CANTERBURY WOMEN CLAIM NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WITH VICTORY OVER WELLINGTON
A fortnight after the teams played out a thrilling 20-all draw at Ngā Puna Wai, Canterbury clinched the NZRL Sky Sports National Women’s Competition trophy with an outstanding 20-8 win over Wellington in the final at the same venue.
Canterbury got off to a flying start before Wellington staged a stirring fight-back – which would have made the red-and-blacks more than a little nervous after their late fadeout in the round-robin fixture allowed the Orcas to snatch a share of the spoils.
But the hosts kept their composure to close out the four-tries-to-two result. As has been the case throughout the competition, halfback Charntay Poko was the attacking catalyst for Canterbury’s success. The gifted playmaker laid on all four of the red-and-blacks’ tries – three of them scored by winger Sailiai Pau – with brilliant ball-playing; Poko’s ability to sum up numbers and hit the mark to put her support players on the outside of their opposing defenders is arguably unrivalled in women’s rugby league.
Poko’s first piece of wizardry produced the opening try after just three minutes for fullback Dayna Napa, whose strong and elusive running game has been a feature of Canterbury’s campaign.
Prop Angela Petero’s offload and a long, looping pass from Poko provided an opportunity for Sailia Pau, which she took via a superb put-down in the corner while copping a heavy tackle from her opposing winger.
Canterbury took a commanding 14-0 lead in the 13th minute, Pau crossing for her second try courtesy of a breath-taking Poko cut-out ball.
But after withstanding several subsequent attacking raids, Wellington landed on the scoreboard less than two minutes out from halftime when winger Sarahchen Oliver spectacularly marked a cross-field kick and dotted down.
Midway through a free-flowing but error-riddled second half, the Orcas closed the gap to just six points as prop Jasimine Troke crashed over.
Canterbury put one hand on the trophy with eight minutes remaining, however. Following a scrum move with inspirational captain Sui Tauasa Pauaraisa, Poko’s footwork and guile created a blindside two-on-one near the Wellington line – and the simplest of tries for Pau to complete her treble.
NZRL SKY SPORTS NATIONAL WOMEN’S COMPETITION FINAL
Canterbury Women 20 (Sailiai Pau 3, Dayna Napa tries; Charntay Poko goal) defeated Wellington Orcas 8 (Sarachen Oliver, Jasmine Troke tries) at Ngā Puna Wai.