Women storm into provincial rugby final

At least there is one Wellington rugby team preparing for an NPC final.

The Wellington women's team, known as the Pride, steamrolled Canterbury 48-13 at the Petone Recreation Ground on Saturday in their final round-robin game.

It ensured the Pride's spot in the decider against Auckland at Waikato Stadium on Saturday, a curtainraiser to the men's final between Waikato and Canterbury.

Saturday's match was a virtual semifinal between the two sides who, along with Auckland, had largely dominated the others in the six-team competition.

Canterbury put 50 points on Hawke's Bay, Manawatu and Otago in their opening three matches, while Wellington also dominated that trio and suffered their only loss to Auckland, 34-15 in round two.

But this was largely a no-contest after the hosts led 26-13 at halftime and rattled in seven tries in all against a stunned Canterbury.

A jubilant coach Damien Rapira-Davies singled out hooker Claire Rowat, flanker Shaarn Waru, second five-eighth Maia Davidson and prolific tryscoring wing Huia Paul as standouts.

"They [Canterbury] have got their fair share of experienced players and more Black Ferns than we have. I had no idea we'd have such a commanding win," the coach said.

Now the focus switches to Auckland, stacked with internationals and the powerhouses of the women's game in New Zealand.

Rapira-Davies said that Auckland had not lost since 2006, when the Black Ferns were absent and Wellington won the title. But that had not dimmed his confidence.

"The closest shave they had was with us [in round two]. We've changed a lot of structural things since then that will make a difference next week.

"I'm very confident after that game against Canterbury. They're a similar team to Auckland."

The Dominion Post