R&R in 'enemy territory'

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

Sideline Sid and Mrs Sid have found themselves deep in enemy territory on their annual R&R, away in the far north of our beautiful country. 

It was only after arriving in the top of the country in Kaitaia, that the  travellers realised that the Mighty Bay of Plenty Steamers are to open their 2017 Mitre 10 Cup campaign at the Toll Stadium in Whangarei this Sunday. 

The dyed in the wool Steamers fans will still be in Northland during the coming weekend, however, the weather is likely to dictate attendance at the match as the couple have packed tourist clothes, rather than a fully set of going to the game clothes in winter. 

The two rugby provinces have a long record of competition against each other.

Formerly known as the North Auckland Rugby Union, the history of the Union in the far north goes back a few years after the formation of the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union. 

Rugby was first played in Northland in the 1870's with the Marsden Rugby Union set up in 1895.

In 1920, a successful application to the New Zealand Rugby Union saw the North Auckland Rugby Union become affiliated to the the NZRU as a major union. 

Both Northland and Bay of Plenty share the distinction of having won the Ranfurly Shield.

Northland have annexed the "Log of Wood" four times in 1950, 1960, 1971 and 1978. However their last victory in 1978 clouded the Ranfurly Shield winners in almighty controversy.  

After taking the Shield from Manawatu 12-10, courtesy of a penalty goal a good number of minutes into injury time, they were to round out their NPC season with home matches against Southland and Otago. 

To the dismay of the two South Island Unions and the huge majority of rugby fans in the country, Northland went to the Ranfurly Shield rules and refused to put the Shield on the line against the two South Island teams. 

Rage spread throughout the country with Southland and Otago taking their case to the NZRU appeals Committee, with no success.

Northland stood firm and locked the Shield away in their trophy cabinet until 1979, when Auckland eventually took home the big rugby prize in the sixth challenge of the season.

Along with winning the "Log of Wood" another similarity the Unions share are two of the biggest boundaries in the country.

Bay of Plenty stretches from Reporoa to Te Kaha, while Northland reaches from the Rodney district just north of Auckland all the way to the tip of the North Island at Cape Reinga.  

Both teams are likely to be desperate to start their 2017 Mitre 10 Cup campaigns with points on the board.

Northland will want to re-ink their home base as a fortress, while the Blue and Gold representatives will be eager to lay down the gauntlet to the other Championship Division contenders. 

Go the Steamers.


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