June 20, 2022

Experienced forward Isaac Liu will miss the Kiwis’ one-off Test against Mate Ma’a Tonga to be with his partner for the birth of the couple’s second child this week.

The 31-year-old eight-Test Kiwi was named in the wider 15-man squad for the encounter at Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday.

However, Liu, a 217-game NRL veteran, has remained on the Gold Coast to support his partner Jessica for the birth.

“It’s straightforward for us at times like this. We’re always about family coming first,” said Kiwi head coach Michael Maguire.

“It’s such an important and exciting time for Isaac and his wife. He’s very much a part of our squad but there’s only one place he needs to be at a time like this. We’re excited for them.”

Dallin Watene-Zelezniak and Jamayne Isaako both delayed traveling to England for the Kiwis’ 2018 tour to be with their expectant partners. Watene-Zelezniak was on hand for the birth of his daughter and Isaako his son before they linked up with their teammates.

Liu won’t be replaced in the squad leaving the Kiwis with 24 players as they prepare for the international.

The squad has its first training session at Mount Smart Stadium tomorrow.

April 12, 2022

 

The Sky Sport Women’s Premiership and the National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup finals culminate this weekend at the home of rugby league, Auckland’s Mt Smart Stadium.

 

The action kicks off at 12pm when competition dark horse South Island take on Akarana in the National 20’s final followed by 11 time winners, Counties Manukau taking on the  Akarana Falcons in the Sky Sport Women’s Premiership final at 2pm.

 

Both games are free entry at Mt Smart, no vaccine pass required, and for those out of Auckland all the action is brought to you live on Sky Sport 4.

 

NATIONAL 20s

 

First placed Akarana go into the final as the only undefeated team in the competition which included a tough victory over opponents South Island in the first round. The Auckland based outfit will be heading into the final with a full steam of momentum off the back of a 76-0 trouncing of the Upper Central Stallions. Big performances from key players such as Elam Payne and Sebastian Su’a will be crucial if the Falcons want to lift their first National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup trophy.

 

Road to the Final

 

AKARANA 24 v SOUTH ISLAND 20 – 13/3 NGA PUNA WAI, CHRISTCHURCH

 

AKARANA 26 v COUNTIES MANUKAU 26 – 19/3 TRUSTS ARENA, AUCKLAND

 

AKARANA 36 v WAIKATO 14 – 2/4 BRUCE PULMAN PARK, AUCKLAND

 

AKARANA 76 v UPPER CENTRAL 0 – 9/4 BRUCE PULMAN PARK, AUCKLAND

 

South Island go into the final after a convincing victory against Counties Manukau. South Island played a composed and clinical game as they defeated the favoured Auckland side to secure their place against Akarana. A bye in the final week of the round robin also gives them a much needed rest going into what will be a tough contest. Big performances by Uriah Tuli, Ethan Faitala, Jacob Lowe and half Oliver Lawry have led to the South Island’s success, and these players will be instrumental in seeing South Island capture their first National 20’s title.

 

Road to the Final

 

SOUTH ISLAND 20 v AKARANA 24 – 13/3 NGA PUNA WAI, CHRISTCHURCH

 

SOUTH ISLAND 44 v UPPER CENTRAL 12 – 20/3 NGA PUNA WAI, CHRISTCHURCH

 

SOUTH ISLAND 40 v WAIKATO 10 – 27/3 TRUSTS ARENA, AUCKLAND

 

SOUTH ISLAND 24 v COUNTIES MANUKAU 12 – 3/4 NGA PUNA WAI, CHRISTCHURCH

 

WOMEN’S PREMIERSHIP

 

Counties Manukau go into the final of the SkySport Women’s Premiership looking to secure their 12th title on the bounce as they take on Auckland rivals Akarana. The Counties women have been dominant throughout the round-robin completing an undefeated run in a tight 26-22 triumph over their grand final opponents. Key veterans Christyl Stowers and Teuila Fotu-Moala will look to lead the young group to a historic consecutive victory.

