Counties Manukau challenge women's history

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Lynn McConnell     29 Sep 2016     Getty Images

That's the view of Wellington coach James Porter, whose team was on the receiving end of a 7-60 thrashing in their semi-final last weekend.

But beaten Canterbury coach Wayne Love, whose side lost to Auckland 3-33, believes Auckland's long record of success in the competition, having lost a final only once, in 2006, will carry it home.

The final will be played at Pukekohe's ECOlight Stadium at 2.30pm on Sunday.

By a quirk of the draw Canterbury didn't play Counties Manukau during the season but Love had seen some of their games.

"They [Counties Manukau] have some bigger girls up front and they play the game close to the breakdown and through their forwards and use a lot of lineout drives and their scrummaging.

"Auckland move the ball out wider," he said.

Auckland, against Canterbury had kicked into Canterbury's half and then capitalised on mistakes to secure their win.

If the final was played on a dry ground, Auckland had a lot of experience to utilise to move the Counties Manukau team around, he said.

Porter said Counties Manukau, since the end of last season, had gone away and made a 'massive shift' in intensity and aggression at ruck time. No team in the competition had been as efficient at the ruck and breakdown as Counties Manukau.

"They have a lot of confidence. Auckland are full of class but Counties Manukau have a roll on, and the momentum. Auckland will need to be very sharp if they are to win the 2016 title," he said.

While Wellington's semi-final had been a blow out against Counties Manukau, Porter said Wellington didn't have the tools to deal with them.

Both coaches felt there was an improving standard in the competition overall.

Porter said Auckland, who had such a long record of dominance, had been pushed hard by a couple of teams while Love said there wasn't a lot between the top three teams.

"There were some very good games of rugby and the skill levels are getting better and better," Love said.

A lot of development work remained to be done around the skills and mental approach to the game, he said. Interest was developing at club level. Canterbury had 11 teams this year and while there was a big difference between the top three or four sides and the rest, there were signs of growth.

Porter said the women's competition was a great product that was improving all the time.