Otago continued their excellent start to the Championship thumping Northland. Hawke’s Bay and Tasman achieved noteworthy victories and Waikato prevailed in the capital against Wellington.
Bay of Plenty secured a vital win in a grim contest hampered by mistakes and poor option taking.
It took 46 minutes for the first points to be scored at Blake Park, goal-kicking prop Sophie Fisher slotting an angled penalty.
The winning strike occurred in the 57th minute when Azalleyah Maaka snatched an intercept and raced 40-metres clear.
Auckland first five-eighth Ruahei Demant had little to celebrate in her 50th game. In the 75th minute Auckland wing Katelyn Vaha'akolo dived over in the right-hand corner, only for the assistant referee’s flag to go up straight away.
The game ended when hooker, and strong performer, Luka Connor got over the ball to win a turnover penalty from a Alakoka Po’oi charge.
Bay of Plenty Volcanix 7 (Azalleyah Maaka try; Kiki Tahere con) Auckland Storm 3 (Sophie Fisher pen). HT: 0-0.
Counties made a number of changes to their front row with Black Ferns loosehead Leilani Perese returning and the loose forward trio being reshuffled. Stacey Brown swapped from No.8 to openside while Ti Taiasosi and Margaret Manase slotted in at six and eight respectively.
The changes had the desired effect with the Heat winning their first game of the season. In a tight first-half, Ruby Tui scored in the 22nd minute as the Heat went to the break with a 5-3 advantage.
Tui crossed again in the 42nd minute as Counties started the second-half with real gusto. Manawatū were their own worst enemies. Poor discipline was punished three times by Hazel Tubic.
Manawatū openside Rhiarna Ferris toiled bravely but the Cyclones were missing Black Ferns No 8 Kaipo Olsen-Baker and fullback Selica Winiata, who's refereeing at the Commonwealth Games.
Counties Manukau Heat 19 (Ruby Tui 2 tries; Hazel Tubic 3 pen) Manawatū Cyclones 13 (Lauren Balsillie try; Carys Dallinger 2 pen). HT: 5-3.
Tasman won for the first time in a dozen matches, pulling away from Taranaki in the second half. The Mako found themselves down early with tries to wing Danika Northcott-Weherua and elusive centre Keighley Simpson.
A try scored by Bethan Manners in the 36th minute turned the Tide in Tasman’s favour. Their first 20 minutes after the break saw them pile on 17 unanswered points in one of the more impressive displays in their brief history.
Loose forwards Jess Harvie, Sui Pauaraisa and Tamara Silcock won the collisions and first five Cassie Siataga showed her class with some fine kicking, running and tactical stewardship.
Marama Elkington and Emily Kelly made their FPC debuts.
Tasman Mako 27 (Bethan Manners, Becky Davidson, Laura Bayfield tries; Cassia Siataga 3 con, 2 pen) Taranaki Whio 17 (Danika Northcott-Weherua, Keighley Simpson, Sharna Tito-Green tries; Danielle Muggeridge con). HT: 10-12.
Otago was more enterprising with the ball and generally showcased better discipline to overwhelm Northland.
Oceana Campbell continued her prolific try scoring form running through the fullback on the left wing. Paige Church was sturdy in the scrums and busy around the field. From close range she proved impossible to stop.
Otago openside Leah Miles was industrious and Maia Joseph continues to grow as a ten.
Northland’s solitary try was scored by a Kerri Johnson intercept when the score was 34-3.
Regrettably there were two yellow cards in the last ten minutes as the game petered out lamely.
Otago have scored more tries (12) and points (83) than any side in the opening three rounds.
Otago Spirit 39 (Oceana Campbell, Paige Church, Cheyenne Cunningham, Sheree Hume, Kiana Wereta tries; Georgia Cormick 4 con, 2 pen) Northland Kauri 10 (Kerri Johnson try; Krystal Murray con, pen). HT: 20-3.
Hawke’s Bay scored 22 unanswered points in the second half to achieve a resounding victory.
North Harbour prop Melita Williams barged over just before halftime to make it 10-5, suggesting a tight tussle in the second stanza.
Instead, the Hawke’s Bay forwards increased their intensity and accuracy and the midfield of Jamiee Robin and Amelia Pasikala often left North Harbour’s defence in tatters. Robin scored a try with a 25-metre runaway.
Holy Williams was bright for North Harbour but lacked support. Hawke’s Bay first-five Krysten Cottrell led with poise and flair and No.8 Kathleen Brown was full of bustle.
Hawke's Bay 32 (Nicolette Adamson 2, Gemma Woods, Melanie Te Whaiti, Jaimee Robin tries; Krysten Cottrell 2 con, Emma Jensen pen) North Harbour 5 (Melita Williams try) HT: 20-3
Waikato was more polished against an inaccurate Wellington. Except for an early penalty by Pride fullback Thamsyn Newton, Waikato led for most of the match.
The Waikato scrum won two tightheads and both props Awhina Tangen-Wainohu and Tanya Kalonuivale were full or running, the former rewarded with the first try of the game, driving low and hard over the line.
Wellington wing Ayesha Leti-I'iga was typically electric when involved, and ironically scored the first try from a scrum when Wellington outmuscled Waikato.
Waikato second-five Chelesa Semple celebrated her 50th match with a powerful display, often breaking in the 10/12 channel. She set up fullback Renee Holmes to make it 20-11. Holmes had an impressive match and when she landed a 40-metre penalty, Waikato led 23-11.
Leti-I'iga dotted down again for the Pride who mounted a brave rally. No.8 Hosanna Aumua, sister of Asafo Aumua, looks like a good prospect. Victoria Makea and Kennedy Simon were productive for Waikato.
Waikato 23 (Awhina Tangen-Wainohu, Renee Holmes tries; Holmes 2 con, 3 pen) Wellington Pride 16 (Ayesha Leti-I'iga 2 tries; Thamsyn Newton 2 pen) HT: 13-11