Taranaki, at last, won a Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) championship match on Saturday when they upset North Harbour 31-19 at Onewa Domain.
It was the first win by the Whio in 14 consecutive matches stretching back to 2021. Prior to taming Hibiscus, Taranaki had only scored a solitary try in four matches.
The visitors made an eclectic start bursting to a 21-0 lead in as many minutes. North Harbour rallied, closing the gap to 21-12 after 55 minutes. The game was in the balance until an athletic teenager from an accomplished rugby family took matters into her own hands.
Louise Blyde is the cousin of New Zealand Sevens Olympics gold medallist Michaela Blyde. Louise showed pace runs in the family when she scored a thrilling 65m runaway try, her second in the game, to ultimately seal victory.
“We took a quick tap and basically there was a draw and pass which put me into a hole. All I had to do was run,” Blyde said.
“We went in knowing we could beat this team. All we had to do was play positive rugby.”
The Blyde family has been playing positive rugby for years. Michaela’s mother Cherry Blyde was a Black Fern and her two sons Cole and Liam have played for Taranaki.
Louise’s older sisters Lucy and Tara played for Taranaki in 2022. Louise started playing when she was five. The Year 12 student at Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth is typically a first five.
“It’s pretty inspirational what Michaela does in the Black Ferns Sevens,” Louise said.
“I play for Clifton. Our club competition has five teams with two rounds. My best game was against Coastal. We lost, but I scored two runaway tries which felt great. It gave me the confidence I could play for Taranaki.”
Her debut was a baptism of fire. Manawatū thrashed the Whio 84-0. However, a nurturing and determined environment has seen collective improvement.
“It’s been huge having our Black Fern Iritana Hohaia back. She is great to play with, fast, demanding, and good at setting you up. Our captain Ellie Johns is a lovely person,” Blyde said.
With 93 tackles Hayley Gabriel is the top tackler in the FPC. Johns averages over 13 tackles a game.
Taranaki will be hoping to build upon their greater attacking success against North Harbour when they travel to Nelson to tackle Tasman in a championship quarter-final on Sunday.
Tasman comfortably beat Taranaki in their first meeting, but the Mako have dropped their last two games. Blyde is confident Taranaki will fear better.
“We’ve got to keep a positive mindset, make sure we're doing all the basics right.”
Her favourite subjects at school are Chemistry and PE.