Auckland struck the opening blow in the opening two minutes of their clash with Canterbury in Christchurch. Halfback Melanie Puckett threw a behind the back (Harlem Globetrotters style) pass to flanker Tafito Lafaele who galloped 40-metres clear.
Canterbury was swift to regroup and tries to Amy du Plessis, Martha Mataele and Grace Steinmetz saw them lead 19-5 at halftime.
The Mataele try was supplied by a brilliant Charntay Poko cross-kick which saw the winger go over unopposed. Four players were involved in the lead up to the Steinmetz strike, including No 8 Marcelle Parkes and first-five Rosie Kelly with incisive dashes.
A telling difference between the sides was the quality of the Canterbury set-piece. Their lineout was especially imposing at times and when hooker Georgia Ponsonby crossed from the back of a maul the contest looked over at 26-5.
Instead, Auckland struck a purple patch and took a 27-26 lead. Lock Maiakawanakaulani Roos scored after a multiphase attack. Lafaele defied Canterbury jersey pullers to release fullback Kiritapu Demant and then Lafaele was one of nine players involved in a length of the field try to first-five Ruahei Demant that will rank as a contender for try of the season.
No 8 Charmaine McMenamin was largely responsible for the try which gave Auckland the lead. She stormed from her own ten-metre mark to just inside the Canterbury 22. The Auckland backs were quicker to assemble than the Canterbury defenders and wing Katelyn Vaha'akolo profited from the overlap.
The experience of the Canterbury pack ensured composure remained intact. Some strong mauling was followed by a second try to Mataele who came around the corner and smashed through the Storm like a cannon.
Canterbury 33 (Martha Mataele 2, Amy du Plessis, Grace Steinmetz, Georgia Ponsonby, Kendra Cocksedge 3 con, Rosie Kelly con) Auckland Storm 27 (Tafito Lafaele, Maiakawanakaulani Roos, Kiritapu Demant, Ruahei Demant, Katelyn Vaha'akolo tries; Patricia Maliepo 1 con)
North Harbour scored all their points in the first half of a hard earned victory at the Gully - home of the New Plymouth Boys’ High School First XV.
The visitors were most effective when attacking with expanse and successfully opened up Taranaki on both flanks. A 50-metre bust by centre Holly Williams set up right wing Ava-Lee Jericevich for the first try and then Louisa Tubailagi crossed on the opposite side after a nice catch and dispatch by Lucia Bolton.
Signs were ominous for Taranaki when they trailed 19-0, but the pack grew in confidence and provided stiff resistance. North Harbour will desire better discipline next week.
Taranaki fullback Danielle Muggeridge scored a cracker of a try when she dived to take a low pass, performed a forward roll, bounced to her feet and swatted aside three defenders.
North Harbour prop Ciara O' Connor played a solid hour and Bolton was dangerous. For Taranaki Badinlee Munro-Smith at second five was threatening and flanker Jacquelin Tulloch was a hive of activity.
North Harbour Hibiscus 21 (Ava-Lee Jericevich, Louisa Tubailagi, Ciara O' Connor tries; Hayley Hutana 3 con) Taranaki Whio 10 (Keighley Simpson, Danielle Muggeridge tries)
A sluggish start and lack of patience on attack cost Hawke’s Bay any chance of victory, despite facing 13 players for a lengthy period of time in the second half.
Oceana Campbell was in prolific form in Dunedin club rugby and she continued her rampant run with three tries and a number of breaks on the left wing.
Maia Joseph trailed for the Black Ferns at halfback but directed the backline with poise, flair and authority at first five. Cheyenne Cunningham was illusive at centre.
Otago led 39-15 after 56 minutes before they incurred the wrath of the referee. Three players were yellow carded in the last 24 minutes, Hawke’s Bay resurgent on the back on an imperious scrum. Loosehead prop Laura Delgado Duenas played the whole game for the Tui and Kahlia Awa made a real impact off the bench.