 

Road to the Final

 

COUNTIES MANUKAU 46 v CANTERBURY 10 – 26/3 TRUSTS ARENA, AUCKLAND

 

COUNTIES MANUKAU 28 v MID CENTRAL 10 – 2/4 BRUCE PULMAN PARK, AUCKLAND

 

COUNTIES MANUKAU 26 v AKARANA 22 – 9/4 BRUCE PULMAN PARK, AUCKLAND

 

Despite coming off a tough narrow loss against Counties, Akarana showed positive signs as they look extremely capable of breaking Counties streak in the Women’s Premiership. A different side from the grand finalists two years ago, Akarana have a young core that have already shown their class in this years’ tournament. A team not short of talent, Kiwi Ferns Lavinia Tauhalaliku and Kanyon Paul will be looking to stamp their mark on the game in tandem with half Laishon Albert-Jones. With both teams ready and raring to go, this will be thrilling 2022 SkySport Women’s Premiership final not to be missed.

 

 

Road to the Final

 

AKARANA 36 v MID CENTRAL 16 – 27/3 TRUSTS ARENA, AUCKAND

 

AKARANA 28 v CANTERBURY 14 – 3/4 NGA PUNA WAI, CHRISTCHURCH

 

AKARANA 22 v COUNTIES 26 – 9/4 BRUCE PULMAN PARK, AUCKLAND

 

 

All are encouraged to get down to Mt Smart to see a Saturday filled with exciting rugby league (no vaccine pass needed) or catch all the action on SkySport 4!

 

March 13 2022

 

Christchurch’s Nga Puna Wai hosted both South Island and Akarana for their first hit-outs of the 2022 Ruben Wiki Cup.

 

Akarana asserted themselves immediately, quickly moving into the swing of the game and converting this early dominance into points as Northcote winger Tupala Faaee went over untouched in the corner.

 

Ten minutes in, Akarana found themselves over again through Faaee as the Falcons went to a short side shift, capitalising on an overlap to make the score 8-0 to the visitors.

 

Dominating the opening exchanges, Captain Doux-Fiatau-Kauhiva intercepted a loose pass to put winger Esom Ioka down the right-hand side extending the lead to 14-0 as Joshua Tanielu converted.

 

South Island found a way through as three quick penalties pushed them down onto the Akarana line. Tupou Kaufononga was able to turn that field position into points as he crashed over around the ruck to bring the game to 14-6 going into the half.

 

Eight minutes into the second stanza saw Sebastian Su’a fight his way over for a four-pointer. A superb break by Ioka put Akarana into dangerous territory and a short ball by Fiatau-Kauhiva put Su’a into a hole where he was able to score. Faaee converted to make it a 20-6 game.

 

With the contest going back and forth, Akarana took the game into their own hands and were able to extend their advantage in the 60th minute. A clinical set-piece saw Lani Graham-Taufa push the score to a comfortable 24-6.

 

With 15 minutes left in the match, South Island produced their best displays of the afternoon as Makaia Tafua, Ethan Faitaua and fullback Kiardyn Hatch put themselves on the scoresheet in quick succession to make the game a tight contest. Missed conversions were costly as they were unable to complete the comeback with Akarana sneaking through 24-20 to end round 1.

 

Next week South Island hosts Upper Central Stallions and Akarana meet Counties in the Auckland derby at Trusts Stadium.

 

Akarana – 20

 

Tries:

Tupala Faaee (x2), Esom Ioka, Sebastian Su’a, Lani Graham-Taufa.

 

Conversions:

Faaee (1/3), Tanielu (1/2)

 

South Island – 20

 

Tries:

Tupou Kaufononga, Makaia Tafua, Ethan Faitaua, Kiardyn Hatch.

 

Conversions:

Jacob Lowe (2/4)

March 10 2022

 

The premier 20’s competition, The Ruben Wiki Cup is back this year, kicking off on Saturday the 12th of March, with Waikato hosting Upper Central. 

 

The National 20’s Ruben Wiki Cup brought a level of competition not seen before in Aotearoa, culminating in plenty of grassroots talent taking the next step in their careers, signing with professional NRL clubs.

