Volcanix victory creates history
The Bay of Plenty Volcanix have climbed from the bottom of the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership table with a history-making win over the Auckland Storm.
The 34-29 win was the first time the Bay of Plenty women have ever beaten their Auckland counterparts and was a result which shows how far they have come. In 2015 they lost 101-0 and in 2016 lost 62-0 to the same opponents. With both sides sitting bottom of the Farah Palmer Cup Premiership table on five points going into this round, an unfamiliar position for the Auckland women, it was a crucial game in terms of avoiding relegation to the Championship next year.
The Volcanix came into the match in hot form having beaten Taranaki 74-0, but it was Auckland who had all the territory and possession in the opening stages and drew first blood in the eighth minute.
After a long period of possession inside the Bay of Plenty 22m, Auckland made the breakthrough when they created an overlap to put winger Hasting Leiataua over in the left-hand corner.
The Volcanix were persistent in their response and 18 minutes in won a penalty in front of the posts which second five Renee Wickliffe slotted to reduce the deficit to 5-3.
Auckland went back on the attack, but just as they looked likely to score, Volcanix halfback Jade Tuilaepa snatched an intercept and took off before being tackled inside the Auckland 22m. She was caught, but won a penalty, before first five Ora Williams took a quick tap and squeezed through a gap to score next to the posts. Wickliffe converted and the Volcanix led 10-5.
Minutes later Tuilaepa was in for a try of her own on the back of a slick set piece move. Yule broke off the back of the scrum, sucked in defenders and put her winger into space. She found Tuilaepa on the inside and she had too much pace, racing away to score. Wickliffe converted and Bay of Plenty led 17-5.
The Volcanix had the home side under the pump and in the 33rd minute Wickliffe kicked another penalty to make it 20-5.
Four minutes from the break Wickliffe added to her points tally, this time with a try. The 32-test Black Fern is a real hot-stepper and produced a vanishing act to slice through a gap and score next to the posts. She converted her own try and the Volcanix led 27-5 at halftime.
Auckland needed to be the first to score in the second half and they did just that, working a simple play inside the Volcanix 22m to put winger Corina Nanai over in the corner and reduce the deficit to 27-10.
Auckland had the momentum and in the 51st minute were in again. First five Ruahei Demant hit a big gap before offloading to second five Mele Hufanga who scored under the posts. Demant converted from right in front and the score was 27-17.
Just when they looked like they might succumb to more pressure, the Volcanix forced a turnover on their own 22m and Mystery McLean Kora, who had come on off the bench, broke down the left wing. She drew the fullback before finding flanker Lesley Elder on the inside for a try under the posts. Wickliffe converted and the Volcanix led 34-17.
Auckland refused to go away and kept themselves in the game with a try to powerhouse No8 Joanna Fanene who showed great strength to crash over and make it 34-22. With 10 minutes left to play Auckland were still in the hunt.
With six minutes left ton the clock Auckland were in again with a converted try to flanker Alaimoana Fineaso-Levi. Clinging to a 34-29 lead, the Volcanix were far from home and dry.
Auckland threw everything at the Volcanix in the dying minutes, but the away side defended desperately.
The pressure told when Volcanix lock Mikyla Wardlaw was sent to the sin bin with two minutes left to play.
Auckland continued to attack for phase after phase, but the Volcanix held on and forced a turnover for a famous victory.