Rebecca Mahoney issues Otago’s Sio Tomkinson with a yellow card during Friday’s Ranfurly Shield match against North Otago in Oamaru. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES

‘Humbling’ experience for history-maker

A veteran of “about a dozen” Ranfurly Shield refereeing appointments says Rebecca Mahoney, who became the first woman to control a Ranfurly Shield challenge in the 115-year history of the ‘Log of Wood’ in Oamaru on Friday, is ready for even sterner challenges.

Bob Francis, who once refereed a shield clash dubbed ‘The Game of the Century’ between Canterbury and Auckland in 1985, said Mahoney “didn’t look under pressure at any stage” of Otago’s ‘away’ defence which ended in a 49-14 victory over Heartland province, North Otago.

“She could do a bit more than that,” the former test referee and World Rugby referee selector and assessor said.

“She’s confident, she’s got great communication – there would have been no questions in the players’ minds as to what she was asking.

“She even sinbinned an Otago player after continual offences, without fuss.

“She’s quite firm but not over the top. She had that right.

“She’s great around the goal-line where a lot of the game is played.

“I was really impressed with her positioning and decision-making. I thought that was superb. And she had no trouble with the speed of the game.”

Francis said he was “really impressed” and would like to see her given Mitre 10 Cup appointments in the next few months.

Only minutes after leaving Whitestone Contracting Stadium, Mahoney said she “absolutely loved it”, and described the experience as “humbling”, and above her previous history-making Heartland appointments
last year.

“The shield means so much to New Zealand rugby,” she said.

The Alfredton farmer said it had been a “positive game, good running rugby, perfect weather, Heartland v Mitre 10 Cup”.

“Otago had to work hard for their tries which was a credit to North Otago’s resilience.”

Mahoney said both captains and the players had made it a good experience for her, and immediate post-game reaction to her performance had been positive.

“There are always learnings to take away from these games, but it’s been great,” she said.

Mahoney is an international referee in women’s 15s and 7s, and a former Black Fern.