The Wellington Pride and Wellington U20s both grabbed opening wins in their respective women’s NPC and Hurricanes U20 competitions, while the Wellington Maori side earned their third consecutive victory in the RDO Cup in representative matches played on Saturday.
Bouncing back from their previous week’s loss to Otago in diabolical conditions, the Wellington Pride clinched a well-earned bonus point 39-17 win over the Hawke’s Bay Tuis at the Petone Recreation Ground.
In a standout individual performance, lock Helen Collins scored four tries. Blindside flanker Kiri Mei scored a brace and hooker Claire Rowat scored the other in the seven tries to two win.
Playing with a moderate wind in the first half, the Pride scored five tries before halftime, including Collins’ first two and Mei’s brace. Rowat scored the first after five minutes following a positive opening, followed by Collins and Mei both storming up the grandstand touch after winning respective kick-off and 22 re-start turnovers off the visitors.
Hawke’s Bay kept in touch and closed to 22-17 behind after half an hour, but the Pride pulled ahead again just before halftime through Mei’s second try.
Collins charged down a clearing kick and scored her third try early in the second half, before crossing for her fourth late in the match after a long period spent on defence in which they kept Hawke’s Bay scoreless in the second spell.
Wellington Pride coach Damian Rapira-Davies was pleased with the team’s improvement on their first game: “We did a lot of talking during the week and highlighted a few areas that we wanted to work on. One of these was building pressure and the players really took that on board today and the result was a bonus point win.”
Rapira-Davies was pleased with the way that the experienced players stepped up, including the returning Rebecca Liua’ana to the tighthead jersey. “We saw a return of an old favourite today Rebecca Liua’ana. She put the jersey back on and dominated the right side of the scrum when she came on.”
He added that discipline is an area they need to work on ahead of their next match against Waikato in Hamilton next Saturday. “Our defensive effort was pretty sound, but yellow cards [two, both to backs] and a lot of penalties didn’t help our attacking game.”
At Westpac Stadium, the Wellington U20s opened their Hurricanes region U20 competition campaign with an emphatic 46-21 win over Taranaki U20.
The Wellington U20s won the fixture with a three-try burst in five minutes early in the second half. Hooker Dion Lealofi (43rd minute), second five-eighth Nick Grigg (46th) and replacement lock/No. 8 Vaea Fifita (48th) crossed in quick succession to break open a close game in which Wellington led by just a point at halftime.
In the first half, Wellington had to battle a typically tough Taranaki forward pack and the early loss of lock Chris Walker - in the act of scoring a try - and the concession of a Taranaki try just two minutes into the match.
Wellington were rocked early when Taranaki charged down a Wellington clearing kick and raced to a 7-0 lead.
The junior Lions regrouped and hit back with a converted try to second five-eighth Grigg (his first of two) and a penalty to halfback Andrew Wells (who played all his Premier club rugby this year for MSP at fullback).
Lock Walker crossed in the corner beside the player’s tunnel after a lovely break up into the 22 by wing Andrew Quinlivan and Wells converted to put Wellington ahead 15-7. Unfortunately Walker was also injured in scoring this try and was replaced by the Wellington Axemen’s outstanding forward of the club season, Vaea Fifita.
In a largely scrappy rest of the first half, Taranaki replied with their second converted try and they closed to 15-14 behind at halftime.
Wellington were fast out of the blocks in the second spell. An early raid paid immediate dividends with Lealofi rumbled over near the posts. Grigg then scored a wonderful try with a 50 metre run to the line, followed by another breakout and Fifita scoring in the right hand corner. Wellington now led 34-14.
Just like in the first half, Taranaki battled hard over the next 20 minutes, but when Wellington right wing Te Wehi Wright scored on the end of the chain off an attacking scrum it was game over.
Taranaki scored a late consolation try, but Wellington answered on fulltime through centre and Ricoh Wellington Lions squad member Ope Peleseuma to complete the convincing win.
At the Paraparaumu Domain, the Wellington Maori side earned its third straight win in the RDO Cup competition, beating Horowhenua-Kapiti B 37-24.
Wellington Maori clinched a bonus point win through tries to Mykel Herewini (Johnsonville), Clinton Whiu (Upper Hutt), Dylan Hemopo (Upper Hutt) and Jason Love (Wainuiomata) who bagged a brace.
Wellington Maori scored two unconverted tries in the first half as scores were locked up at 10-10 at the break. They kept their noses in front throughout the second spell, with Love scoring his two tries in quick succession. The goalkicking of Campbell Woodmass (Norths) was also outstanding.
The four-team RDO Cup, also involving the B teams from Wanganui and Wairarapa-Bush, has reached its halfway point. In a double round-robin competition with no final, Wellington Maori play Wairarapa-Bush next weekend in Masterton ahead of consecutive home matches at Petone and Maidstone Park against Horowhenua Kapiti and Wanganui.
At the Petone Recreation Ground, the Wellington Development side went down 16-22 to their Taranaki Development counterparts.
In a close contest, Wellington made much of the running, but a long-range intercept try to Taranaki midway through the first half ultimately proved the difference.
With the wind at his back, Wellington first five-eighth Fa’atonu Fili scored all of his side’s 16 points in the opening spell, scoring a converted try and kicking three penalties. Wellington led 16-12 at halftime.
Taranaki got their noses ahead in the second spell with their third try, as Wellington attacked their line at the end in a concerted effort to score a seven-pointer and take the win.
But good defence by the visitors and some missed opportunties by Wellington at the death combined to avert a grandstand finish.
The Wellington Development side meet the New Zealand Defence Force next Saturday in the first of two games against them.
In other representative results, the Wellington U18s defeated the Hutt Old Boys Marist Academy 17-14, the Wellington U16 As were pipped by the Centurions 17-20 and the U16 Development side were defeated by the Northern United Invitational XV 19-21.
At the Petone Recreation Ground: Wellington Pride 39 (Helen Collins 4, Kiri Mei 2, Claire Rowat tries; Katerina Simpkins 2 con) beat the Hawke’s Bay Tuis 17. Ht: 29-17
At Westpac Stadium: Wellington U20 46 (Nick Grigg 2, Chris Walker, Dion Lealofi, Vaea Fifita, Te Wehi Wright, Ope Peleseuma tries; Andrew Wells 4 con, pen) beat Taranaki U20 21. Ht: 15-14
At the Petone Recreation Ground: Wellington Development 16 (Fa’atonu Fili try; con; 3 pen) lost to Taranaki Development 22. Ht: Wellington 16-12
At Paraparaumu Domain: Wellington Maori 37 (Jason Love 2, Mykel Herewini, Clinton Whiu, Dylan Hemopo tries; Campbell Woodmass 3 con; 2 pen) beat Horowhenua Kapiti B 24. Ht: 10-10
Wellington U18 beat the HOBM Academy 17-14
Wellington U16a lost to the Centurions 17-20
Wellington U16 Development lost to the Norths Invitational XV 19-21