In the championship Manawatū looked ominous against Taranaki and Tasman suggested they won’t be pushovers against Otago.
Waikato: 27 (Victoria Makea 2, Chantae Wilson-Jenkins, Mia Anderson tries; Ariana Bayler con, Samantha Wood con; Samantha Wood pen) Canterbury: 24 (Karla Wright-Akeli 2, Laura Bayfield, Martha Mataele tries; Isabella Waterman 2 con). HT: 10-12
For the first time in competition history, a match was decided in extra time at St Paul’s Collegiate School in Hamilton.
Waikato rallied from 24-17 down with less than two minutes remaining to stun reigning Premiership champions, Canterbury.
Turnovers by Rina Paraone and Kaea Nepia were the catalyst for a long sequence of attacks that started on the right flank and worked towards centre field.
Blindside flanker Victoria Makea was typically inspirational and drove over beside the posts gifting Samantha Wood a routine chance to tie the scores.
In extra time Waikato was able to earn favourable territory and then employed their rolling maul to extract a penalty advantage. Wood, a product of the University of Waikato club, kept her cool to secure a memorable victory.
It was a study in contrast with the Waikato forwards using their size to good effect while Canterbury was illusive in the backs. There were four lead changes.
Mia Anderson was a powerhouse for Waikato, Toku Natua and Grace Houpapa-Barrett showed why they’ve been Black Ferns and halfback Ariana Bayler was lively.
Grace Brooker was strong in midfield for Canterbury, Martha Mataele continued her impressive try-scoring run and Karla Wright-Akeli has made every post a winner following her arrival last year from Tasman.
Counties Manukau: 51 (Jaymie Kolose 3, Shonte To’a 2, Lulu Leuta 2, Kataraina Enosa-Taifau, Lana Samuelu tries; Shonte To’a 3 con) Bay of Plenty: 5 (Sapphire Williams try). HT: 29-0
Bay of Plenty conceded half a century for the second time in as many weeks, overwhelmed by Counties Manukau.
The Heat were vastly superior in the scrums and lineouts guaranteeing a struggle for the Volcanix who waited 155 minutes to score their first points of the season. Sapphire Williams gathered a loose pass on the bounce and dashed 50m five minutes before fulltime.
Much of the credit for Counties success belongs to front rowers Cathy Leuta, Anastasia Mamea, and Harono Te Iringa who bullied their smaller opponents. Te Iringa has shifted from lock to tighthead this season.
Enosa-Taifau scored a cracking try handing off multiple defenders throughout 60m. First-Five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali set up a try with a delightful chip and played with the flair and authority that made her a World Cup winner with the Black Ferns in 2017.
Jaymie Kolose played wing for Chiefs Manawa in Super Rugby Aupiki but flourished at fullback in this game.
Otago: 34 (Jamie Church 2, Tegan Hollows, Pesalini Lave-Heehau, Oceana Campbell tries; Georgia Cormick 3 con, pen) Tasman: 28 (Ashley Ulutupu, Chloe Dixon, Fiaali’i Solomona, Sui Pauaraisa tries; Cassie Siataga con, 2 pen). HT: 15-13
Otago has enjoyed some vast margins of victory over Tasman but was stretched to the brink in this tussle. In the final minute Tasman failed to find touch from a clearance and Otago spread it quickly to the right wing and Oceana Campbell galloped in to make it 32-28.
A conversion by Georgia Cormick would be pivotal as Otago regained a messy kick-off but then lost possession and a player to the sin bin.
A chip and chase by the influential Cassie Siataga was grounded by the Spirit in their own in-goal area in the 83rd minute to terminate time.
It was a wild match with four yellow cards and eight lead changes. Tasman had an edge in the set-piece with both enterprising from broken play.
Jamie Church was a standout in the Dunedin club season and was especially threatening in the first half with two well-taken tries. Georgia Cormick was accurate with the boot and her experience will be important for Otago this season.
Sui Pauaraisa scored a try with a weaving run to make it 23-20 but the threats of Campbell and Maia Joseph always loomed large.
Against 14 women, Otago scored via Tongan international Pesalini Lave-Heehau and Campbell, either side of a Siataga penalty.
Auckland: 17 (Katelyn Vaha'akolo, Angelica Vahai, Eloise Blackwell tries; Sophie Fisher con) Wellington: 15 (Lyric Faleafaga, Justine McGregor, Nina Foaese tries) HT: 10-10
The Wellington Pride haven’t beaten the Auckland Storm since 2006 and will be as bitter as the cold Hutt Rec wind to miss out on victory.
With 11 minutes remaining Wellington led 15-10 with Auckland down to 13 players due to yellow cards for ill-discipline.
Wellington turned down an easy penalty shot to extend their advantage to eight and then lost discipline themselves with the Storm scrum to the fore.
With the last play of the game Auckland went blindside from a stable midfield set five meters out. The forwards were patient and lock Eloise Blackwell, just returned from the sin bin, muscled over close to the posts to tie the scores. Reserve prop Sophie Fisher missed a chance to win Auckland a game against Hawke’s Bay last week. She made no mistake down from about 10m to the right of the uprights.
It was a gripping tussle in appalling conditions. Auckland started stronger with wing Katelyn Vaha'akolo and Angelica Vahai scoring tries. The Black Ferns Vaha'akolo proved illusive throughout.
Wellington was level by halftime with Monica Tagoai combing with Lyric Faleafaga and then assisting a fourth try in two games for Justine McGregor.
Wellington No.8 Nina Foaese powered off the back of the scrum in the 50th minute to give the Pride a 15-10 lead. Auckland lost three players to the bin but where they were able to move the ball away from the large Pride pack, they were able to find ample space. Princes Elliot was huge off the bench and Petone tighthead Lavinia Lea a success for Wellington on her debut.
Auckland have won 29 of their 30 previous matches against Wellington.
Manawatū: 84 (Te Whetumarama Nuku 4, Kaipo Olsen-Baker 3, Rhiarna Ferris 2, Hollyrae Mete 2, Jashana Tetue-Teuawiri 2, Layla Sae tries; Selica Winiata 6 con, Mia Maraku con) Taranaki: 0. HT: 38-0
Manawatū fell just short of achieving their highest ever score which is 88 against Tasman in 2020.
The Cyclones were clinical in all facets though Taranaki had some success in nullifying lineout drives.
Manawatū plays a fast and expansive style with a particularly impressive loose-forward trio. Layla Sae, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, and Rhiarna Ferris all played for the Hurricanes Poua in Super Rugby Aupiki.
Selica Winiata passed 550 points for the Cyclones. Hollyrae Mete is a promising flyer from Whanganui.
Te Whetumarama Nuku played for the Warriors in the Women’s NRL. She joins Winiata (twice) and Catherine Doyle as the only other player to score four tries in a single game for Manawatū.
Northland: 24 (Kerri Johnson 2, Tara Turner, Lara Cooper tries; Krystal Murray 2 con) North Harbour: 7 (Jade Wong try; Grace Freeman con) HT: 5-7
Northland held North Harbour scoreless in the second half to earn a bonus point victory in their first outing of 2023.
In just her second season of rugby, and following a stint at the Melbourne Rebels, two long-range tries to Kerri Johnson were just reward for a forward effort that improved throughout.
In heavy rain, North Harbour lock Jade Wong scored the first try from a quick tap in the 22nd minute.
Northland enjoyed a long period of attack before halftime and when Tara Turner slipped through the change in momentum was secured.
Krystal Murray and Aroha Savage were busy and sometimes brutal for Northland, No.8 Hemara-Wahanui Wikaira carries with gusto.