckland 16-20 after a two year period that saw nine challenges turned aside, but the North Islanders’ joy didn’t last for long.
The following year, Alex Wyllie led a successful assault on Eden Park, but Canterbury’s 12-6 success only served to set up the biggest upset in shield history.
That came the following year when Marlborough stunned the Lancaster Park faithful with a 13-6 victory that remains one of the great victories by an underdog in shield history.
Wyllie later won the shield as Canterbury coach, guiding his side to a 16-12 success in Wellington that kick started the province’s record equaling 25-match run as holders between 1982 and 1985.
Robbie Deans was a playing member of that squad, and then emulated Wyllie’s feat by winning the trophy as Canterbury coach when the side toppled Waikato in his last season at the helm in 2000.
Canterbury’s Longest Shield Runs (in terms of successful defences)
Canterbury’s Shield Eras (& number of challengers resisted)
- 1927-28 (1)
- 1931-34 (15)
- 1935 (4)
- 1950 (0)
- 1953-56 (23)
- 1969-71 (9)
- 1972-73 (2)
- 1982-85 (25)
- 1994-95 (9)
- 2000-03 (23)
- 2004-06 (14)
- 2007 (1)
- 2009 (3 to date)
Canterbury in Ranfurly Shield rugby
Played 179, Won 136, Lost 36, Drawn 7, For 5,006, Against 2,207
- Only Auckland (15) has successfully challenged for the shield on more occasions than Canterbury’s 13.
- Auckland is also the only team (with 153) to have won more individual shield games than Canterbury.
- Ben Blair (456) has the second most points of any player in shield rugby – behind Grant Fox (932). Robbie Deans (352) is fourth on that list.
- Craig Green (25) has the fifth greatest try tally in shield rugby behind John Kirwan (44).
- Robbie Deans and Cameron McIntyre share (with seven) the record for the most penalty goals kicked in a Ranfurly Shield match. Andrew Mehrtens and Greg Coffey (with three) are tied with Taranaki’s Ross Brown (who did it twice) for the most dropped goals kicked in a single Ranfurly Shield match.
- The 2003 challenges by Wellington and Auckland against Canterbury were notable in that, on both occasions, the challenging sides scored six tries – which is a record in shield rugby. Wellington could only manage a draw, while Auckland won the shield.
- Auckland ’s 35-0 score against Canterbury in 1995 represented the biggest winning margin achieved by a challenging side in shield games until that was surpassed by Waikato's 52-7 demolition of North Harbour in 2007.
- Canterbury has ended three of the last four Waikato shield tenures - in 1994, 2000 and 2007.
- Canterbury has held the shield on 13 different occasions but had its tenure terminated by Auckland five times - in 1971, 1985, 1995, 2003 & 2007. Auckland has won 13 of the 21 shield matches between the two provinces, Canterbury seven with the 1966 clash being drawn 11-11.