Can­ter­bury, Coun­ties in FPC fi­nal

Marlborough Express - - FRONT PAGE -

Can­ter­bury will host the Coun­ties Manukau Heat in the fi­nal of the Farah Palmer Cup Premier­ship, af­ter they both won their semi­fi­nals on Satur­day.

In the Cham­pi­onship, the Welling­ton Pride will host the Otago Spirit, af­ter they beat the North Har­bour Hi­bis­cus and Hawke’s Bay Tuis re­spec­tively.

The win­ner of that match will be pro­moted to the Premier­ship next year, re­plac­ing the Auck­land Storm, who were beaten 25-22 by the Bay of Plenty Vol­canix in the rel­e­ga­tion play­off.

While Can­ter­bury led from start to fin­ish in their 31-12 win over Manawatu¯ in Christchurch, Coun­ties had to come from be­hind to get up 24-14 over Waikato in Hamil­ton.

Half­back Ari­ana Bayler put the hosts up in­side five min­utes at Waikato Sta­dium, snip­ing down the blind­side from a ruck five me­tres out, and they took a 14-0 lead into the break af­ter wing Ana Marsters made the most of an over­lap out wide. Chelsea Al­ley kicked both con­ver­sions.

Waikato had been the dom­i­nant side in the first half, but they were shut out of the game in the sec­ond, as Coun­ties scored 24 unan­swered points to book their place in the de­cider.

Their cap­tain, Ari­hi­ana Marino-tauhinu, got things go­ing when she pounced on a Waikato han­dling er­ror near their own line nine min­utes into the sec­ond spell, then con­verted her own try.

The scores were level just af­ter the hour mark, when prop Aotearoa Matau crashed over.

No 8 Aroha Sav­age put Coun­ties ahead three min­utes later, with Marino-tauhinu kick­ing a penalty to go with her three con­ver­sions that gave them some breath­ing space.

Next week’s fi­nal in Christchurch will be a re­match of last year’s, which Can­ter­bury won 13-7. Jesse Bromwich com­pleted his re­demp­tion from last year’s co­caine scan­dal in the Ki­wis’ re­mark­able 26-24 win over the Kan­ga­roos on Satur­day night.

The former Ki­wis cap­tain, who was stripped of that ti­tle and stood down from last year’s dis­as­trous World Cup, was out­stand­ing in his first game back.

It had been an emo­tional week for the 29-year-old, who only joined with the Ki­wis mid­week, once doc­tors in Mel­bourne gave his new-born son the all clear, fol­low­ing a pre­ma­ture birth.

He then had to fo­cus on play­ing for the Ki­wis again and deal with the oc­ca­sion of com­ing back from one of the low­est points of his life, when he and fel­low Ki­wis for­ward Kevin Proc­tor were caught at­tempt­ing to buy co­caine, fol­low­ing last year’s An­zac test in Can­berra.

‘‘It was great,’’ Bromwich said of be­ing back in the Ki­wis.

‘‘I was a bit emo­tional at the start and I’m just happy to be back.

‘‘I’m proud of the boys, how they’ve gone about their busi­ness, and how they’ve wel­comed me back in.’’

Bromwich al­ways felt he’d be able to get back in the Ki­wis again and the new coach, Michael Maguire, made it clear to him he was part of his plans, and there would be no more reper­cus­sions.

‘‘There were some dark days, but I spoke to Madge (Maguire) quite a lot be­fore the Den­ver test,’’ he said.

‘‘So I knew I was al­ways a chance, be­cause Madge was talk­ing to me at length about which di­rec­tion he wanted to go.

‘‘So I’m grate­ful for the op­por­tu­nity and I can’t thank him enough.’’

Al­though Bromwich is one of the older faces in the Ki­wis, there’s the feel­ing that Satur­day night’s test was the be­gin­ning of a new era for the team, and un­der Maguire they’ll re­turn to their former glo­ries.

‘‘We def­i­nitely want to turn things around for New Zealand Rugby League, we want to be good role mod­els, we want to be play­ing good foot­ball and get­ting New Zealand back into rugby league.’’

Bromwich was full of praise for the two Ki­wis who made their de­buts in the test, Bran­don Smith and Joseph Manu, who both scored tries.

‘‘Joey had a great game,’’ Bromwich said.

‘‘I’m re­ally proud of the way he went about his busi­ness and it was very pro­fes­sional for a young kid.

‘‘An­other one, Bran­don Smith, went out there, he’s not used to play­ing long min­utes, but I’m very proud of him. I’m great mates with him, he’s at my club in Mel­bourne.’’

Aus­tralia did get too close to com­fort as they pulled back from be­ing down 26-12 with 13 min­utes to go, trail­ing by just two points in the fi­nal three min­utes.

‘‘For them to get within two points was quite nerve-wrack­ing.

‘‘I’m proud of the boys be­cause we stuck it out to the end.’’

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