24 Aug 2013

Hundreds turn out for Ranfurly Shield's return to Otago

10:11 pm on 24 August 2013

About 500 people gathered at Dunedin Airport to welcome the Ranfurly Shield back to Otago after more than half a century.

On Friday night Otago beat the shield holders Waikato 26 to 19 in Hamilton - Otago's first Ranfurly win since 1957.

The airport offered free parking for the event and hundreds of Otago fans made the most of it.

Painted and dressed in the team's colours of yellow and blue they chanted "Otago" for a quarter of an hour before the team arrived.

Otago's coach Tony Brown says he's delighted with the response and it makes all the hard work of the last few years worth it.

On Friday the scores were locked 19-19 at the 65 minute mark, before a converted try gave Otago a lead they held until the fulltime whistle.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull says the win is fantastic news for the province.

He says Otago rugby has gone through many recent trials and the win is a great way to restore pride in the team and the Otago Rugby Football Union.

Otago Rugby Football Union general manager Richard Kinley says he's thrilled the team is bringing the Ranfurly Shield home.

Otago's first challenge for the trophy comes on 1 September when they defend it against Hawke's Bay in Dunedin.

Dunedin rugby historian Ron Palenski says the Otago team is quite young and inexperienced but their enthusiasm and willingness to go the extra mile has been key to winning.

He says it's particularly impressive to win in Hamilton.

Mr Palenski says the Ranfurly Shield continues to be extremely important to ordinary rugby players and supporters.

A public celebration of the team's win will be held at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin from 3.30pm on Sunday.