Otago Spirit 44 (Oceana Campbell 3, Atawhai Hotene 2, Cheyenne Cunningham 2 tries; Georgia Cormick 3 con, pen) Hawke’s Bay Tui 22 (Nicolette Adamson, Gemma Woods, Kahlia Awa tries; Krysten Cottrell 2 con, pen)
A bonus point victory represents a satisfactory start to the season for the Kauri. The hosts win was built on the back of a dominant scrum, though lapses of discipline were a concern.
Northland led 12-0 at halftime, crossing initially in the sixth minute when a quick tap by Black Ferns prop Krystal Murray caught Tasman lagging and Timara Leaf finished. No 8 Hikitia Wikaira peeled off from a strong lineout drive to double Northland’s advantage in the 16th minute.
Tasman produced a much better second-half, opening the scoring in that stanza with a 54th minute penalty. Tasman was able to build some phases and genuinely pressure the defence. Some loose passing let them down.
Northland’s forwards always had the Makos measure and when Steffi Hooson found a glaring hole in the middle of the ruck, Tasman’s chances of winning the game were dashed.
First five-eighth Cassia Siataga was creative for Tasman and skipper Tamara Silcock typically reliable.
Murray and openside Leilani Erwin were busy for Northland. First five Tara Turner will continue to grow throughout the season.
Northland Kauri 29 (Timara Leaf, Hikitia Wikaira, Steffi Hooson, Tara Turner, Harmony Covacich tries; Krystal Murray 2 con) Tasman Mako 10 (Cassia Siataga try, pen, Bethan Manners con)
Bay of Plenty had a disappointing 2021 achieving just one victory. Manawatū might have entered this fixture as favourites but they were blown away by a more committed and precise Volcanix forward effort.
At one stage Bay of Plenty led 27-11 and though Manawatū reduced the deficit to one with 17 minutes to go, Bay of Plenty was collectively better.
A series of strong pick and goes in the 68th minute saw Kate Henwood muscle over and a brilliant cross-kick by Kiki Tahere to Renee Wickliffe settled the result in the 75th minute.
Bay of Plenty’s big names stepped up. Hooker Luka Connor had a supreme game and was rewarded with two tries. The Black Ferns loose forward trio of Pia Tapsell, Kendra Reynolds and Les Elder outplayed their opposites, though Rachael Rakatau deserves acclaim for some destructive defence.
Carys Dallinger and Winiata were lively for the Cyclones. Winiata’s try from a 35-metre break and kick was a real treat.
Bay of Plenty Volcanix 37 (Luka Connor 2, Kiri Ngawati, Kate Henwood, Renee Wickliffe, penalty try, Kalyn Takitimu-Cook 2 con, pen) Manawatū Cyclones 26 (Hollyrae Mete, Carys Dallinger, Selica Winiata, Jayme Nuku tries; Dallinger 2 pen)
Wellington led all the way in earning their third consecutive victory over the Heat, and first in Pukekohe.
Wellington fullback Harmony Ioane opened the scoring in the 13th minute supporting a 50-metre break by centre Teilah Ferguson.
Ayesha Leti-I'iga was hungry for work and when the ball found her left wing in the 28th minute she beat the cover defence to double the Pride advantage.
Black Ferns lock Joanah Ngan-Woo was in monstrous form. She was secure in the lineouts and ran with real gusto. When she split Counties ruck in the 47th minute to burst 40-metres, Wellington led 22-7.
Counties used their size to rally. Props Lauryn Steed and Glory Aiono were especially industrious. It was 22-19 when Aiono barged over from close range in the 74th minute.
Wellington kept their cool and attacked vigorously from the kick-off. In the 78th minute the ball found Ayesha Leti-I'iga again and it was curtains for Counties.
Wellington Pride 27 (Joanah Ngan-Woo 2, Ayesha Leti-I'iga 2, Harmony Ioane tries; Cheyne Copeland con) Counties Manukau Heat 19 (Lauryn Steed 2, Glory Aiono tries; Hazel Tubic 2 con)