 The cup consists of five teams across the motu competing against each other in a five-week round-robin concept ending with a final being played by the first and second-placed teams. Auckland Blue and Auckland White have been replaced by Akarana and Counties Manukau this year.

 

 

Due to Covid protocols, protective layers have been set to create the safest possible competition for everyone involved. Players will be required to provide a negative Rapid Antigen Test, 48 hours prior to their scheduled games, and at this moment in time, there will be no spectators to ensure the 100 limit is kept. 

 

In the event of a Covid framework change, spectators will be required to provide vaccination passports. 

 

All games will be televised on Sky Sport.

 

Week 1 draw:

 

Saturday 12th March

 

Waikato v Upper Central – 2:00 pm – Davies Park, Huntly.

 

Sunday 13th March

 

South Island v Akarana – 2:00 pm – Nga Puna Wai, Christchurch

 

BYE – Counties Manukau

15 July 2021

The Auckland Rugby League will work alongside the Vodafone Warriors and New Zealand Rugby League to deliver a two-day coaching programme, utilising the collective knowledge and resources of all three organisations. 

The WNA Coach Development Programme will be hosted at the home of the Vodafone Warriors at Mount Smart Stadium on Sunday, July 25 and Sunday, August 1.

The programme is open to anyone currently coaching an international grade (U13-U20) side, with spots limited and restricted to those who express their interest and confirm they are available to attend both days. 

Click here to express interest in attending

ARL coaching and development manager Viggo Rasmussen said it’s a unique opportunity for attendees.

“Between the three organisations there is a wealth of coaching experience and knowledge that will be hugely beneficial to local coaches,” Rasmussen said.

“In addition to the other courses and workshops the ARL have in place, this is another initiative which strengthens our coaching pathway in Auckland.

“We are excited to be working alongside the NZRL and Vodafone Warriors on this programme.” 

Vodafone Warriors pathways and development coach Tony Iro said the club was looking forward to working with the New Zealand Rugby League and the Auckland Rugby League on the joint initiative.

“Stacey (Jones) and I will present the football fundamental side of it while Dan and Viggo will do the coach planning, philosophy, coaching styles and so on,” he said.

“The idea is to expand this next year to include more footy knowledge sessions for coaches who are keen and can potentially deliver back to junior coaches at their home clubs.

“We will also be producing a video coaching package for the coaches to use as a resource.”

Dan Keepa, the NZRL national coaching and development manager, added: “The content we have designed for this programme will extend on the coaches growth mindset and rugby league knowledge to complement the up-and-coming talent in the Auckland region,” he said. 

“All three organisations share a very similar coach development philosophy that will help nurture our community coaches to ensure the players have positive experiences in rugby league. The next step will be to take this programme nationally. 

“It is an exciting time to be a rugby league coach.”

As seen at aucklandleague.co.nz

Auckland White suffered their first loss of the NZRL National 20s on Saturday, going down to Central Districts 26-24 at Opaheke Sports Park.

Auckland had led by two at the break, but a second half full of errors – coupled with two players being sent to the sin bin – saw the hosts unable to kick on and get the result. 

An Oscar Amosa try with two minutes left in the game did hand Francis Meli’s side a chance to tie things up at 26-all, but Doux Kauhiva’s conversion was wide. 

The loss leaves Auckland White now facing an uphill battle to qualify through to the April 10 grand final ahead of taking on Auckland Blue in Round 4. 

In a losing effort Manurewa half Teariki Ford was a standout, scoring the first try and setting the second up to give Auckland an early 10-0 lead, while in the engine room captain Victor Afoa worked hard all day. 

But despite the promising start a glut of penalties and dropped ball – which would become a habit over the next 50 minutes – assisted the visitors in getting back into the contest and they scored twice to trail just 14-12 at the break. 

Central Districts then scored the next three tries in the second stanza, the last of which came while Auckland had only 11 on the park due to a scuffle which saw Navajo Doyle and Viliami Kuli binned along with a CD player. 

