Ellesmere relinquish Southbridge Shield

by Kent Caddick

Ellesmere has lost its grip on the Southbridge Shield after the North Canterbury rep side crossed the Waimakiriri River to wrest the prestigious rugby trophy from its grasp on Saturday afternoon.

Since 2006 Ellesmere has had a stranglehold on the shield but following wins in 2013 and 2016 North Canterbury ventured south to Prebbleton Domain with some confidence, and at the end of the 80 minutes the visitors emerged the victors, 36–29.

The platform for the North Canterbury victory was laid when its first five Brooke Retallick grabbed two intercept tries, one in each half of the match.

The visitors had opened the scoring with an unconverted try in the first five minutes and a penalty a few minutes later.

Daryl Lamborn (Southbridge) leads the charge for Ellesmere

Midway through the first spell, Ellesmere finally got on the board when Darfield fullback Alex Parker dotted down. The try was converted by halfback Harry Kirk, who was one of the standout performers for the shield holders.

Then came the first of Retallick’s intercept tries, followed minutes later by another North Canterbury try, which was converted by Retallick, and had the visitors leading 22–7 on the cusp of half-time. 

With the first 40 minutes up Waihora lock, Joe Robins completed a move set in motion by a Kirk break to close the gap to 14–22.

Ellesmere vice-captain Harry Kirk runs at the North Canterbury defence

Ellesmere struck early in the second half when Prebbleton’s Eddie Sunia burst over for a try to reduce the deficit to just three points.

However, Retallick then ran in for his second intercept try, which he converted, to restore the North Canterbury’s lead.

Springston’s Shaun Harrington dotted down out wide following a break by Ellesmere captain Tim Murgatroyd to close the gap once again.

Isileli Fine (Southbridge) uses his strength to initiate an Ellesmere attack

North Canterbury’s response was almost immediate with winger Junior Kaukirewa using his speed to outpace the Ellesmere cover defence to score out wide, and with Retallick converting from the sideline the visitors had a strong grip on the shield with 15 minutes to go in the match.

Ellesmere threw everything at North Canterbury in the closing minutes and was rewarded with an unconverted try to Parker, but the visitors held strong to get their hands on the shield for only the third time since 2006. 

Southbridge’s Jale Masi breaks through the North Canterbury defence

Springston’s Shaun Harrington only has eyes for the try line