A stunning comeback has seen the Blues Women record their first win of Super Rugby Aupiki 2023, beating Hurricanes Poua 31-22 at Sky Stadium in Wellington.
Wellington turned on a lovely day to greet both sides as they ran out on Sky Stadium, the first match of a Super Rugby double-header with the men kicking off later in the evening. The Poua came in off a heart-stopping one-point win over Matatu, while the Blues were still searching for their first win after going down to Chiefs Manawa last weekend.
After a cagey first 10 minutes, the Poua had the Blues pinned in their 22, but a good turnover gave rookie Jayme Kolose room to exploit down the left wing. One ruck later and skipper Ruahei Demant smartly created an overlap for Katelyn Vaha’akolo to collect a pass and gun 50 metres down the other sideline to score the opening try.
However, the home side didn’t lie down. The Poua forwards started to gain ascendancy, ripping into the breakdown like a wolfpack and securing a penalty that moved them into the Blues 22. Instead of the expected drive, the Poua sent it quickly to Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, whose perfect crosskick found impressive rookie Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly out wide to score near the posts and give the home side the lead at halftime.
A flurry of scoring marked the start of the second half. First, the Poua stretched the lead through another attacking lineout, Krystal Murray peeling off and feeding Joanah Ngan-Woo to crash over through three tackles. Carys Dallinger’s kick from the sideline found its mark and made it a two-score game.
However, that only lasted a matter of minutes. Mel Puckett took a quick tap near the Poua line, and Blues skipper Ruahei Demant sliced through a gap to score a try she then converted.
Then Dallinger almost scored off a good run under the posts, however, was held up and forced a goal-line dropout. Unfortunately for the Blues, it went straight to the Poua not far out from the line; quick hands meant Stephens-Daly eased over for her second. Dallinger couldn’t convert but tacked on a penalty not long after to stretch the lead to 22-12.
Into the last 10 minutes, the Blues lifted their intensity, and Patricia Maliepo got over thanks to another quick tap penalty by Puckett. Replacement Krysten Cottrell’s kick from a handy angle slid wide, but she more than made up for it straight away. The Blues moved into the 22, and Demant did brilliantly to pop an offload from the deck to Cottrell, who finished nicely through a couple of tackles.
But the Blues weren’t done, finishing in style with a wonderful solo try to Maliepo that will give them tremendous confidence heading into next weekend’s semi-finals.
HURRICANES POUA 22 (Autumn-Rain Stephens-Daly 2, Joanah Ngan-Woo tries; Cary Dallinger 2 con, pen)
BLUES WOMEN 31 (Patricia Maliepo 2, Ruahei Demant, Krystan Cotrell, Katelyn Vaha’akolo tries; Demant con, Cotrell con)
HT: 7-5 Poua