Counties taste their first defeat
‘‘We identified a bit of space out wide and that is reflected in the wingers and fullback scoring four of the tries.’’
If Wayne Love felt like wrapping his head in his hands when the Canterbury women’s rugby team trailed Counties-Manukau 24-5 on Saturday, he wasn’t saying it.
Clearly Love knew something that the rest of us didn’t. Because Canterbury dragged back their way back from the halftime deficit in the Farah Palmer Cup match to beat national provincial champions 32-29 in Pukekohe, and in doing so they hauled the JJ Stewart Trophy back to Christchurch.
Despite his optimism - which proved well founded when Canterbury roared back with three tries after the haltime break - Love was still made to sweat. Although Canterbury took the lead with around 10 minutes remaining, they did their best to blow their hard work when Counties immediately replied with a try after the re-start.
In the end it required a try from fullback Grace Brooker, with three minutes remaining, to earn Canterbury their success and the fact that the visitors’ scored five of their six tries through their backs vindicates their decision to play an expansive game.
It also says a lot about their fitness and ability to stay focused.
‘‘With Counties being quite a bit bigger, and not quite so mobile around the paddock, that is where we wanted to go with it (the game plan),’’ Love said. ‘‘And, certainly, in the second half, it worked well.’’
Canterbury had to overcome their share of grief in the early scrums, but they got that right. The lineout also got better, to the point where Counties opted to throw to the front and had possession stolen from them in the second spell. If goal kicker Kendra Cocksedge had more success with the boot, the visitors would have won by more.
Love wasn’t complaining. Not about her low kicking percentages, or the fact his side made such a slow start.
‘‘Even though we were down 24-5 at the break, I still thought we were in it.’’
It turned out to be an easy fix. Don’t commit so many players to the rucks, fan out in defence and if you get the ball give it some air.
‘‘We identified a bit of space out wide and that is reflected in the wingers and fullback scoring four of the tries.’’ (Melanie Puckett, Sam Curtis 2, Rebecca Todd, Kendra Cocksedge, Grace Brooker tries; Cocksedge con)
Canterbury 32 29. Counties Manukau