Counties Power Heat vs Waikato
Ecolight Stadium, Pukekohe
Referee: Marcus Playle
From the kick-off Counties looked to dominate in the forward pack and had the upper hand with territory and possession in the first half. In the 8th minute Waikato gave away an easy penalty to Counties which Black Fern Hazel Tubic converted easily. Five minutes later, centre Utumalama Atonio crossed the line for what was to be a tryfest for Counties. Tubic converts the try without trouble. With 25 minutes gone, Counties extended their lead to 17-0 with a try to speedy half-back Ariana Marino and Tubic converting as usual.
With Counties playing at pace, Waikato were finding it difficult to get there hands on the ball and gain territory.
When Ariana Marino went over for her second try of the first half at the 34 minute mark the game felt all but over. Again Tubic stepping up for the conversion. The score now 24-0.
With less than five minutes to play in the first half the Counties Power Heat didn’t take their foot of the throat of a plucky Waikato side and ran in one more try before the break. Inside centre Timara Leaf picked up a try just on half time and Hazel Tubic with a rare miss at conversion. Counties go into the sheds 29-0 at half time.
Back into the second half and Counties came out all guns blazing putting the Heat on Waikato several times (pun intended). With momentum building burly loose-head prop Aotearoa Matau crashed over the line for an impressive try in the 46th minute. Tubic was back to her best with the conversion and Counties now stretched their lead to 36-0. With great back and forth play between both sides and some impressive 7+ phrases from Waikato, Counties still managed to hold off the onslaught from the opposition. With Waikato making inroads and almost certain to get a break away try to No 15 Makaia Riki-Te Kanawa, the wet conditions don’t help her and she managed to lose the ball forward. At the 64 minute mark Counties No 6 Stacey Brown dotted down after a pick and go close to the line. Tubic again stepped up and converted. It was now 43-0 to Counties and they had the game in the bag. The last try of the game went to replacement No 19 Aroha Heta off the back of a scrum five metres out. Tubic lined up for the conversion but was unable to convert. After her kick she was subbed off for a blood bin as there’s blood streaming down the side of her face. It’s 48-0 to Counties. With less than eight minutes to play and after just scoring a try Counties No 19 Aroha Heta was yellow carded for a head high tackle. With Counties down to 14 players Waikato rallied a last attempt at the goal line but to avail.
The final score was 49-0 to Counties Power Heat, but this didn’t reflect how well Waikato actually played.
Star Black Fern and Counties full-back Hazel Tubic picked up Player of the Match with 5 out of 7 conversions and one penalty kick accumulating 13 points for the game.
Next week Counties head north to play Auckland (who they beat in last years final) and Waikato host the Wellington Pride.
Apart from the lopsided scoreline both teams played an amazing attacking style game and didn’t look afraid to pass the ball wide when given the opportunity.
With Counties as one of only two teams in the Premiership having a bye (the other being the Manawatu Cyclones), it’s going to be interesting how much bonus points will come into play at the business end of the season.
Counties Power Heat: 48
Tries: Utumalama Atonio, Ariana Marino (2), Timara Leaf, Aotearoa Matau, Stacey Brown, Aroha Heta.
Conversion: Hazel Tubic (5/7)
Penalty: Hazel Tubic (1/1)
Yellow Card: Aroha Heta
– Cora Gray