Otago have waited 56 years but they created history by winning the Ranfurly Shield in Hamilton last night.
A 26-19 victory over shield holders Waikato in Hamilton ensured the Shield will head south to Dunedin tomorrow for the first time since 1957.
The victory was based on the standout defence of the Otago side and the deadly goalkicking of young first five-eighth Hayden Parker.
The challengers could also thank a controversial TMO decision right on halftime that denied Waikato a second try.
Otago led 16-13 at the halfway mark thanks to the points scoring machine Parker.
The first-five scored his team's only try, converted it and added three penalty goals in a flawless goal-kicking performance.
Waikato thought they were going to head into halftime ahead on the scoreboard for the first time since the opening minutes but the TMO decision right on the break denied them what would have been a second try in the final three minutes of the half.
The shield holders had the bulk of the ball in the first spell but didn't treasure a lot of it with risky offloads and errors costing them at times.
Finding themselves trailing 16-6, Waikato finally put a backline move together, a cut-out pass putting centre Save Tokula into a big hole on the openside of a scrum inside their own half and with the help of decoy running from fullback Trent Renata he drew fullback Tony Ensor and put winger Tim Mikkelson away for the try.
Renata's conversion made it 16-13 and he looked to have scored the go-ahead try after the halftime hooter when Tokula again ran into big space and delivered to the fullback, who barged through the final defence to dive over.
But TMO Aaron Paterson ruled a forward pass from Tokula to Renata and Otago held their advantage into halftime.
It took 10 minutes of the second spell for Waikato to draw level with a third Renata penalty goal with the home team starting to make inroads, helped by some wayward kicking from the visitors.
And five minutes later they had another as the holders upped the intensity and carried the attack to Otago to hit the lead 19-16 but it was shortlived as young Waikato lock
Brian Alainnu'uese hit Ensor late and presented a point blank penalty that Parker easily stroked over.
The hit put danger man Ensor off the field with a shoulder injury but it did not blunt the challengers' effort.
Loose forward TJ Ioane has been an impact man all year and he did it again for Otago, coming on and grabbing a turnover midway through the half and when a 5m scrum was forced he followed up a strong run off the back by No8 Peter Grant to score.
Parker's conversion took the challengers out to 26-19.
And that proved enough to make history with the challengers' defence just proving too good for a Waikato team that found themselves running into brick walls to the finish despite much of the possession.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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