Defending champions, Counties Manukau Stingrays and the Akarana Falcons have once again marked their territory at day one of the National Women’s Tournament at Cornwall Park.
Standings after day one below:
Counties and Akarana stamp their dominance on day one.Auckland Vulcans 14 – Wellington 14Counties 40 – Wai-Coa 0Akarana 38 – Canterbury 6
Saturday’s action sees Counties at the top of Pool A on four points after two big wins against the Wellington Orcas (28-0) and Wai-Coa-Bay (40-0) keeping both of their oppositions scoreless in round one.
In the first game of the day, Counties served Wellington a 28-0 beating drawing inspiration from a structurally sound attacking line that scored off their first set through their fullback, Apii Nicholls-Pualau. Their forwards managed to lay a great platform for the outside backs to convert chances into points. Two more first half tries gave the defending champions a 16-0 lead at the break.
Immediately after the break Counties were able to pile on the points with two tries off their first two sets, jumping out to a 28-0 lead.
Counties’ tight defense allowed Wellington only a handful of opportunities, but mistakes cost them on almost every occasion.
However, after getting their first game jitters out of the way, Auckland’s cold winter breeze made the Wellington Orcas feel right at home in what turned out to be the closest match of the day – Wellington Orcas v Auckland Vulcans.
After an even opening period of the game, Wellington took advantage of their solid field position with a try to second-rower, Rikki Rawleigh. The Orcas left centre then took advantage of another scoring opportunity to extend their lead to 10-0.
Unfortunately for Auckland what seemed to be their best scoring chance quickly ended with what appeared to be a knee injury for their right centre, who had to be helped off the field.
After the break, a mistake from the Vulcans gifted the Orcas another chance and they capitalised, taking a commanding 14-0 lead.
Then came a shift in momentum. A surge in the final 20 minutes saw the Auckland Vulcans fight back to force a 14-all draw scoring three unanswered tries. That surge was ultimately sparked by former Kiwi Fern Lorina Papali’i and her sharp runs on attack that led to points on the board. The women’s rugby league veteran will be pleased with her performance as she returns to the field for the first time since retiring in 2010.
Wellington captain, Acacia Te Iwimate was named Mainstream Player of the Match after an outstanding game at hooker but admitted a lapse in defense cost them the win.
“We started off really well but against teams like the Vulcans, you can’t afford to go to sleep at any stage like we did. Of course, we’ve got to be happy with a draw, especially when it comes to an Auckland v Wellington battle.
“There were a couple of easy turnovers that we let slip at crucial times and they were able to counter-ruck off that and get the points so that will definitely be one of our work-ons going forward,” she said.
In Pool B, the Akarana Falcons lead with four points after beating Wai-Coa-Bay (24-0) and Canterbury (38-6) convincingly.
Akarana’s first try of the game came on the left wing for Lara Diamond-Brahne.
They then scored again off the ensuing set from kickoff, with a great slicing run from their second-rower, setting up a try for Tessa Wright.
Akarana began to pull away, with an overlap on the right side leading to a kick and chase. A great recovery from Luafalealo with a flick pass out the back to Diamond-Brahne extended their lead further with the winger running in her second try. Her impressive game saw her pick up the Mainstream Player of the Match.
Wayward passes and kicks, as well as several dropped balls didn’t work in Wai-Coa-Bay’s favour. Their strong defence helped set up numerous attacking opportunities, but all went begging as Akarana pulled on their great line speed to hold them scoreless.
A team that Akarana couldn’t keep scoreless was last year’s third place winners, Canterbury. A tight first half, one that Canterbury would be proud of, saw Akarana gain a narrow 8-6 lead.
The second half was a different story as the Falcons piled on the points. Their left side attack, which had been strong for most of the day produced a try produced another four points through left winger Tasha Tapu. Great running from the forwards in the middle opened the Canterbury defence up numerous times, and scoring chances flowed for Akarana. Final score being 38-6.
If Counties continue their winning streak, they could find themselves playing off for their ninth successive National Women’s Tournament title.
National Women’s Tournament – Day one
Saturday, 2 June 2018 – Cornwall Park
Counties 28 – Wellington 0
Auckland Vulcans 16 – Canterbury 0
Akarana 24 – Wai-Coa 0