Late tries to Marist big man Elam Payne and Amosa gave Auckland a chance, but they couldn’t complete the dramatic comeback. 

Central Districts 26 (Herman Seumanufagai x2, Lennix Tovo, Hiraka Wanakore, Carlos Kemp tries; Brooklyn Herewini x3 goals). def. Auckland White 24 (Teariki Ford, Te Napi Waipouri, Kaufana Lasa, Elam Payne, Oscar Amosa tries; Doux Kauhiva x2 goals). HT: 12-14 at Opaheke Sports Park. 

26 February 2021

  • New Zealand Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League have worked together to design a new approach to junior league.
  • The first year kids play rugby league (U6) will be played under non-contact ‘League Tag’ rules for the first half of the season. At the halfway point teams can decide if they want to stick to non-contact or switch to tackling. 
  • It will also be mandatory for U6 coaches to deliver a six-week tackle confidence programme.
  • In the U8-U12 grades a first-receiver bib will be used in games, this is to encourage skill development in playmakers by allowing the person in that bib to run, score and be tackled without two passes being required (which was the case under the old rules).
  • In the U9-U12 grades there’ll also be a dummy-half bib used for the same reasons as outlined above.
  • This framework will be rolled out in full in all U6-U12 grades in Auckland this year and piloted in those grades around the rest of New Zealand this year.

New Zealand Rugby League and Auckland Rugby League have collaborated to design a new approach to junior rugby league, which will see significant changes come into effect from this year. 

After working alongside the NZRL to set out the vision for junior league in the country, the ARL will rollout the new Junior Development Framework (JDF) in full for all mini/mod (U6-U12) grades in 2021.  

Supported by the NZRL, the ARL has piloted aspects of the framework in various children’s grades in Auckland since 2017, seeking consultation from local coaches, players, managers and club chairs along the way. 

While the ARL will implement the new JDF immediately, the NZRL will be adopting a staggered approach with their regions in the rollout of the new framework. 

The biggest changes are in the U6 grade where children have their first experience of organised rugby league.

Under the JDF the first eight weeks of the U6 season will be played under League Tag (non-contact) rules, while come the second half of the season teams will have the choice of continuing to play League Tag or to switch to traditional contact rugby league.  

For that grade it will be mandatory for coaches to deliver a six-week tackle confidence programme through the opening two months of the season, regardless of which form of the game they choose for the second part of the year.   

In relation to skill development and encouraging decision making in the formative years, a crucial aspect is the introduction of first-receiver bibs for the U8-U12 grades, with dummy-half bibs also being used from the U9-U12 grades.

Both bibs allow the player wearing it to run, score and be tackled without two passes being required or a change of possession being triggered (normal mini-mod rules state that two passes must be achieved to retain possession).

ARL game development and participation manager Sam Cawdron said the framework was about evolving the game to suit the attitudes and needs of those involved at junior levels.

“The JDF is heavily geared towards teaching safer tackling and giving kids confidence in contact, along with encouraging skill development, decision making and a learning and play-orientated approach for our youngest players,” Cawdron said. 

“The move to introduce League Tag for the first half of the season for the U6 grade means teams can be put through a tackle confidence programme and then decide whether they are ready to move to contact or want to continue to play League Tag. 

“This is to help build confidence and gives kids a chance to learn and be introduced to tackling. 

“Providing kids with the option on when to switch over to contact allows them to be develop at their own pace, keeping in mind that current NRL stars such as Shaun Johnson, Benji Marshall and Ryan Papenhuyzen all come from non-contact backgrounds.

“League Tag is going to help open up rugby league to a larger group of the population who are interested in a non-contact activity.”

NZRL general manager of high performance and football, Motu Tony, said the changes are a positive for the game. 

“Extensive research and collaboration have gone into this project to ensure that our participants at the Kiwi League Kids level (formerly mini/mod) have a rugby league programme that is enjoyable, safe and helps develop them on and off the field,” Tony said. 

