Manawatu Cyclones 35- Wellington Pride 27, Hutt Recreation Ground, Lower Hutt
A brilliant counter-attacking try to fullback Selica Winiata has inspired the Manawatu Cyclones to victory in their opening match of the Farah Palmer Cup. Defending against a barrage of Pride attacks metres from their line, a turnover sent winger Lizzy Balsillie charging down the sideline, before Winiata received an inside ball to issue the knock-out blow.
Manawatu deserved their victory. They were outstanding on defence and converted their opportunities. First-five Lizzie Goulden was rock-solid against her former club and the Cyclones back-three were a constant threat- particularly Winiata. The Pride will be left to rue lost opportunities and a lacklustre first-half- something coach Ross Bond acknowledged after the match.
“I thought we took too long to get into it in that first half. I think the two tries just before halftime really killed us although what we did do in that second-half is show that we were pretty dominant in some areas- including the scrum and lineout”
The Pride were the quickest off the mark, after scoring early to lead 5-0. Manawatu responded quickly, when a perfectly-timed Goulden pass found Ruci Malanicagi who dotted down under the posts.
The Cyclones kept piling on the pressure, when Winiata found space off a kick-return, before offloading to Malanicagi who stepped inside to score. If that wasn’t enough, a big run by Balsillie setup a further try and gave the Cyclones a 21-5 halftime lead.
The Pride were first to score after the break, when a clever move off the back of the scrum allowed Gina Williamson to score. Trailing by nine points and dominating possession, a Pride comeback seemed likely. That was, until Winiata’s great try killed off the momentum.
To the credit of the Pride, they refused to give in. Off a scrum, Holly MacDonald broke away from tacklers to keep her side’s hopes alive.
Again, just as the Pride started to get a roll-on, Manawatu responded with a try when Goulden intercepted the ball and offloaded to Balsillie who scored in the corner.
The Pride scored a consolation try late in the match, when winger Ayesha Leti-Liga scored after concerted pressure.
Despite the loss, Bond was happy with his side’s effort in the second-half.
“The substitutes made a real impact and we kept playing at that high-tempo which is what we want. We didn’t give up and we hung in there. In a long campaign like this, you bank the one point and move on. It’s disappointing but we’ll learn from it”