Simone Small’s hattrick and accurate goalkicking for North Harbour ignited a round of rugby that thrilled right to the last match. Small, the Head of Sport at Kristin College, relished her starting opportunity and the thirty-year-old looked a step ahead of everyone at North Harbour Stadium.
That was until Black Ferns flanker, Pia Tapsell, returning from shoulder rehab, eyed up the tryline and was unstoppable with her brace for Harbour.
Taranaki gallantly toiled away but Harbour were too skilled and too fast.
Luka Connor grabbed two tries for Bay of Plenty in her side’s win over Manawatu. The four try bonus point win was vitally important and kept their top four play-off hopes alive going into this weekend’s final round robin matches.
Northland’s impressive performances keep them surging forward in their inaugural FPC year. They finished ahead of Tasman 35-29 in a close game.
Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate and Savannah Bodman both got two tries each in the victory with Tasman’s courageous versatile back Rebecca Kersten bagging a couple along with Hayley Hutana. In an eleven try fest thriller, Tasman fell short by six points.
Otago won away in Napier in the Championship match of the round against Hawkes Bay. Multi-talented halfback come first five and goal kicker, Rosie Kelly crossed twice as did Teilah Ferguson for the visitors.
This was matched by Hawkes Bay’s Black Fern hooker Forne Burkin with her brace but Otago take the honours at the top and have a break on the points table as they now eye up the play-offs and home advantage.
Defending Premiership champions Canterbury continued their unbeaten run with another excellent display. This win was highlighted by excellent teamwork, support play and high tempo rugby.
Fleetfooted winger Sam Curtis dotted down twice in the seven try-to-one blitz of Waikato.
The match of the round for me was between the biggest improvers of 2019 Auckland, against their neighbours Counties Manukau.
Twenty years of provincial rivalry between these two saw an inaugural trophy presented for this fixture. The Te Toki Mareikura Trophy now has Auckland’s name engraved on it after their 38-31 victory.
While Counties Manukau fired up with an early try by Justine Lavea, Auckland’s Ruahei Demant and Joehanna Naime-Purcell created havoc in the midfield and responded with tries.
Charmaine McMenamin and the sixteen-year-old Patricia Maliepo crossed for the Storm and at 28-12 it looked like Auckland had a comfortable buffer heading into halftime.
Counties had a different view however and scored two tries in three minutes.
After first five Hazel Tubic had executed a fabulous cross field kick that was fielded by Temira Mataroa on the line, Emily Kitson gratefully received the offload to take the score to 28-17.
That scoreline soon became 28-24 when Hazel Tubic popped a kick ahead just over halfway, the ball taking a wicked bounce which Tubic regained. Then followed a series of keeping the ball alive phases, many pairs of hands involved, moving out wide, moving back in field, passing into space, the support players always present.
Ilisapeti Molia was the recipient of the last pass and needed just a couple of big strides to score a sensational try. Was that Counties Manukau five-pointer the try of the season? You tell me.
Auckland first five Patricia Maliepo scored a try as well as kicking five from six conversations and a penalty for a total eighteen points in Auckland’s excellent victory.
The skill level just keeps rising round after round in the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership and Championship. As the final round approaches this weekend there is still plenty for teams to play for as the quest for semi-final places beckons.