The climax of the Farah Palmer provincial championship in New Zealand took place this weekend. Could Canterbury win their third consecutive Premiership, and would Otago at last win a Championship final at their third attempt?
Photo: All Blacks.com
Auckland were back the final of the Farah Palmer cup this weekend for the first time since 2016, when Counties Manukau brought their eight consecutive title run to an end. Counties reign lasted a single year, since when Canterbury have been ones to beat, winning in 2017 and 2018.
Could Canterbury continue their run, or would Auckland bring them down - as they had in four previous finals?
Unbeaten all season Canterbury began as favourites and got off to the perfect start, leading 14-0 after just 15 minutes. Fullback Olivia McGoverne scored the game's opening try for the home team in the fifth minute, after which Grace Brooker doubled the score with Canterbury's second.
Auckland eventually got on the scoreboard with a penalty from Patricia Maliepo and shortly after, Balck Fern Ruahei Demant crossed for their first try.
Canterbury’s Kendra Cocksedge’s penalty extended the lead for Canterbury, taking them into halftime with a 17-10.
Auckland came out pumped up for the second half and soon when wing Isla Norman-Bell was over for a second try and the Canterbury lead (with the conversion missed) was now down to two points.
This didn’t last long as a second penalty from Cocksedge pushed the lead out five.
But Auckland came back straightaway, with Maliepo kicking through for Demant, who touched down just before the dead-ball line.
With this try also unconverted the scores were levelled at 20-20, before Canterbury regained the lead, with Lucy Anderson scoring in the corner. This was converted giving Canterbury a 27-20 lead as the game entered its closing phase
Into the final ten minutes and Canterbury’s Sam Curtis was yellow-carded for a high tackle, so they would have to see out the game with only 14.
Auckland continued to battle, but Canterbury defence ensure that they could not score again and in the end it was Cocksedge who secured the win for Canterbury with a drop in the 78th minute.
Canterbury 30 (Olivia McGoverne, Grace Brooker, Lucy Anderson tries; Kendra Cocksedge 3 conversions, 2 penalties, drop goal) Auckland 20 (Ruahei Demant 2, Isla Norman-Bell tries; Patricia Maliepo conversion & penalty)
On Sunday, Otago faced Hawke's Bay in the championship final.
After losing the last two Championship finals in the Farah Palmer Cup, would it be third time lucky for Otago Spirit?
It was another close game with both teams scoring three tries, but it was the boot of Otago’s Rosie Kelly that proved to be the difference as she finished with 14 points, including the opening try.
Despite that try Hawke's Bay led 8-7 at halftime.
The second half opened with the lead repeatedly changing hands. With 10 minutes remaining, Otago turned down a penalty shot at goal to go for the try – a brave decision that paid off as fullback Sheree Hume scored in the corner off a sweeping scrum move.
Hawke's Bay hit back almost immediately through winger Tori Iosefo to cut the deficit to four points and set up a grandstand finish.
There were a few nervy moments for Otago as the visitors camped out in their half, but they were not to be denied this year, and survived until the final whistle to finally get their hands on the trophy.
Otago 24 (Rosie Kelly, Kilisitina Moata'ane, Sheree Hume tries; Kelly 3 cons; Kelly pen) Hawke's Bay 20 (Niamh Jefferson, Gemma Woods, Tori Iosefo tries; Krysten Cottrell con; Cottrell pen). HT: 7-8.