Pride primed for Women’s NPC Championship final

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It took most of the first half for the nil-all deadlock to be broken when Wellington and Otago met during the round-robin five weeks ago at this same venue.

Visitors Otago lived up to their Spirit nickname by making all the early play and finally scoring the game’s first try in the 35th minute. But the Pride came back to score their first points right on halftime and then pulled away in the second half and won 38-10.

The Pride will need to dig deep tomorrow against the Spirit, who have also shown in their other games including throughout last week’s semi-final 34-10 win over Hawke’s Bay they are strong contenders to win this year’s Farah Palmer Cup Championship title.

The added prize for the winner of this final is promotion to the Premiership division next year, replacing Auckland.

Both sides are near full strength for this clash. The Pride’s forward pack is unchanged from that which overcame North Harbour 33-7.

Black Fern and Wellington Women’s Player of the Year Jackie Patea-Fereti will lead the side out, that includes three other players named this week in the Black Ferns for their Northern Hemisphere tour in lock Jonah Ngan-Woo and wings Monica Tagoai and Ayesha Leti-L’iga. The latter was in Samoa last week and missed the semi-final.

The Pride’s bench has been a strength for them this year. Look out for props Dora Laupola and Eli Taito and backs Dhys Faleafaga and Bernadette Robertson to add firepower off the pine.

For Otago, one player the Pride will need to contain is centre Kilisitina Moata'ane, who missed the previous match between these two sides through injury but has returned in good form in recent weeks and has been selected in the Black Ferns squad.

Her combination with experienced players around her, second five-eighth Greer Muir  and fullback Sheree Hume, could be key. The Pride will need to closely watch first five-eighth Rosie Kelly, who is quick is on her feet and provides a strong link between their industrious forwards and the backs.

The Pride will look to their set-piece to provide the building blocks for victory, their scrum and lineout dominant when they met last time and a reliable platform in all their wins so far. They will also want to minimalise handling errors and increase the accuracy of their passing and offload game in general play.

Head to head, the Pride and Otago have met 21 times in the Women’s NPC since 1999. The Pride have won 12 and the Otago nine of their clashes so far. Wellington also won their only match last year, 41-19 in Dunedin, while Otago’s last win over Wellington was 33-12 in 2014 at Petone.

The Pride go into this semi-final having won six and lost one match so far this season. Including last weekend’s semi-final, they have scored 392 points and conceded 93. Otago have won five and lost two (their other loss being 8-39 to Counties Manukau). They have scored 223 points and let in 119. The Pride have scored 60 tries and the Spirit 37.

Kick-off at Porirua Park is at 1.00pm. Live commentary is on Te Upoko at 1161AM.