When Canterbury and Black Ferns hooker Georgia Ponsonby rumbled over from a lineout drive in the 61st minute, it appeared the hosts would commence a trademark surge. Rosie Kelly’s conversion kissed the posts; the scores were tied 27-27.
Instead, Auckland refused to yield, sticking to the ambitious and expansive approach that brought them so much earlier reward.
In the 67th minute centre Sylvia Brunt punched through the Canterbury defense and released winger Angelica Vahai. The 17-year-old streaked 40m down a stunned grandstand sideline. She could have finished herself. Instead, she nonchalantly offloaded to trailing Black Ferns lock Maia Roos who reclaimed the lead for Auckland.
Canterbury boats the Black Ferns World Cup-winning front row. Prop Amy Rule (29-0) and lock Chelsea Bremner (43-0) had never lost in the red and black until the 77th minute. The visiting forwards shunted Canterbury backward at a rate of knots from a lineout before a stampede turned subtle. Ruahei Demant, unmarked on the wing, was cheekily smuggled the ball and a cherry was applied atop a sweet cake.
Auckland thoroughly deserved their triumph. A shocking start saw an intercept try conceded after a minute to fullback Karla Wright-Akeli, otherwise, the Storm was aggressive, creative, threatening, and often polished.
In the first half, Auckland enjoyed 61% of the territory as Canterbury was forced to make 88 tackles as opposed to 43. The score at the break was 22-13 to Auckland.
Vaha scored their first try after prop Sophie Fisher and second five Patricia Maliepo combined to create space. Veteran lock Elosie Blackwell has been a tigerish this season and grinned euphorically after a rolling maul. Vaha added a second on the cusp of the interval following 14 phases of graft and guile.
Depiction unlocked Canterbury early in the second spell when vibrant halfback Melanie Puckett drifted openside only for No.8 Liana Mikaele-Tu'u to burst blind and link with Katelyn Vaha'akolo who carried to within inches of the pain. Blackwell would not be stopped at the next ruck 27-13.
Predicably Canterbury rallied with Black Ferns centre Amy du Plessis to the fore. From a scrum move, she speared through a hole like a javelin that left a bewildered Auckland chasing three decoy runners. Another break occurred in the lead-up to the Ponsonby try.
Canterbury mishandled several restarts, kicked wastefully at times, and missed too many tackles. Auckland’s bench added enthusiasm and efficiency. Auckland FPC champions for the 16th time.
Auckland: 39 Angelica Vahai 2, Eloise Blackwell 2, Maia Roos, Ruahei Demant tries; Demant 3 con, pen) Canterbury: 27 (Karla Wright-Akeli, Amy du Plessis, Georgia Ponsonby tries, Rosie Kelly 2 con 2 pen) HT: 13-22