BOP looks to take back Shield


Thursday, August 18, 2005    Fotopress

BOP coach Vern Cotter’s men relished their ‘underdog’ status in surprising Auckland to capture the prestigious Ranfurly Shield for the first time last year, but Canterbury will be on guard. Its players are well aware of Cotter’s capabilities after he figured in the Crusaders run to a fifth Rebel Sport Super 12 earlier in the year as Robbie Deans’ assistant.

History also paints a bleak picture for the challengers.

While Bay of Plenty has lowered Canterbury’s colours four times in their 20 prior Air New Zealand NPC meetings, the last occasion this occurred was in 1991 (the year the Bay ended up being relegated), and the Steamers have never won an NPC encounter in Christchurch. Bay of Plenty’s only previous win at Jade Stadium was a 16-10 success in 1975, the year before the NPC started.

These two sides have met five times since Bay of Plenty returned to Division One and three of the matches have been close, with seven points or less between the protagonists. This includes last year’s Shield epic where Bay of Plenty’s brief tenure was ended only after Canterbury won 33-26.

More ominously, Canterbury demolished the division newcomers 72-3 when they ventured south for a Shield challenge four years ago, while they again won decisively 44-12 when the teams met in last year’s semifinals.

Although three tries inside the final 10 minutes handed Canterbury an inflated scoreline during a stern workout against Southland last Saturday, coach Aussie McLean will have even more class troops at his disposal this weekend with All Blacks Leon MacDonald and Greg Somerville available.

Bay of Plenty also welcomes back halfback Kevin Senioafter his rushed trip to Sydney for last weekend’s Bledisloe Cup Test, but Cotter will be demanding more patience and greater accuracy from his players if they are give Canterbury’s grip on the shield a decent shake.

Kick-off: Saturday 20 August at 2.35pm
Referee: Lyndon Bray (Wellington)
TAB odds: Canterbury $1.06, Bay of Plenty $8.00