The Wellington Pride will be playing in the Women’s Farah Palmer Cup Premiership division in 2019 after a popular home win in the Championship final over the Otago Spirit at Jerry Collins Stadium on Saturday.
The Pride won the final 57-5, outscoring their southern opponents nine tries to one.
Fullback Timena Tuma’ai and right wing Monica Tagoai both scored braces, while props Angel Uila, Janet Taumoli and Dora Laupola (off the bench) scored one each, as did captain and No. 8 Jackie Patea-Fereti and lock Joanah Ngan-Woo. Second five-eighth Amanda Rasch shrugged off a hamstring injury from last weekend’s 33-7 semi-final win over North Harbour to kick six from nine conversions.
As they had against most of their opponents this season, the Pride had too much power and size for Otago, who were plucky and played well in patches but were ultimately overmatched by the physicality of the Pride pack.
Otago had first use of a moderate wind, and like they did when the two sides met in the round-robin five weeks earlier, held an early advantage and made the first attacking forays of the final.
Following an early build-up and break by first five-eighth Rosie Kelly, Otago had the opening say in the 9th minute when they created an overlap on the left for second five-eighth Greer Muir and then openside flanker Georgia Mason to hand the game’s opening try to left wing Kiana Wetera.
The Pride got into their work soon thereafter with their set-piece leading directly to their first two tries. Right wing Tagoai put the Pride on the board when she ran through to score from second phase from an attacking scrum, following left wing Ayesha Leti-L’iga being bundled into touch in the near corner and a subsequent scrum turnover. Prop Uila scored next in the 21st minute following a lineout steal 70 metres back up field and a raid into Otago’s territory.
Otago then suffered a key injury loss in the 24th minute when centre and newly-named Black Fern Kilisitina Moata’ane exited the final with an ankle injury.
Wellington took advantage to cross twice more before halftime through industrious lock Ngan-Woo after another scrum turnover and her Ories teammate Tuma’ai, with Rasch converting both for a 24-5 lead. Tuma’ai’s try just before the interval finished off a sweeping move from a lineout on the Pride’s own side of halfway.
Wellington would add another five tries in the second half, as their size and physicality advantage and strength off the bench proved telling.
Tighthead prop Janet Taumoli kick-started the second half, with four Otago defenders unable to stop her close to the line, before firstly Tuma’ai and then Tagoai – with a weaving 40m run – each scored their second tries of the day.
Skipper Patea-Fereti got her name amongst the scorers when she strolled over almost unopposed from a lineout move after a penalty and kick into the corner, and Dora Laupola completed events two minutes from time when she became the third Pride prop to touch down.
Despite the mounting scoreline and the loss of Moata’ane Otago kept at it, but fell at this stage for the second consecutive year. Openside Georgia Mason was a menace at the breakdown, and it was somewhat unfortunate that she went to the bin when referee Brittany Andrew tired of Otago’s indiscretions at the breakdown. Second-five Greer Muir also tried hard and fullback Sheree Hume made several big tackles that were needed.
For the Pride, first-five Acacia Claridge-Te Iwimate – in her 50th appearance for the side – and centre Fa’asua Makisi both had strong games, the former a constant threat taking the ball to the advantage line and the latter with several lively bursts.
Patea-Fereti was typically industrious along with hooker Alicia Print, with the replacement front row trio of Rosie Stirling, Laupola, and Elieta Taito delivering a significant impact when they came on. In particular Laupola and fellow replacement Bernadette Robertson delivered fends and bump-offs that got loud reactions from the crowd. Left wing Leti’L’iga didn’t add to her tally so finished this season with 52 tries in 50 games, combined for her Oriental-Rongotai club side (41) and the Pride (11).
The Pride finish the season having won six of their seven games, after losing in their opening match to Hawke’s Bay. They were they only side to lower Canterbury’s colours, with the defending champions routing Counties-Manukau 52-29 to claim back-to-back Premiership titles.
Along the way, the Pride established two record scores, beating Tasman 88-3 and then toppling that with a 118-0 win over Taranaki. The Pride also established a new Women’s FPC season points scoring record, tallying 449 season points. The Pride scored 69 tries this season in their seven games.