Sports correspondent & historian
The Bay of Plenty Steamers will have a window of opportunity when they run out to face Hawke's Bay, at McLean Park in Napier on Sunday afternoon.
Covid-19 disruptions to the 2021 Bunnings NPC, have seen the Magpies dodge two Ranfurly Shield challenges, from Waikato and North Harbour.
The revised draw has Hawke's Bay putting the 'Log of Wood' on the line, for just the second time this season, after dispatching Otago 34-10 in round two.
Presented by the then Governor of New Zealand, the Earl of Ranfurly, Auckland became the first holder of the shield in 1902.
Several decades ago, the Ranfurly Shield was losing some of its luster, with some holders picking and choosing their season challenges, shutting out genuine challengers.
The introduction of the Ranfurly Shield into the NZR National Provincial Championship, where the prize was on the line each time the holder had a home fixture, changed the dynamics of the Shield competition.
Bay of Plenty has had plenty of heartbreak in Ranfurly Shield challenges, until they got the monkey of their back in 2004, taking the time-honored symbol of provincial superiority from Auckland.
The first Bay of Plenty challenge dates back over a century to 1920, when Wellington defeated Bay of Plenty 22-3 at Athletic Park in the countries capital city.
The 1920 Ranfurly Shield year was unique in that, Wellington repelled 10 challenges before losing the Shield to Southland in the last challenge of the year.
Just two years later, Bay of Plenty were engaged in the first of several games where they nearly stole the ‘Log of Wood’ from under the holders nose.
A missed conversion from in front of the posts, right on full time, saw Hawke's Bay prevail, 17-16.
In 1984, the BOP led Canterbury 10 nil, before going down 18-13, with prop Peter Kennedy denied a try after crashing over the line, in the days before TMO’s.
Twelve years later, the Bay of Plenty fans were getting ready to accompany the Ranfurly Shield down the motorway to the Bay, when their team led Auckland 29-11 with eight minutes left on the clock.
Unbelievably, Auckland clawed their way back from the precipice of defeat with their converted try in injury time, getting them get out of jail, with a 30-29 win in the record book.
Eighty-four years after their first challenge, Bay of Plenty had their name put on the Log of Wood, defeating Auckland 33-28 after leading 20-15 at halftime.
While the entire side were heroes on the day guided by inspirational captain Wayne Ormond, first-five Glen Jackson led the way with 23 individual points, to bring the big prize home to the BOP.
So to this Sundays clash with the 'Other Bay'. Can Bay of Plenty win - YES, but they will have to overcome a large band of vocal hometown supporters and quell the passion and will to win that drives Ranfurly Shield holders.