The Canterbury Rugby Football Union (CRFU) has a long and proud history since it was established as the first Union in New Zealand in 1879. In 2012 Canterbury won their 5th consecutive provincial title against old foes Auckland! The 2012 Canterbury team made history with the victory – no team has ever won five titles in a row since the launch of the competition in1976.
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.