31 October 2020
A scrappy affair at the Trust’s Stadium saw the Upper Central Stallions look to end their undefeated season with a final win over rivals Auckland Vulcans. Defence was the meta in this game, as both sides showed heart and effort, forcing the opposition into mistakes.
An early mistake from Auckland Fullback Keri Ratima allowed the first opportunity for Upper Central but the defence stood firm, taking Upper Central captain Dorta Adams over the side-line.
A mistake off the next set from Auckland gave another chance for the Stallions and this time they made them pay. A sharp left-side shift saw Niu Milo put through fullback Autumn Stephens, who is arguably the most in-form player of the competition, untouched for the first points of the game. Trisha Tarsau-Hina unable to convert as the score remains 4-0 in the 3rd minute.
Opportunities were abundant for both sides throughout the half, but ball security and lack of discipline halted any side from crossing the line. Edge defence kept play through the middle and the aggressive nature of the game took over, with big hits causing many dropped balls.
Upper Central go into the sheds with the upper hand with a four-point lead over Auckland.
A great solo try from Kiwi Fern Honey Hireme-Smiler increased the Stallions advantage in the second forty. Honey showed her class and veteran savvy to take the game by the scruff of the neck and give her team an eight-point buffer. Tiria Anderson unable to convert, Stallions remained up by eight at the 42nd-minute mark.
Auckland marched down the field and received a penalty late in the set and after peppering the Stallions line were finally able to crack the stout defence. Half Kaylarnee Murray utilised her brilliant footwork to swerve through on the last and score next to the left upright. Hooker Jhana Magele slotted her conversion kick over to tighten the deficit to two.
The Vulcans then took their first lead of the game after a barnstorming break from Shontelle Woodman. Off the back of the break, a right side swing saw Tanika Noble take her chance as she went over to put the Vulcans in front with 20 to go. Conversion unsuccessful from Magele, score stood at 10-6 in favour of Auckland.
A mistake and crucial penalty in favour of the Stallions put them in ideal attacking position with five minutes to go. Stallion forward, Jayde August then bulldozed her way from the tap restart to put Upper Central back in the lead with only four minutes remaining. Stallions again unable to convert as they take a 12-10 lead going into the last phases of the game.
After a tantalising finish, The Upper Central Stallions did enough hold off a late surge from Auckland to capture their first National Women’s Championship trophy, the final score Upper Central Stallions 12 – Auckland Vulcans 10.