The first semi final of the round saw Counties Power Heat host their northern neighbours the Auckland Storm in what was to be an amazing game to watch.
Thanks to the Black Ferns Facebook page you can watch the replay of the game here.
Counties came into this game clear favourites as they have been all season with only one loss to Canterbury (and still nobody knows how it happened as Counties had a dominating lead at half time in that game). Auckland for the first time ever came into a game as the under dogs. The also came into this game with the expectation placed on them that if they lost it would be the first time they would have never made a finals since the inception of the womens provincial championship started back in 1999. Not a piece of history they wanted to make.
From the outset both teams had nerves and it showed with a high penalty count in the opening 20 minutes and a low score line. Counties No 15 opened the scoring with a penalty kick in the first few minutes when Auckland poor discipline let them down and Counties went 3-0 after 3 minutes. The Storm were the first to run in a try after a 22 metre restart caught Counties napping and they passed it out through the backs and No 11 Hinemoa Watene went in. Plucky Auckland halfback Emma Jensen couldn’t convert from out wide and the score was 5-3 after 12 minutes.
A few minutes later Jensen went over herself from a sneaky break through off the back of a ruck to go in under the posts. She managed to convert the second try and score was 12-3 Auckland and it was all on. With a lot of handling errors from both sides and admittedly nerves showing through the play the game was keep quiet close in the ruck and maul area. Counties managed to get a five pointer to strapping hooker Te Kura Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate from a quick tap and storming run to the try line with the conversion coming from Hazel Tubic. This tied the score at 10-12 to Auckland heading into the break.
Back in from the break and both teams still kept the ball close and didn’t want to play an expansive game of rugby. With Counties getting on the board again through Lelani Perese and Timara Leaf and one more conversion from Hazel Tubic, that left they the score sitting at 22-12 for the majority of the second half with neither team breaking their defensive line.
There were some got clean breaks and amazing straight lines run but again the defence held for both teams. With about 5 minutes to play Auckland needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat to score and upset. Male Hufunga stepped up and produced and outstanding try down the left hand touch line with no conversion. With the scoreline at 22-17 with only a few minutes to play Counties managed to keep the ball into play and then get a penalty. The second the referee blew the whistle for the penalty it was over for Auckland and Counties started celebrating. The final score was 22-17 to Counties Power Heat.
This now means Counties Power Heat host the final and will play whoever win in the Canterbury v Waikato game.
This also means it’s the first time Auckland have never made a final for a womens provincial championship.