A courageous Craighead First XV could not quite upset hot favourites Ashburton College in the final of the schoolgirls' Hanan Shield Championship, losing 17-12.
Ashburton dominated territory and possession at Alpine Energy Stadium but couldn't break Craighead's resolve and in the final five minutes the hosts tried desperately to steal the win.
Ashburton started well with a try to lock Laura Harrison after several drives at the line, and fullback Naomi Cone landed a handy conversion.
Just before halftime Ashburton extended their lead to 12-0 when flanker Olivia Cunneen finally went over.
Her side had battled away but Craighead's line defence was strong despite the loss of prop Emily Blacklow for 10 minutes, after she was shown a yellow card for slowing the ball down.
It looked all over for Craighead when Ashburton scored again through prop Chloe Te Moananui just after the restart.
Craighead, however, showed plenty of resolve and attacking flair out wide with the little ball they did have.
Ten minutes in, left wing Elizabeth Hampton made a great run, cutting infield and then linking with team-mates, and fullback Lily McFarlane gave right wing Holly Waters the perfect pass to score.
Craighead first-five Ellie Lott then made a great break but the ball went to ground as she tried to link with her wing when another try looked on.
McFarlane then scored a brilliant solo try from 60m out, showing pace and a great step to go under the crossbar untouched.
That left Craighead 10 minutes to conjure up another try but despite getting the ball wide, they had no luck.
The pack battled away, cutting down Ashburton's strong one-off runners and, in the second half, managing to steal the visitors' ball in the mauls.
Lock Abbey Lang and No 8 Zoe Mulcahy put in several good tackles.
Captain Lott showed made several good runs while centre Laura Robinson was strong on attack and defence.
Hampton looked dangerous when she got into space and McFarlane was all class at fullback.
In the end, Craighead just could not get enough ball.
For Ashburton, prop Georgia Lysaght had a big game with several strong carries while No 8 Nicole Purdom - the standout player of the competition - was all class. Every time she ran it took several defenders to stop her.
Likewise, second-five Tessa Puleaga made the defence work hard. Her opposite, Brook Wilson- Bishop, must have got sick of the sight of her charging forward but never let her get too far.
Timaru Girls' High School beat Roncalli in a high-scoring encounter 50-41 to take out the bottom four competition.
- The Timaru Herald