The Wellington Pride and the Wellington Under-19 squad opened their competitions with wins this weekend.
The Pride upset Canterbury 43-38 at Jerry Collins Stadium on Saturday while the Under-19 side opened the Jock Hobbs Memorial national tournament with an emphatic 62-8 win over Taranaki in Taupo.
Wellington will now meet fellow first day winners Canterbury in the semifinal of the Graham Mourie Cup at 4pm on Wednesday.
Canterbury beat Auckland 37-8 in their opening match to progress to the top four of the top tier of the tournament.
The Pride grabbed an important win in their crossover Farah Palmer Cup, especially after their first-up loss to Hawke's Bay the previous week.
It was touch and go early in the second half, but the Wellington Pride won well against last year’s Premiership champions Canterbury in their Women’s NPC match at Jerry Collins Stadium on Saturday.
The Pride scored four well-taken tries – including two to left wing Ayesha Leti-l’iga – to lead Canterbury 22-12 just before halftime.
They then held off a possible Canterbury comeback just prior to and just after halftime. First withstanding a withering assault on their line and also losing wing Monica Tagoai to the sin-bin just before the break, and second seeing Canterbury roar back to score two consecutive tries to lead 24-22.
But the Pride regrouped and took the match out of Canterbury’s grasp with three straight tries. Blindside flanker Kiri Mei stepped through a ruck and darted 20 metres to the whitewash. This was followed by consecutive tries through, Tagoai (her second) and Fereti-Patea (her second). All three tries followed strong lead-up work and continuity between the backs and forwards in general play that broke Canterbury up the middle.
The Pride now led 43-24 with several minutes remaining and more beckoned. But Canterbury finished strongly, with two consolation tries after the 80 minutes were up on the scoreboard.
Earlier, the Pride had made an emphatic start to the match, with a strong build-up in general play and wing Leti-l’iga crossing for the opening try.
Canterbury quickly gained territory and possession, and they scored two near-identical tries, both to right wing Becky Davidson and both going wide from from attacking scrums.
Playing into the wind, the Pride backs ran back a and counterattacked in open play and set up a second try to Leti-l’iga, leaving defenders in her wake.
They scored their third from a scrum on halfway, with second five-eighth Amanda Rasch making a penetrating run up the grandstand shortside and setting up a try to right wing Tagoai.
Leti-l’iga went close to scoring again from a similar break to her previous one in general play, but was cut down inside her 22. This led to an attacking lineout from which lock Fereti-Patea scored their fourth, bonus point try.
The Pride’s next match in the Women’s NPC competition is at Porirua Park against Otago this coming Saturday against the Otago Spirit.
In the second match that followed on Jerry Collins Stadium, the Wellington Samoans held on by a thread inside their own 22 late in the game as the Maori threw all sorts of pressure their way.
With the Samoans protecting a 29-22 lead, the Maori couldn’t break through, predominantly through a series of attacking lineouts and scrums as the Samoans discipline waivered. A grandstand finish appeared imminent, but the pressure valve was lifted and then right wing Fereti Soloa drew the killer blow when he picked up a loose ball from a far side ruck and sprinted 65 metres to seal victory.
Earlier, the Maori had first use of the wind and took a narrow 22-19 lead into halftime. Blindside flanker Manassa Wineera opened the scoring and their next three tries were all scored after lineout drives. The Samoans replied with three tries before halftime, to openside flanker James Tuiatua (two tries) and centre Tomasi Alosio.
Now with the breeze, the Samoans took the lead early in the second half with No. 8 Ben Tupuola proving unstoppable from close-range off an attacking scrum. First five-eighth Fa’atonu slotted the conversion to put them in front 26-22.
Samoans loosehead prop Mike Ioapo was sin-binned, but not before Fili added a penalty to extend their lead to 29-22.
Following this, the Maori spent a long time in the ascendancy, but were unable to penetrate the Samoans defence which was bruising at times. The closest they came was when lock Hansen was held up over the line.
Up on Porirua Park 2, the Wellington Samoan U18s lost the Wairarapa Bush U18s 24-33.
In the other Hurricanes Development Shield contest, the Centurions Development side fell to the Hawke’s Bay Saracens 25-33 at McLean Park, Napier.
In three other matches, the Wellington Community U18s beat Poverty Bay U18s 34-20 in Gisborne, the Wellington U13s beat Marlborough U14s 65-31 away and the Wellington Maori Development defeated Horowhenua-Kapiti Development 43-41 at the Hutt Recreation Ground.