Round Five of the Farah Palmer Cup kicked off on Friday night with the only live televised game between North Harbour Hibiscus and the Auckland Storm. North Harbour came out of the blocks fired up and ready to run the way out wide. Unfortunately the Storm had other ideas about their northern neighbours. Auckland won the game 37-5 and now sit third equal on the Premiership table with 17 points. Here’s the match report for the game.
The second game of the round saw the Otago Spirit host the Wellington Pride at Forsyth Bar Stadium in Dunedin under a closed roof. With Otago leading through the first forty and going into the break 19-14 up, Wellington came back from the break and went through the second half with five unanswered tries and walked away from the game winning 41-19. With maximum points taken from this game the Pride are sitting second equal with the Auckland Storm on 17 points.
Game three of the round saw the Manawatu Cyclones head north to the Hawkes Bay Tuis territory in Napier. This game was played at pace and speed with the Cyclones living up to their moniker and absolutely destroy the Tuis with everything they had. The Cyclones managed to run in 13 tries to one and also had nine of eleven conversions kicked. Special mention also goes to star Black Ferns and Cyclones fullback Selica Winata who played her 100th provincial game as well. Selica picked up three tries herself in this game and definitely made a game to remember. The Cyclones took away 5 competition points from this game and now are on 16 points currently sitting fifth on the Premiership table. The Tuis who have yet to gain any competition points will need to work on their defence if they want to hit it with the big players.
Next up Waikato hosted the Bay of Plenty Volcanix at Beetham Park in Hamilton. Thanks to the Black Ferns Facebook page, the game was live streamed and you can watch a replay here. The Volcanix came into the game favourites with three wins from three so far in the season and were looking to stamp their mark on a Premiership side. Waikato were coming off their comprehensive win over the Manawatu Cyclones last week and were looking to add to their points. The game was played close to the scrum and only 3 tries a piece were scored. Luka Connor of the Volcanix showing again what a try scoring machine she is with two tries this game and at least one try in every game she has played this season, making her the Cups highest try scorer so far. With the score 12-7 at half time to Waikato, the game could have gone either way in the second half. Waikato narrowly winning this game 19-17 when the Volcanix turned down a penalty kick from out in front the posts and opted for a line out. Waikato walk away with four points from this game and the Volcanix will have one bonus point (for losing by 7 or less). Both teams showed grit and determination and the Volcanix are still sitting at the top of the Championship table despite this loss on 18 points. Waikato aren’t fairing so well in the Premiership with only the win are 6th with 15 points, one point behind the Cyclones.
The final game of the round had Canterbury host the Tasman Makos at AMI Stadium for the JJ Stewart Trophy as well as competition points. The game started with two tries a piece as both teams traded points in the first 10 minutes of the game with the Makos taking an early lead of 12-10. After that Canterbury applied pressure and the Makos had no answer for it. On a cool spring afternoon the Canterbury backline and forward pack had a chance to stretch their legs and ran in nine unanswered tries to take the full time score to 67-12. Canterbury had the advantage of star Black Fern half back Kendra Cocksedge leading from the front and the Makos never even got a look in. This game was champagne rugby at it’s best. Canterbury walked away with five competition points and now sit at second place just behind Counties on 19 points.
With only two more rounds to go in the regular season the Premiership is still wide open as only seven points separate Counties, the top team from Waikato, the bottom team. With Counties having the bye this weekend and also gaining five competition points because of it, they are still sitting at the top of the table on 22 points. Canterbury have still to play Waikato and Wellington so could technically not get into the semi finals. All the other teams in the Premiership have yet to play some of their biggest games yet and at the moment it’s anyones guess at who is going to make the playoffs.
Over in the Championship next weeks game of the round sees a top of the table clash with the Otago Spirit hosting the Bay of Plenty Volcanix at Forsyth Barr Stadium as a curtain raiser to a Mitre 10 Cup match. The Volcanix look to have the Championship play off spot in the bag with a healthy 18 points, eight points clear of the next team the Otago Spirit. The only other team with a look in for a play off spot are the North Harbour Hibiscus who have four competition points.
The next two weeks will be interesting as crunch time approaches for both the Premiership and Championship teams and will go along way in supporting and fostering the womens game in New Zealand.
**I would also like to thank everyone for their continued support for the Farah Palmer Cup (and its fan page) and womens rugby in general. The Facebook page has just reached 500 likes and it’s through sheer grit and determination that I have managed to last this long with updates and match reports. I am doing this in my spare time with no help from any official channels at all. I want to take this opportunity to say thank you and that interacting with everyone and also being able to keep everyone up to date on what’s happening with the Cup is a privilege and honour. I hope this last longer than the nine weeks of the Cup. Cora**