There are few sporting trophies in New Zealand, that inspire such passionate fervour and player and fans support, than the rugby trophy universally known as the Log o' Wood.

The Taranaki Mitre 10 teams delirium and absolute joy, after relieving Canterbury of the Ranfurly Shield in Taranaki enemy territory last weekend, told the tale what the nations biggest provincial rugby prize means in our rugby-mad country.

Presented by then Governor of New Zealand, Lord Ranfurly, the rugby challenge trophy was first contested in 1904 when Wellington defeated Auckland 6-3 at Auckland’s Alexander Park.

Wellington repelled four challenges, before Auckland took home the Log o' Wood from then rugby citadel of Athletic Park in the capital city, winning 10-6. The 1905 Auckland win, kicked off a journey where the Ranfurly Shield has traversed the country in victory, from North Auckland at the top of the country to Southland, which continues to this day.

Up to the introduction of the National Provincial Championship in 1976, the current holder would accept challenges, usually based on New Zealand Rugby Union calendar of traditional fixtures.

An interesting aside is that the Ranfurly Shield centerpiece was engraved with a soccer ball, with the addition of goal posts hastily added, to create a rugby image.

This writer, treasures a 1950 Ranfurly Shield program between Canterbury and Wairarapa, given to him by a mate some years ago. It was only short time ago that he realised what a real treasure the program was, as a little research revealed that the Ranfurly Shield changed hands on all but one occasion, during the 1950 rugby season.

The second 1950 Ranfurly Shield challenge, saw Canterbury take the time-honoured rugby prize from Otago, who had held it since dispatching Southland in August 1947. Then began a roller-coaster ride which didn't cease until the last challenge of the season.

Wairarapa paid a successful visit to Lancaster Park in Canterbury's first defence, taking out the arm-wrestle, 3 nil. The Log o' Wood returned south when South Canterbury subdued Wairarapa 17-14, before North Auckland returned home with the big prize after defeating South Canterbury 20-9.

Bay of Plenty has played a noteworthy part in the history of the Ranfurly Shield. Their first challenge in 1922, set a familiar pattern of "close - but not close enough" when they were beaten by Hawkes Bay 17-16.

During 1984, Bay of Plenty led Canterbury 10 nil before tasting defeat 18-13. Few Bay of Plenty Steamers fans could forget the pain of the 1996 challenge against Auckland, where the Blue and Gold brigade led by eighteen points with just eight minutes remaining on the clock. A storming Eden Park comeback saw Auckland seize victory from the jaws of defeat, with a 30-29 win.

All was forgiven in 2004, when the Wayne Ormond captained Steamers finally got their hands on the Ranfurly Shield, with a revenge 33-28 win over Auckland. However there tenure was brief, with just one successful defence against Waikato, before losing the highly coveted prize to Canterbury 33-26.

Luck of the 2020 Mitre Cup draw, saw the Steamers play the boys from the Naki before the shield came back to Ferdinand country, which means that the Steamers fans must wait another season to begin any further Ranfurly Shield dreams.

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian