A first half shut-out of the Taranaki Whio propelled the Tasman Mako women to a comfortable Farah Palmer Cup championship division win at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth on Saturday.
The Mako prevailed 36-22 in the “game of two halves” performance. The southerners led 26-0 after a commanding first half, notching up a four-try bonus point before the break as they made the most of a steady wind at their backs.
They were on the board early, hooker Steph Mitchell powering over on the back of a well-organised lineout drive after just seven minutes.
Three minutes later they were in again, powerful and fleet-footed right winger Rebecca Kersten breaking clear to set up a try for athletic flanker Tamara Silcock.
Kersten was the next to score, dotting down after a superb solo run down the right touchline as her inside backs took the opportunity to spread the ball wide on every occasion.
The final try of the first 40 minutes went to centre Wairakau Greig, the most impressive of the Tasman backline, no mean feat on a day when they all looked lively and defended stoutly.
First five Hayley Hutana converted the final three tries to extend Tasman’s buffer at the break.
However, it was a more committed and accurate home side which came out after oranges.
Within five minutes they were on the board through hugely-impressive halfback Iritana Hohaia, who claimed the first of a brace of tries as her forwards finally managed to string phases together without getting their ball pilfered by the hungry Tasman pack the breakdown.
A Hutana penalty steadied the ship before Hohaia scored her second, then Kersten added her second, following a superb break by midfielder Jess Drummond, to ensure Tasman claimed their first win of the 2019 campaign.
The Mako forwards, with loosies Silcock, skipper Jess Foster-Lawrence and college student Leah Miles to the fore, were tenacious at the breakdown and generally dominated the set pieces, although a few lineouts went astray.
They provided quality ball to a backline with potent attacking threats throughout. Halfback Jamie Paenga was mighty impressive, along with Kersten and fullback Bethan Manners, while Hutana, Drummond and Greig formed an inside back combination possessing both skill and rugby smarts.
Head coach Chris Binns said his side had produced a good first half but suggested they had “gone away from their plans” in the second spell.
He said facing the breeze wasn’t really a factor, noting that Taranaki had lifted their game and his charges had gone away from doing what had worked so well for them in the opening 40.
“That was clearing our end of the field, putting Taranaki under pressure then looking to capitalise once we were down there, we went away from that.
“Overall though I’m very happy. In the first half we stepped up from the North Harbour game … we made a few minor tweaks [to our game plan], getting the ball to the edge quicker and running onto it and that showed in the first 30 minutes when we managed three tries. Rebecca [Kersten] was a bit under the weather with the flu but she had a storming game as did Jess [Foster-Lawrence] and Tamara [Silcock].
“I’m pretty happy with how we are going, two games in, we are on the right track.”
Next up for the Mako is a match against Otago, in Oamaru on Saturday.
Tasman Mako 36 (Rebecca Kersten 2, Stephani Mitchell, Tamara Silcock, Wairakau Greig tries, Hayley Hutana 4 con, pen) Taranaki Whio 22 (Iritana Hohaia 2, Lavenia Nauga-Grey, Alesha Williams tries, Chelsea Fowler con). HT: Tasman 26-0.