“I would particularly like to thank the ARL for their partnership and fantastic work during the three-year pilot programme, which has resulted in an offering that I am sure will be enjoyed by all our KLK participants.”

For further information and coaching resources click here

Junior Development Framework features outlined:

  • Applies to all mini/mod (U6-U12) grades in Auckland in 2021.  
  • Being piloted in all mini/mod grades throughout the rest of New Zealand in 2021.
  • For the U6 grade only the first eight weeks of the season will be played under League Tag (non-contact) rules. Teams will then have the choice of continuing to play League Tag or to switch to traditional contact league for the second eight weeks of the season.
  • For the U6 grade it will be mandatory for coaches to deliver a tackle confidence programme in the first eight weeks of the season.
  • From the U8 grade up first-receiver bibs will be used to encourage decision making and skill development.
  • From the U9 grade up dummy-half bibs will also be used to encourage decision making and skill development.
  • The U12 grade will see two first receiver bibs used to encourage playmaking and providing options on both sides of the ruck, plus the dummy-half bib.

February 23 2021

With the Auckland region having moved to Level 1 as of February 23, NZRL is encouraging clubs and all involved in the game to continue to maintain a high level of awareness and hygiene at all rugby league activities, including trainings and games. 

While the mandatory Government requirements are significantly reduced under Level 1, clubs are still required to display NZ COVID Tracer QR posters and should have a manual tracing log available too. 

All rugby league participants are encouraged to keep track of where they have been. 

Good handwashing practices and coughing and sneezing into elbows, not hands, remain important. 

Any person feeling unwell should stay home and avoid rugby league activities, and if they present with cold, flu or COVID-19 symptoms should contact their doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453 to see if they need a test.

The extension of restrictions which limit gatherings to 10 people in Auckland has forced the cancellation of the remainder of the season for all Auckland Rugby League grades.

The Government announced last Friday that level 2.5 restrictions – which include the gathering limit of 10 – would be extended through until at least September 16 in Auckland, ruling out a possible return to play on September 12-13.

The decision – which has the full backing of the ARL Board of Directors – means all grades from U13 up are now cancelled, with mini/mod (U6-U12) grades having already been cancelled last week. 

No winners will be declared for any grades.

Auckland Rugby League CEO Greg Whaiapu said as well as running out of time to safely complete the season before the impending New Zealand Rugby League National Competitions and the start of the summer sports season, the ARL has an obligation to prioritise the health and safety of all participants.

“It’s unfortunate news to be delivering and an outcome none of us wanted,” Whaiapu said. 

“In making this decision we considered, among other things, the fact that teams have not been able to complete contact training for several weeks due to the restrictions in place, and therefore would be put at a higher risk of suffering injury if asked to return straight into games.

“While we pushed the proposed return to play date back as far as we could, the reality is there is no longer enough weeks left to safely complete our season either. 

“At this point I’d like to acknowledge the work of our clubs and the people involved with them, through what has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone.”

This cancellation applies to club grades only and at this stage does not impact planned Auckland Rugby League representative games or Kiwi Tag modules scheduled for later in the year.

CANCELLED | It's the news we didn't want to deliver, but COVID-19 restrictions have forced the cancellation of the season for ALL GRADES. Full details below.

Posted by Auckland Rugby League on Saturday, 5 September 2020

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kia Toa Tiger, Josiah Mani (24) who unfortunately passed away due to a tragic accident on Saturday morning leaving behind his partner and many friends.

Mani helped win the region’s grand final last season for the Kia Toa Tigers. On Sunday, the Kia Toa Tigers team gathered at the Kensington Tavern to raise a glass, sing and release a single yellow balloon (team’s official colour) to honour the player.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family during this time.

A Give a Little page has been set up to assist with getting Josiah back home to PNG –https://givealittle.co.nz/cau…/josiah-mani-lets-get-you-home

It’s with great sadness that we announce, former New Zealand Secondary School and under-18 representative Zae Wallace, has passed away after being struck down with the flu.

