Full of highs and lows, tries (so many tries), new stars, old faces, big hits, great skill, upsets and domination.
But part one is done and now the pressure really begins for the remaining teams. For some, a season defining match lays ahead while others have already overachieved by reaching the semi-finals.
By virtue of taking the field Northland’s season was special before it had even begun, but to have now won four in a row and therefore earn a place in the championship semis has taken it beyond even perhaps what they would have hoped for. However the challenge ahead in the semi-final is stiff. Hawke’s Bay is the poster team for new entrants into the competition, improving year-on-year since returning to the FPC in 2017, and producing their best season to date. The Tui will be overwhelming favourites, but Northland is a different team to that beaten 64-31 in round one and has nothing to lose.
Tasman finds itself in a similar position; underdogs against the Championship’s top side Otago. Otago’s players will be desperate to return to the final and give themselves a chance to rectify losses in the promotion game the past two years. They’ve racked up the points week after week and scored tries at will, but it is different kind of pressure when you’re expected to win and there’s so much at stake.
Auckland Rugby is throwing open the gates for the Storm’s Premiership semi-final against Wellington at Eden Park. It’s the first time a standalone women’s game will be held at the famous ground and entry is free. You’d be a fool not to be there early Saturday afternoon to see two of the most attacking teams in the competition and the likelihood of no fewer than 10 current Black Ferns go at it. Wellington started poorly against Manawatu last week and can’t afford to go 19 points down to a team the quality of Auckland. While the Storm’s resurrection has been remarkable after the woes of last year, they go into the semis straight off the bye and will hope it hasn’t halted their strong momentum.
A match-up between the finalists of the last two seasons, Canterbury and Counties rounds out the semi-finals. Canterbury isn’t without fault, but finding a way to break down a miserly defence and halt a well-drilled backline will be keeping the Counties coaches awake this week. The Heat have plenty of attacking prowess of their own but they simply can’t allow Kendra Cocksedge to dictate the tempo or the visitors will be run ragged.
Previous results count for nothing now, as four sides’ eye promotion and another four try to stay in the fight to lift the Farah Palmer Cup.
FPC Semi Finals:
Saturday 19th 2.05pm – Hawke’s Bay v Northland, McLean Park
Saturday 19th 12.05pm – Auckland v Wellington, Eden Park
Saturday 19th 2.00pm - Otago v Tasman, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Sunday 20th 2.05pm – Canterbury v Counties Manukau, Orangetheory Stadium
All games will be televised live on Sky Sport NZ with the exception of the Otago v Tasman game which will be live-streamed across Otago’s social media channels.