In the Premiership, Canterbury enjoyed a mostly routine victory over Bay of Plenty. Waikato made hard work of foiling a tenacious Hawke’s Bay. Are Counties Manukau title contenders?
Canterbury: 42 (Marcelle Parkes, Karla Wright-Akeil 2, Grace Brooker 2, Hayley Hutana tries; Rosie Kelly 6 con) Bay of Plenty: 12 (Te Urupounamu McGarvey, Olivia Warlow tries; Sapphire Williams con) HT: 14-7
Canterbury retained the JJ Stewart Memorial Trophy with a powerful second-half display against Bay of Plenty.
With Black Ferns Kate Hendwood, Luka Connor, and Kendra Renyolds all back in the pack the Volcanix were always going to be more competitive than what they were in the opening fortnight of the competition.
Te Urupounamu McGarvey scored Bay of Plenty’s first try with a showcase of raw power and Nataile Delamere made a decent fist of her switch from hooker to No.8.
Canterbury boasts a wealth of depth on their bench and Hayley Hutana, summoned from the pine in the first half, was especially influential.
Other highlights for Canterbury included a try from near halfway to an increasingly confident Grace Brooker, the faultless goal-kicking of Roise Kelly, and the continued strides of Karla Wright-Akeil.
Tasman: 26 (Chole Dixon, Sarah Jones, Fiaali Solomona, Lesieli Taufa tries; Cassie Siataga 3 con) North Harbour: 21 (Clementine Varea, Danielle Mellow, Luica Bolton tries; Grace Freeman 3 con) HT: 0-21
When North Harbour wing Luica Bolton snatched an intercept and dashed 65 metres shortly before halftime, the Mako looked dead and buried in Nelson at 21-0.
The match turned in the 47th minute when North Harbour centre Moana Courtney was yellow-carded for a high tackle. Tasman lifted their intensity and at last, found some continuity and scored two tries to close the gap to 21-12.
With ten minutes remaining the hosts were still down by nine until winger Fiaali Solomona fended off her opposite and sprinted 50m to set up a grandstand finish
Tasman was rampant but would they be patient? They won a penalty inside the North Harbour 22 with time expired. They refused to take the handy shot and were nearly held up over the line. However, the ball was recycled, and classy first-five Cassie Siataga skipped two players and found Lesieli Taufa unmarked on the right wing.
Earlier loosehead prop Meriana Te Nana and openside Danielle Mellow were to the fore in much of North Harbour’s success.
Another factor in the Mako resurgence was an improving lineout and the hunger of the bench.
Waikato: 14 (Silia Sakalia, Claudia Crozier tries, Renee Holmes 2 con) Hawke’s Bay: 10 (Kathleen Brown, Kyrsten Cottrell con, pen) HT: 7-7
Rookie halfback Kahlia Awa promised Hawke’s Bay would be fiercely competitive when speaking to All Blacks.com early last week and the Tui stayed true to her word almost knocking over Waikato in Napier.
Hawke’s Bay led 10-7 when first-five Krysten Cottrell landed a penalty in the 48th minute. The former Black Ferns pivot celebrated her 50th match for the Tui with a typically assured display. Her defensive clearances were particularly impressive.
The Hawke’s Bay defense was tigerish and the loose forwards were especially adept at attacking the ball and causing fumbles from Waikato who were often one-out and lacked imagination.
A yellow card to Hawke’s Bay midfielder Teilah Ferguson for a deliberate knock-on with 10 minutes to go proved decisive.
Waikato opted for the scrum and replacement prop Caitlin Crozier rumbled through a gap in the midfield and charged 15m to score under the sticks.
Earlier lock Silia Sakalia scored her first try for Waikato hitting a bullet pass from Ariana Bayler in the 24th minute. The busy Kathleen Brown responded a short while later when she caught a quickly tapped pass on the wing.
Waikato fullback Renee Holmes pulled off some vital cover tackles and while the Waikato scrum applied considerable heat their lineouts require some serious work.
