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Farah Palmer Cup preview: finals

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Campbell Burnes     19 Oct 2018     Getty Images

On form, one would back Canterbury, top qualifier, JJ Stewart Trophy holder, and playing the most consistent rugby in a settled side that includes the world’s best halfback in Kendra Cocksedge. The Cantabs are at home too, where they enjoy playing at Rugby Park. Furthermore, just three weeks ago they defeated the Heat 39-22 in the Garden City.

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On the face of it, the Counties Manukau Heat, into their third straight final, possess a powerful scrum and some hard-nosed experience, but do not have Canterbury’s allround game.

The Heat are coming off a fascinating 24-14 semifinal win over Waikato in Hamilton in which they had to show a great deal of resilience and character after facing a 14-0 deficit.

Marshalled by canny halfback and captain Arihiana Marino-Tahinu, and anchored by a big scrum, with tighthead prop Aotearoa Matau to the fore, the Heat worked their way back into the contest with some smart tactical play. The likes of No 8 Aroha Savage, lock/No 6 Glory Aiono all played well and will be expected to lift in the final. Justine Lavea will bring all her years of knowledge to the No 6 jersey. Black Ferns hooker Te Kura Aerengamate, after a long absence, is bracketed on the bench, but her experience will be vital if she is fit.

Canterbury will look to spread the ball, where the midfield of Lucy Anderson and Grace Brooker have been especially effective, freeing space for the pace of Sam Curtis and Olivia McGoverne to cut capers out wide. But do not underestimate a front row with the experience of Pip Love and skipper Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox.
Canterbury did the damage in the first half of its semifinal, leading Manawatu 21-0 before easing away 31-12. No 8 Georgia Ponsonby scored a tremendous try.

The 2017 final in Pukekohe saw Canterbury triumph, for the first time, 13-7. Both sides have around half their number from then back for this decider.

The Championship final, with promotion on the line, pits the Wellington Pride against the Otago Spirit in Porirua.

The Pride cleaned out the Harbour Hibiscus 38-7 after a 7-all halftime stalemate in their semifinal while the Spirit, again scoring some nice tries, accounted for the Hawke’s Bay Tui 34-10.

Ross Bond’s Wellington team will be favourite and is historically accustomed to finals, having played seven deciders (winning the 2006 title at Eden Park) since the women’s provincial championship was inaugurated in 1999. The Pride have big ball carriers in the pack and pace on the flanks in new Black Ferns wings Monica Tagoai and Ayesha Leti-I’iga.

So Otago, which narrowly lost the 2017 Championship final, 7-5 to Bay of Plenty, will need to show its courage and accuracy on defence against a bigger unit if it wants to play in the Premiership next season. Loose forward Zoe Whatarau was a late withdrawal, which is a blow, but Julia Gorinski moves from the engine room to the side of the scrum.

The Premiership final will be televised live on SKY while the Championship decider will be live streamed on the Black Ferns’ Facebook page and on Sky Sport Pop up channel 1.
The match-ups:

Premiership final
Canterbury v Counties Manukau

Saturday October 20, 12.05pm at Rugby Park, Christchurch
Referee: Rebecca Mahoney (Wairarapa-Bush)
Played: 6 (2003-18)
Wins: Canterbury 5, Counties Manukau 1
Last match: Canterbury 39 Counties Manukau 22 (September 30, 2018)

Teams
Canterbury:
Olivia McGoverne, Becky Davidson, Grace Brooker, Lucy Anderson, Sam Curtis, Cassie Siataga, Kendra Cocksedge, Georgia Ponsonby, Greer O’Rourke, Forne Burkin, Alana Bremner, Estelle Uren, Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox (c), Jessie Hansen, Pip Love
Reserves: Nina Poletti, Catriona Greenslade, Chelsea Bremner, Lucy Jenkins, Dianne Hiini, Te Rauoriwa Gapper, Taylor Curtis

Counties Manukau: Emily Kitson, Azania Watene, Feofa’aki Piliu, Aleasha Brider, Lavinia Tauhalaliku, Timara Leaf, Arihiana Marino-Tahinu (c), Aroha Savage, Larissa Lima, Justine Lavea, Harono Te Iringa, Glory Aiono, Aotearoa Matau, Victoria Meki, Leilani Perese
Reserves: Grace Gago/Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, Lauryn Steed, Anastasia Mamea, Georgina Lidgard, Stacey Brown, Waikohika Flesher, Shyanne Thompson

Championship final
Wellington v Otago

Saturday October 20, 1pm at Porirua Park, Porirua
Referee: Brittany Andrew (Manawatu)
Played: 21 (1999-2018)
Wins: Wellington 12, Otago 9
Last match: Wellington 38 Otago 10 (September 15, 2018)

Teams
Wellington:
Timena Tuma’ai, Monica Tagoai, Fa’asua Makisi, Amanda Rasch, Ayesha Leti-I’iga, Acacia Te Iwi Mate, Ana-Maria Afuie, Jackie Patea-Fereti (c), Sinead Toala-Ryder, Nina Foaese, Sanita Levave, Joanah Ngan-Woo, Janet Taumoli, Alicia Print, Angelica Uila
Reserves: Rosie Stirling, Isadora Laupola, Elieta Taito, Mary-Lee Sa’u, Kiri Mei, Dhys Faleafaga, Bernadette Robertson

Otago: Sheree Hume, Trish Hopcroft, Kilisitina Moata’ane, Greer Muir, Kiana Wereta, Rosie Kelly, Rosie Buchanan-Brown, Morgan Henderson, Georgia Mason, Julia Gorinski, Jess Kendall, Kate Smith, Eilis Doyle, Tegan Hollows (c), Isla Pringle
Reserves: Gemma Walker, Amy Rule, Jess Dermody, Morgan Walker, Sammy Wong, Amy du Plessis, Cheyenne Cunningham