The Akarana Falcons kicked off their start to the inaugural Sky Sport National Women’s Premiership at Bruce Pulman Park against the Mid-Central Vipers with a clinical display on attack.
A game not short of aggression and effort started off as a scrappy affair. Few mistakes by both teams eventually led to the first chance for Akarana. A mistake by Mid-Central fullback Jasmine Te Uawiri led to a scrum and winger Katelyn Vaha’akolo came painstakingly close to score falling short of the line after a sharp set play.
An 8th-minute late penalty in the set gave Akarana an opportunity in the red zone and Karli Hansen received an offload to crash over. Hansen failed to convert her try from out wide.
Four minutes later, fullback Apii Nichols went over to double the advantage. The score remained 8-0.
Mid-central found some momentum and rolled on down the field. A penalty and an Akarana knock-on put them in good attacking position for three more sets, unfortunately unable to convert the pressure into points. On the ensuing set, Akarana went the length of the field and after an offload from Hansen, Meleoata Toki went 30 metres to score. Apii Nichols assumed the goal kicking duties but hit the left upright. 12-0 Akarana in the 19th minute.
More dominance from the Falcons led to a Holly Wade try coming from a sweet ball from Nichols who started to put her footprint on the game. Apii converts to put Akarana up 18-0 in the 25th minute.
Clementine Varea then bulldozed her way to score under the post and five minutes later Akarana halfback put Warriors centre Jules Newman into a gaping hole for her to score. Nichols converts both tries taking the Falcons into the break with a 30 point lead.
Akarana continued their dominance in the second half as Katelyn Va’ahakolo grabbed her second in the 38th minute, going 70 metres to score under the post. Nichols converts to take the lead to 36-0.
A set on the Akarana line finally bore fruit for the Vipers as Mid-Central half Corrineke Windle’s grubber kick came off Jules Newman and she regathered to score Mid-Centrals first points. Windle missed her conversion to keep the score at 36-4. A few minutes later, Vipers winger Awhina Kingi unfortunately couldn’t maintain possession as a try went begging for the Vipers.
Apii Nichols then made them pay to recover a bomb that was allowed to bounce by the Vipers and took it under the post. Nichols failed to convert the conversion as the wind blew the ball off the tee, 40-4
Nichols continued her impressive display as she set up Meleoata Toki with a clinical cut out ball, excellent underline from Toki took out he defender as she scored on the right edge. Three minutes later Charlotte Scanlan’s line break created space for Jules Newman as she scored on the left edge sealing the game. Both conversions were unsuccessful.
Mid-Central went over in for a consolation with two minutes remaining, as captain Mahalia Polson crashed over for a great try in similar vain to Meleoata Toki, the Vipers bring the score to 48-8.
Akarana will face Counties Manukau at 2:05pm next Saturday at Pulman while Mid-Central take on Canterbury down at Nga-Puna-Wai Sunday 11th at 12:05pm. All games will be televised live on Sky Sport 4.
The Canterbury Bulls and Akarana Falcons will be happy campers both coming away with the win after the first round of the National Premiership.
In a hotly contested match-up, the Cantabrians sent a strong message to their opposition that they mean business in 2018 taking home a narrow 20-18 win over the Stingrays at Mt Smart Stadium two.
Both teams may have crossed the line for three tries but it was the handy boot of Canterbury Bulls captain James Baxendale which sealed the deal with two points being the difference on the final whistle.
Earlier in the year, Canterbury Bulls Coach Andrew Auimatagi led his Linwood Keas team to a thriller Canterbury Club Grand-Final win over the Hornby Panthers and he’s already taking his early season form into the National Premiership.
While Counties weren’t victorious, they’ll have plenty of positives to stew over fielding a young side full of up and coming talent with the likes of youngster Sheldon Roger, who has come through the New Zealand Rugby League age-group pathways featuring in last year’s New Zealand 18s squad.
2017 National Premiership winners and favourites, the Akarana Falcons also proved why they’ve held the title as back-to-back champions in 2016 and 2017 asserting their dominance over Waikato with a 46-6 win.
The blowout scoreline was the result of a superb team effort that saw Akarana fullback Polima Siaki pick up a double and six of his teammates cross the line to accumulate eight tries in total, seven of which were converted between captain Francis Leger and Chaz Brown.
Waikato’s cause wasn’t helped when their star fullback left the field with a serious injury. However, the players were full of enthusiasm heading into round two where they’ll take on Canterbury who will be riding the high of momentum following their round one win.
In the National Championship, Northland staged an upset on their home turf with a 16-14 victory over the Wellington Orcas. Ruakaka turned out a cheerful crowd who witnessed their home team in a nail-biter sending the Orcas packing on a long trip home to reflect on their performance.
Counties 18 Canterbury 20
Akarana 46 Waikato 6
Northland 16 Wellington 14
Next week’s fixtures:
Canterbury v Waikato
2pm, Saturday, 22 September, 2018
Akarana v Counties Manukau
Mt Smart Stadium 2
4pm, Saturday, 22 September, 2018
Wellington v Otago
2pm, Saturday, 22 September 17, 2018
Petone Recreation Ground, Wellington
This Saturday, the NZRL National Competition kicks off with round one of the championship on Saturday, 15 September in Takahiwai and round one of the Premiership taking place in Auckland on Sunday, 16 September.
The Canterbury Bulls will face Counties Manukau Stingrays in the early game (2pm) at Mt Smart Stadium 2, followed by a rematch of last year’s Premiership final with the defending champions Akarana Falcons, taking on Waikato at 4pm.
All Premiership games will be televised live on SKY, including the 6 October Grand-Final at Mt Smart Stadium. This will feature the Championship winners v fourth-placed premiership side in a promotion/relegation match followed by the Premiership Final.
This year’s national competition format will see the top four teams (Akarana, Counties, Canterbury and Waikato) contest the premiership title, with Auckland represented by its two NZRL zones, while winners from three qualifying pools, the Wellington Orcas, Northern Swords and Otago Whalers, will compete for the NZRL National Championship.
(corner of One Tree Point Road and McEwan Road) Ruakaka
Team lists for this weekend:
Counties Manukau Canterbury