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Counties Manukau win inaugural NZ Women’s National Premiership

A clinical 80-minute display by Counties saw them crowned Sky Sport Premiers, taking out the women’s title for an 11th consecutive year.

Crushing defence kicked off the final clash between Counties Manukau and the Akarana Falcons but it was Counties who found themselves in good attacking position first.

A cross-field kick saw Kere Matua skilfully catch it over the line however momentum wasn’t on her side as she fell over the dead-ball line.

Errors began to creep in for both sides as a result of the bucketing rain, Counties and Akarana both struggled to defuse the ball. However, it was Akarana’s error that proved the most costly as Counties’ powerhouse Kararaina Wira-Kohu barged over for the first points of the day on the ensuing set. A successful conversion put Counties in front 6 – 0 after 15 minutes.

Akarana’s Karli Hansen found space off a clever grubber through the Counties defence. It was a race between Hansan and Counties fullback Amber Kani that saw Akarana regain possession due to an offside penalty. Akarana were back in good attacking position but a mistake saw the opportunity go begging.

Maitua Feterika’s powerful drive up the middle put Counties back on the attack. A slick left side overlap put centre Kere Matua through the gap and comfortably over for her first try. Matua was unable to convert her own four pointer, the score 10 – 0 with ten to go until half time.

Strong Counties defence saw Akarana struggle to make it out of their own half, Counties were back on their 10-metre line and once again a clinical left edge shift resulted in Kere Matua earning her second four-pointer right before half time.

A missed conversion kept Counties lead at 14 heading into the sheds.

A beautiful cut out pass from Counties Captain Krystal Rota allows Ricshay Lemanu to barge over the Akarana defensive line for Counites fourth and first points of the second half.

Ball handling errors crept in again for both sides as the rain settled in once again, an uncharacteristic error at the scrum from Krystal Rota gifted possession back to Akarana yet they couldn’t capitalise.

Another barging run from Maitua Feterika saw her go inches from the try line but an impressive try-saving tackle from Akarana forward Lani Latoa-Williams held her up.

Counties then stormed down the opposite end of the field and an inside ball from Kere Matua puts winger Alexis Thompson over the line extending Counties lead to 22 points, Kere Matua converts making it 24 – 0 with 15 to go.

Counties were back in attacking position again to expose the Akarana right edge defence as Alexis Thompson went over for her second. Counties unable convert, the score 28 – 0.

Shortly after, Counties are back on their line as the Akarana defence struggles to contain the powerhouse Counties forward pack. Kere Matua then barges on the loose ball scoring her hattrick for the day, Counties convert extending their lead to 34.

Akarana win a turnover ball and find their second wind despite the adversity on the scoreboard, a good team attacking effort resulted in Akarana winger Sharliz White going over for Akarana’s first points making it 34 – 4 with ten to go.

Despite a last-ditch effort from Akarana, it was Counties who dominated for the 80 minutes, rightfully earning their 11th straight women’s title with a 34 – 4 victory over the Akarana Falcons.

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