Otago: 41 (Tegan Hollows, Bella Rewiri-Whareau, Keely Hill, Jamie Church, Cheyenne Cunningham 2, Charlotte Va’afusuaga tries; Georgia Cormick 3 con) Taranaki: 0. HT: 26-0
Otago blitzed Taranaki with four tries in the opening 15 minutes in Oamaru.
The lineout functioned effectively throughout and the first try was scored by hooker Tegan Hollows from a rolling maul.
Otago plays at a brisk speed and a quick tap saw bustling No.8 Bella Rewiri-Whareau crash over after ten minutes.
First-five Sherre Hume was incisive and combined well with the midfield of Keely Hill and Cheyenne Cunningham. Both were rewarded with tries and created much of the Otago impetus. Blindside Zoe Whataru was exceptional for Otago.
Taranaki made six changes from the side that was hammered by Manawatū in the first round. Their best period of the match was after halftime where they actually crossed the line but failed to score a try.
Debutant Aleasha Brider showed moments of power and promise at second five. Loose forwards Elle Johns and Hayley Gabriel never gave in.
Taranaki missed 47 tackles in their first match. The Whio were considerably better defensively, especially after a sluggish start.
Manawatū: 34 (Rangimarie Sturmey, Jashana Te Uawiri, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Elinor-Plum King tries; Selica Winiata 3 con, 2 pen, Maia Davis con) Northland: 28 (Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Lara Cooper, Aroha Savage, Krystal Murray tries; Pohutukawa Kakara 2 pen, con)
A thriller in which Manawatū mostly trailed and often by eight points. The opening quarter was even with both sides trading two penalties each.
Northland enjoyed a decisive advantage with their rolling maul and hooker Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, celebrating her 15th blazer match for the Kauri, scored the first try from that source.
Ngata-Aerengamate would play a hand in the second try linking with Black Ferns prop Krystal Murray who feed Lara Cooper.
Before halftime Murray made a defensive misread rushing up on second-five Rangimarie Sturmey who slipped through.
Northland looked dangerous every time they mauled and essentially that weapon helped create two tries as Northland led 21-13 and then 28-20. It could have been more had Selica Winiata not slapped the ball out of the hands of a player who’d crossed the line. Ngata-Aerengamate and Murray combined like midfield backs in the construction.
Kaipo Olsen-Baker is quickly rediscovering the form that made her a Black Fern and when she brushed aside two tackles and charged 30m the deficit become one.
Disaster would strike Northland with six minutes left. A loose ball dribbled behind a backline in motion and whippet Elinor-Plum King sized the moment collecting the spillage and scampering 40m.
An excellent match between two sides with somewhat contrasting styles but plenty of ambition.
Counties Manukau: 53 (Emily Kitson 2, Lana Samuelu, Kataraina Enosa-Taifau, Leititia Vaka, Grace Gago, Ana Mamea, Shyanne Thompson tries; Shonte To'a 3 con, pen, Vaka 2 con) Wellington Pride: 20 (Harono Te Iringa, Drenna Falaniko, Justine McGregor tries; Tamara Ruaporo con, pen). HT: 19-15.
The Heat cracked half a century for the second time in as many matches with a decisive 53-20 triumph.
The Counties scrum was rampant, the first try sourced from a tighthead and Wellington mangled throughout. The maul was another source of profit and the bench added considerable punch when Wellington might have entertained thoughts of a comeback
In the 62nd minute Counties lock Vineta Teutau was yellow carded for a high tackle and Justine McGregor scored her fifth try in three matches as the gap closed to 34-20.
However, Counties finished with a wet sail and illustrated their authority when Emily Kitson scored her second try when the Heat was down a player.
Leititia Vaka and Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali combined strongly at halfback and first-five while fullback Jaymie Kolose and wing Kataraina Enosa-Taifau were excellent.
Joanah Ngan-Woo made a welcome return for Wellington and finished the match at No.8.