Auckland invited back their Black Ferns with a thumping of Bay of Plenty while Hawke’s Bay continued their outstanding from with a win the capital against Wellington.
The Championship appears wide open with Northland overpowering Otago and Tasman and Manawatū healthy winners.
Tasman: 61 (Precious Auimatagi 3, Fiaalii Solomona 3, Iva Sauira 3, Neve Anglesey, Sarah Jones tries; Cassie Siataga 3 con) Taranaki: 10 (Danielle Muggeridge try, con, Laura Claridge pen) HT: 27-3
Tasman has won two games in a row for just the third time in their history and achieved their second-largest victory ever at Yarrows Stadium, New Plymouth. In 2018 they beat Taranaki 65-12.
Tasman had far too much power for the Whio with hooker Precious Auimatagi scoring three tries from rolling mauls and the loose forward trio of Neve Anglesey, Sui Pauaraisa, and Jess Harvie running amok with hard, direct carries. A Pauaraisa bust saw Anglesey in a one-on-one with the fullback who she cast aside with disdain.
Winger Fiaalii Solomona looks classy. One of her tries was taken from past halfway and she beat five defenders and offloaded from the ground to set up fullback Sarah Jones.
First-five Cassie Siataga created plenty of doubt for the defense. Her long passing and selective running are impressive. Replacement prop Avau Filimaua lasted 77 minutes following an early injury.
Taranaki scored their first points of the season after 172 minutes with a 30m penalty to Laura Claridge and had the last say when Pauaraisa was yellow-carded, and fullback Danielle Muggeridge found a rare hole.
Two yellow cards, 18 penalties, and 13 turnovers told a sorry tale for the hosts. Openside and captain Elle Johns was defiant with 13 tackles. Reserve hooker Ashley Raupapera added impact.
Auimatagi, Solomona and Sauira join Amelia Hammett in 2018 as Tasman players to score a hat-trick.
Auckland: 61 (Angelica Vahai 3, Katelyn Vaha’akolo, Braxton Sorensen-McGee, Melanie Puckett, Sylvia Brunt, Eloise Blackwell, Ruahei Demant tries; Demant 8 con) Bay of Plenty: 19 (Luka Connor, Te Urupounamu McGarvey, Payton Takimoana tries; Sapphire Williams 2 con) HT: 33-14
In bright sunshine at Colin Maiden Park, Auckland resisted a determined Bay of Plenty forward effort.
While Bay of Plenty had plenty of possession and Black Ferns, Luka Connor, Kelsie Thwaites, and Natalie Delamere carried often with vigour, Auckland was able to consistently hurt Bay of Plenty with long and trilling counterattacks from turnovers.
Winger Angelica Vahai out of One Tree Hill College was in imposing form. She only played two minutes for Auckland last year scoring a try before injuring her ankle. Fellow winger Katelyn Vaha’akolo was also busy and busted often.
First-five, Ruahei Demant only missed a solitary kick and varied her attacking game nicely. As expected, Black Ferns Maia Ross and Liana Mikaele-Tu'u had powerhouse games.
Waikato: 13 (Toka Natua try; Renee Holmes 2 pen. con) Counties Manukau: 5 (Jaymie Kolose try) HT: 3-5
Waikato stayed unbeaten with a gritty win over previously unblemished Counties in postcard conditions at St Paul’s Collegiate.
It was a tense tussle highlighted by sometimes brutal defense but unfortunately hampered by repetitive handling errors.
It took 37 minutes for the first points to be scored when fullback Renee Holmes slotted a penalty from 10m out. She had hit the post with a previous attempt two minutes earlier.
Twice right-wing Chantae Wilson-Jenkins went close to scoring tries.
Counties struck right on halftime when centre Shyanne Thompson busted at halfway and put flyer Jaymie Kolose in for her fourth try of the season.
Gradually Waikato gained ascendency in the scrums and the lineouts with the maul an encouraging feature of their play. In the 68th minute, they finally broke through when prop Toka Natua wriggled over from close range. Holmes converted from near the right sideline and then cruelly denied Counties a losing bonus point with an 81st-minute penalty.
Both eights Kennedy Simon (Waikato) and Joanna Fanen were explosive. Grace Houpapa-Barret and Victoria Makea climbed into everything for Waikato. Counties openside Stacey Brown pulled off some stinging tackles.
Northland: 42 (Krystal Murray 3, Charmine Smith 2, Ocean Tierney tries; Pohutukawa Kakara 6 con) Otago: 20 (Jamie Church, Keely Hill, Oceana Campbell tries; Georgia Cormick con, pen) HT: 28-12
Despite making double the number of tackles in the first 20 minutes, Northland led Otago 21-0 following some breathless counterattack.
Former Black Ferns lock Charmine Smith scored the first two tries from a maul and a 30m intercept.
Black Ferns prop Krystal Murray could have been mistaken as a centre. Her dynamic running and superior ball skills were a joyous had often had Otago scrambling. Loose forwards Aroha Savage and Hikitia Wikaira were damaging.
Otago’s first try scored by winger Jamie Church is a candidate for the best of the season but once Northland gained a greater share of the ball it was an uphill battle for the Spirit.
Openside Leah Miles had a strong game and Keely Hill, and Cheyenne Cunningham combined strongly in midfield.
Hawke’s Bay: 33 (Teilah Ferguson 3, Raedeen Blake, Jaimee Robin tries; Krysten Cottrell 4 con) Wellington: 22 (Jackie Patea-Fereti, Harmony Kautai, Joanah Ngan-Woo tries; Tamara Ruaporo penalty, 2 con) HT: 14-8
Veteran first-five Krysten Cottrell showed her match-winning prowess late in the contest by first pulling off a tackle to deny Wellington wing and former Hawke’s Bay teammate Harmony Kautai a second try.
She then made a 50m break to set up a try for substitute Jaimee Robin, with Cottrell landing her fourth conversion for the final say.
Centre Teilah Ferguson was another hero with a hat-trick, but it was halfback Raedeen Blake who scored the first try with Ferguson adding another as Hawke’s Bay led 14-8 at halftime at the Hutt Rec.
An intercept by Kautai, when Hawke’s Bay was pressing hard inside the 22, propelled the Pride into the lead in the 46th minute.
The Hawke’s Bay scrum was powerful, and it was that platform that allowed them to seize control initially creating a fumble in the Wellington backs from a strong push and then creating stability for the incisive Ferguson to blast through the defense.
Joanah Ngan-Woo was immense for Wellington and her 75th-minute try paved the way for the frantic finish.
It was only the third time in 13 matches that Hawke’s Bay has beaten Wellington and the first time in nine games that the Tui have won in the unions’ clashes in Wellington.
With four defeats Wellington will have to beat Bay of Plenty next Saturday to avoid regulation to the Championship.
Manawatū: 57 (Layla Sae 2, Te Uarangi Olsen-Baker, Kahurangi Sturmey, Kaipo Olsen-Baker, Jashana Teuwiri, Rangi-Marie Sturmey, Rachel Rakatau Selica Winiata; tries, Winiata 5 con Maia Davis con) North Harbour: 9 (Grace Freeman 3 pen) HT: 24-0
The one-sided nature of this match was best illusrated when Grace Freeman chipped over a penalty in the 47th minute when her side was behind 36-0.
North Harbour actually held Manawatū to 5-0 after half an hour but three try blitz just before the interval saw the visitors assume complete control. A highlight was a cracking 60m try scored by Jashana Teuwiri with multiple fends to the faces of hapless opponents.
Layla Sae played a blinder. Kahurangi Sturmey was to the fore of much of the Cyclones back attack and Selica Winiata was typically illusive.