The young sportsman who’s represented New Zealand at age group level returned to Auckland this year following a stint with the Gold Coast Titans under-20 side and had been in an induced coma for four weeks.

At the beginning of the 2017 season, Wallace signed a contract with the Titans to play in the NYC under-20 competition. Wallace spent that season with the Titans then joined the Burleigh Bears in the Intrust Super Cup.

Playing at halfback and being the youngest member of the squad, Wallace was one of the Akarana Falcons star performers in their National Premiership championship victory in 2016. That same year he was named Auckland Rugby League’s College Player of the Year.

He won selection following a standout season with the Mt Albert Lions in Auckland’s Fox Premier Rugby League Competition. He had returned to New Zealand to play with the Northcote Tigers and had only played one game when he became ill.

Wallace is described as a “lovely and cheeky” young man, who had a great sense of humour and a great bunch of friends. A givealittle page had been set up to raise funds in support of his courageous battle, one friend wrote, “Champions don’t stop, they dust themselves off and push on. This young man is all champion.”

Our deepest condolences go out to Zae’s family and friends, not only was he a rising league star with exciting skill and potential, he was loved by many. A young talent that will be sorely missed.

 

Photo – Photosport

As seen on nrl.com by Corey Rosser

 

The promise of a permanent spot in the halves was the key factor in Kodi Nikorima deciding to seek an immediate release from Brisbane and join the New Zealand Warriors.

The Warriors announced the signing of Nikorima through until the end of 2021 on Friday, with the 25-year-old expected to debut for his new club against the Dragons during the NRL’s Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium in round nine on Saturday.

Nikorima said the Broncos made it clear they saw teenager Thomas Dearden as their long-term halfback, at which point the positional security on offer at the Warriors became too good to turn down.

 

“[Brisbane] were pretty up front and honest in saying that Tom was probably their future half there,” Nikorima said.

“The Warriors came to me and said that they want me to play in the halves here … in the end it was the best decision for myself.

“At the end of the day it was just the fact that there’s a lot of security here, there’s a future for myself in a position that I want to play.

“The Broncos couldn’t offer me anything like that. I could have waited until the end of the year, but that contract that was on offer [from the Warriors] might not have become available then.

 

“I am grateful for the opportunity that [Brisbane] have given me [by releasing] me right now, and excited about the new journey and new chapter ahead.”

Nikorima said the Kiwi connection at the Warriors was also a crucial factor in his decision to sign with the Auckland-based club.

He was given his Test debut for the Kiwis by now Warriors coach Stephen Kearney in 2015, and he has strong relationships with a number of the squad through time together in camp with New Zealand.

“Knowing Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] and Issac Luke, who form part of the spine too will definitely help me in transferring from the Broncos into the Warriors’ system,” Nikorima said.

“And also having that relationship with Steve Kearney should help as well.

“That played a big part too. I have had a pretty good relationship with Mooks [Kearney], we have kept in touch over the years and I am really excited to play under him again.”

Nikorima also revealed he and future halves partner Blake Green had already held discussions about the roles they will play in the side, with Nikorima at pains to insist he wouldn’t be attempting to emulate Shaun Johnson’s style.

“I just spoke to Blake briefly before his game [against the Knights] and he sort of said that he wants me playing both sides and just playing off him, I guess playing more of that six role,” Nikorima said.

 

“Things aren’t going to click straight away … it might take time.

“I don’t really see it as replacing Shaun. What Shaun’s done here has been incredible and I don’t want to compare myself to him, nor will I compare myself to the past players like Stacey Jones.

“I have come here to be who I am. I’m Kodi Nikorima, I’m no one else and I won’t ever try and be anyone else.”

 

 

New Zealand Rugby League is saddened to hear of the passing of Kiwi #373 Duncan MacRae who played three Tests for the Kiwis in 1956.

His contribution to New Zealand Rugby League will not be forgotten.

 

 

It was a trip down memory lane for Kiwis hooker Brandon Smith, and a once in a lifetime experience for 48 kids at the Waiheke Island Holiday Blast.

