Waikato women's rugby team have finished their first season back in the national women's provincial championship in seven years on a high note, beating finalists Canterbury 25-14, in Cambridge.
Waikato led most of the way at Memorial Park on Saturday, dominating through the forwards who scrummaged strongly and provided a sound platform for their talented backline to attack from and breach the Canterbury defence.
The home side scored three tries to two and finished a promising season with three wins and three losses.
Canterbury now go on to host the final against top-qualifiers Auckland because of a prior agreement among teams that the women's final would be played as the curtainraiser to the men's ITM Cup premiership final.
Centre Honey Hireme scored two tries and first five-eighth Chelsea Alley one. Alley controlled the game from the pivot position in the first half and was Waikato's player of the day, adding two conversions and two penalty goals.
"We were under pressure in the second half with Canterbury hot on attack for most of the final quarter and we made a few bad calls at times, going away from our game plan, but the defence was good and managed to hold the line," Waikato coach Reuben Samuel said.
Samuel rated it Waikato's best performance of the season and said if they had produced the same performance against Otago the previous week, when they lost 25-22, they might have had an outside chance of a place in the final.
"We were underdogs going into the whole competition, effectively being a club side going into a provincial comp, but hopefully now the support grows and we get another club team for next season.
"There has to be a big thanks to Victoria Grant, Teresa Te Tamaki and Crystal Kaua for getting this off the ground with the University club and now the Waikato union is behind us and hopefully we get a few more resources," he said.
There is no rest for the Waikato players with several involved in both Black Ferns and New Zealand women's sevens training camps, while the Waikato sevens squad start training on Wednesday to prepare for tournaments next month that lead up to the northern regional championships on December 8.
The two top teams from that tournament qualify for the nationals in Queenstown in January.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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