Otago run in seven tries, thrash North Otago in Ranfurly Shield defence

Otago have successfully defended the Ranfurly Shield, defeating local rivals North Otago 49-14 in Ōamaru.

Missing 10 regular first string players due to the Otago club rugby finals this weekend, the shield holders named five debutants, and entirely new backline from their last win over Thames Valley.

The match also saw former Black Fern Bex Mahoney officiate, the first woman to oversee a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

It took Otago less than 10 minutes to open the scoring, All Blacks sevens star Vilimoni Koroi grabbing the first try of the game off the back of a scrum, the fullback standing at first-receiver before crashing over the tryline.

Lock Josh Dixon doubled the lead less than 10 minutes later, the Otago forwards driving over from close range after a lineout.

With the scoreline relatively comfortable, Otago were rocked by second-five Sio Tomkinson being shown a yellow card for being offside, the shield holders punished for constant infringements on the tryline.

North Otago would capitalise on their extra-man advantage straight away, winger Howard Packman making the most of an overlap on the right.

Despite being down a man, Otago centre Aleki Morris added the final try of the first half, beating his man off the back of a scrum to score unopposed, taking a 21-7 lead into the break.

The second half began in similar style to the first, another sevens star scoring this time, Jona Nareki beating three defenders with a classic show and go before crossing over for a try.

North Otago wouldn't prove the easy-beats many expected them to be though, prop Melikisua Kolinisau bulldozing through after a penalty on the Otago 10m line.

Otago's dominance continued after the hour mark though, reserve halfback Rowan Gouws having an instant impact off the bench, darting down the blindside from the back of another scrum to score from long range.

Tomkinson would be involved again, this time for the right reason, creating a try for reserve prop Saula Ma'u, the Otago forwards again driving over from close range.

Highlanders flanker James Lentjes completed the rout after coming off the bench, darting down the outside to score in the corner, Otago keeping hold of the Log o' Wood with a seven to two try victory.