Shield a bonus af­ter em­pha­sis on cham­pi­onship points

Sunday Star-Times - - SPORT - GLENN MCLEAN

Vet­eran coach Colin Cooper be­lieves their de­lib­er­ate ploy not to talk about the Ran­furly Shield helped Taranaki take New Zealand’s most prized provin­cial tro­phy off Can­ter­bury.

In­stead of mak­ing the shield the fo­cal point of their match in Christchurch, Cooper and his man­age­ment team opted to put the fo­cus on the im­por­tance of the Mitre 10 Cup points that were on of­fer.

The re­sult was not only a stun­ning 55-43 win, which took them to the top of the pre­mier­ship ta­ble, but the Ran­furly Shield found its way back to New Ply­mouth for the first time since 2012.

‘‘The big­ger goal was al­ways try­ing to get a home semi­fi­nal and we wanted to make sure they were hear­ing that clearly,’’ he said. ‘‘Last year [against Waikato] we didn’t men­tion that, it was all about the shield and we threw ev­ery­thing at them about the shield. Af­ter we drew that and didn’t win it, it was so tough to bring them back up. It kept ev­ery­one bal­anced I think.’’

Cooper found it hard to split the tri­umph they en­joyed when he first won it against South­land in 2011 and Fri­day night’s vic­tory over Can­ter­bury.

‘‘2011 was spe­cial be­cause it was the first time,’’ he said. ‘‘But win­ning there [Christchurch] has al­ways been tough.’’

De­spite fall­ing 31-7 be­hind, Cooper al­ways be­lieved the side could come back.

‘‘We made 10 er­rors at the start and they scored three tries off those. We were still con­fi­dent be­cause we had a great week lead­ing up to it and we were pretty con­fi­dent even when we were down by so many points.’’

While they were able to en­joy a day of cel­e­brat­ing what they achieved, he was mind­ful of the quick turn­around and the fact they face Manawatu’s chal­lenge on Wed­nes­day.

He be­lieved that short back-up would work in their favour, as it did back in 2011 when they faced a chal­lenge from Hawke’s Bay just a few days af­ter win­ning the shield.

‘‘I think we have some good mo­men­tum and I’m sure the guys will take a lot of con­fi­dence from the win [over Can­ter­bury].’’

A stand­out from the win was flanker Lach­lan Boshier, who not only scored two tries, but put in a man-of-the-match per­for­mance around the field.

He was clearly jaded af­ter ar­riv­ing back in New Ply­mouth, as well as be­ing sore from such a

The big­ger goal was al­ways try­ing to get a home semi­fi­nal. Taranaki coach Colin Cooper

phys­i­cal en­counter.

‘‘Ev­ery­one was pretty happy with me af­ter I came off and thought I’d played well,’’ he said.

‘‘It was a pretty quick game, re­ally phys­i­cal. It felt like it was next level from what we had been play­ing in the pre­vi­ous weeks.’’

That calm­ness, he said, was there even though they fell so far be­hind on the score­board.

‘‘It was a bit strange be­cause I thought we were do­ing some good things but noth­ing was go­ing our way. It just felt like they had the rub of the green in the first half and then we started scor­ing some tries.

‘‘We went into half­time and saw it was only 10 points and we thought we weren’t too far away. The be­lief was al­ways there.

‘‘The sec­ond half, it was amaz­ing how we got on top and just got on a roll.’’

GRANT MATTHEWS/STUFF

Taranaki’s An­gus Ta’avoa with the Ran­furly Shield.

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