A Waiheke Rams junior, Smith has in recent years become a key part of the Melbourne Storm’s NRL side and a capped Kiwi international.

This week marked the first time the Auckland Rugby League has taken its school holiday programme to the island, and Smith said as soon as he found out it coincided with his visit to Waiheke, he was keen to be part of it.

“What stood out to me was the attendance, to see so many happy faces, it reminded me of when I was a junior,” Smith said.

“I loved being here at the rugby league club when I was younger, so just seeing the amount of kids with smiles on their faces, you can tell they are having a really good time.”

Smith spoke to the attendees and took part in activities with them, and believed the programme was a great way to grow rugby league.

“This is something that can help grow the sport moving forward on the island,” he said.

“I gave up my time because I really want to help rugby league grow here in New Zealand, not just on Waiheke, and I believe it starts from grassroots rugby league.”

Auckland Rugby League CEO Greg Whaiapu said it was great to see a local player giving back to his community.

“For Brandon to do this and spend his free time helping the next generation of Auckland footy players, speaks volumes about the person he is,” Whaiapu said.

“It’s always special to meet your sporting heroes, and even better when they come from the same club you are playing at.

“We are very grateful for Brandon’s time and effort – he’s left a bunch of kids with an experience they will never forget.”

The Manurewa Marlins made it back-to-back Farrelly Photos Women’s Premiership titles, after coming out on top in a thrilling Grand Final on Sunday at Mount Smart Stadium #2.

Up 20-14 with three minutes to go, Manurewa then leaked a try under the sticks and the game looked destined for extra time, only for the conversion in front to ping off the crossbar.

With first-choice kicker Alice Vailea nursing a leg injury picked up late in the game, Richmond fullback Shannon Muru was called up to attempt the kick, with the effort not having the required power, effectively handing Manurewa another title.

The win was a deserving reward for Manurewa at the end of a brilliant 2018 season, which saw them go undefeated.The Rusty Matua-coached Marlins had raced out to a 10-0 lead early against Richmond, thanks to four-pointers from Krystal Rota and Kararaina Wira-Kohu.

A quick play-the-ball from TJ Noble-Bell laid the platform for Rota’s effort, before Wira-Kohu rushed from five metres out to find a hole and crash over.

Richmond hit back on the half hour through Vailea, but when Louisa Gago wrapped around for a try in the middle of the park, which Kere Matua converted, Manurewa had a 16-4 to take to the break.

In the second half, tries to Lorina Papali’i and Johreena Sekene, one of which was converted by Vailea, cut the gap to 16-14, with both tries coming off kicks, the first from Shontelle Woodman and the second a pinpoint grubber from Vailea.

But when Manurewa’s Christyl Stowers executed a left-side shift to score with 12 minutes left, Richmond’s dream of a comeback appeared over.

Following long stoppages in play for a couple of injuries, Annetta Nuuausala powered over from close range to score a try which should have forced extra time, with a couple of centimetres on the ensuing conversion denying the central Aucklanders a shot at a memorable victory.

Earlier in the day the Ponsonby Ponies ran out convincing 54-18 winners over Mt Wellington in the second-tier Grand Final, with backrower Mele Toki starring with three tries.

Manurewa 20 (Krystal Rota, Kararaina Wira-Kohu, Louisa Gago, Christyl Stowers tries; Kere Matua 2 goals) Richmond 18 (Alice Vailea, Lorina Papali’i, Johreena Sekene, Annetta Nuuausala tries; Alice Vailea goal). At Mt Smart Stadium #2.

The battle lines have been drawn, with Auckland and the Tonga New Zealand Residents to clash in a representative blockbuster this Queen’s Birthday Weekend.

Following on from Mate Ma’a Tonga’s stunning run at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, a sea of red will once again converge on Mount Smart Stadium on Saturday, June 2, as both sides vie for the Upright Access Mann Cup (2.30pm kick-off).

CLICK HERE TO BUY TICKETS

The Auckland Maori U20 will also meet the Toa Samoa Invitational U20 in a curtain-raiser to the main game, which kicks off at 12.30pm.