Women’s Final clashes of 2018 Farah Palmer Cup go the way of favourites

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Women's Final clashes of 2018 Farah Palmer Cup go the way of favourites
CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - OCTOBER 20: Head Coach Kieran Kite, Olivia McGoverne, Nina Poletti, Kendra Cocksedge and captain Stephanie Te Ohaere-Fox of Canterbury with her son Manaho (L-R) celebrate with the Farah Palmer Cup after their win in the Farah Palmer Cup Final match between Canterbury and Counties Manukau at Rugby Park on October 20, 2018 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

When the women’s final clashes of the 2018 Farah Palmer Cup were played this weekend, the results went the way of the favourites. Current holders Canterbury held onto their Premiership crown and, Wellington were successful in claiming the Championship – and crucially, promotion in 2019.

Although Counties-Manukau and Otago would have dearly liked to push the opposition, the high scores show how women’s rugby is still dominated by the major centers. Though, don’t tell Auckland Rugby that, as their women ended 2018 by being relegated down to the division two Championship next year.

What is a consistent factor is, that the support and coverage is growing more and more, every year. Now not just a page 30 sidenote, it is a major final on the calendar of New Zealand Rugby.

Women’s Final clashes of 2018 Farah Palmer Cup go way of favourites

Favouritism in rugby union can be both a blessing and a curse. It may mean that your stakeholders have high expectations, but it also supports the performance of teams over the course of a season.

So for Canterbury [Premiership] and for Wellington [Championship], they each were the top qualifiers. So with home advantage came the natural feeling of confidence that the invited away team would need to make a long trip away.

Major Final: Canterbury v Counties-Manukau

Heading down to the Mainland, the Counties Heat women will have wanted to begin well. And in that case, they sure did. 90 seconds was as much as they needed, to open the scoring. The only problem after that was, they saw Canterbury add numerous points in an unstoppable period.

Led so well by Kendra Cocksedge, the all-powerful halfback is in a purple patch of form. That is is her anticipation, support play and in the attacking mindset of a player who is comparable to Aaron Smith or TJ Perenara.

Amassing 27 points in the match, her two opening tries stopped the Counties-Manukau gameplan. It was then reinforced with tries for winger Sam Curtis that extended a huge lead at halftime. Red and Black fans would have been delighted, as the tries and conversions mounted.

35-10 was nearly insurmountable and while the Counties Heat players should be congratulated for playing right up to the 80th minute – they scored several pressure-related tries – it was a game where the barrier of points became harder to overcome.

“They played to their strengths. They got the ball going really fast and they just, you know, got us out there on the flanks,” Counties Manukau captain Arihiana Marino-Tahinu told Fairfax Media, and in the end, the early advantage helped Canterbury to back-to-back Farah Palmer Cup victories.

Canterbury 52 Counties Manukau 29

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In the other final, the Championship contenders played their final at the Jerry Collins Memorial Park in Porirua.

Division Two: Wellington Pride v Otago Spirit

The new format of teams has created a second division. With the elite Premiership [judged by teams’ finish in 2017] meant that Wellington might have felt excluded by the others. But not for long, as the Pride had only been defeated once in the seven-week regular season. So they entered the grand final in a confident mood.

Heading north, the Otago Spirit wished to gain parity. It would mean defending well, and over the match, it appeared to become a hard-task to manage. The more tries that Wellington achieved, each made it more difficult for the visitors to gain that parity.

By the time that 80 minutes had elapsed, the Wellington Pride had amounted more tries than their fans might have imagined, but the crowd on hand in Porirua were entertained. Trophy namesake Dr Farah Palmer was on-hand and would have respected the strong performance, that matched the dominance that her Black Ferns teams held in the formative years of women’s rugby.

Skipper Jackie Patea-Fereti got her name amongst the scorers, and when handed the trophy by Farah Palmer, would have been ecstatic to help her team return back to the ‘top division’. Otago, on the other hand, might have felt that the task was too hard – yet, all 23 players will be better for the experience.

And fans will be better for the exposure to the Premiership/Championship model of competition. While it is required due to the limited season, it can mean that in knockout football, the most composed teams prevail. But, with eight sides now gaining experience over the last few weeks, expect teams to become more accomplished at the fine arts of semifinals and grand finals.

Wellington 57 Otago 5

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New Zealand Rugby congratulate all FPC competitiors

NZR CEO Steve Tew congratulated the four teams involved in today’s final. “The Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) is a competition that continues to grow and impress, we have seen some great talent uncovered this season in a hard-fought competition.

“Congratulations to Canterbury for claiming back-to-back Premiership titles, they’ve played an exciting brand of rugby this season which was on display in their strong performance this afternoon.

“Wellington will be pleased to be returning to the Premiership after claiming the Championship title this afternoon and I congratulate them for what has been an impressive season”.

As this reporter has noted over the last three years, the higher standards and improved quality of rugby union mean that every Farah Palmer Cup season is a progression forward. From when Auckland Rugby dominated for eight successive seasons, to now seeing Counties and Canterbury assuming the controls. In the next years, a new team like Manawatu or Bay of Plenty will evolve, as the game develops and the standards rise higher, and higher.

Next season, fans and stakeholders should expect even better standards and better outcomes for all teams. With winning players enjoying the champagne of victory, after the 2018 Farah Palmer Cup delivered yet another brilliant season for rugby fans in New Zealand, the future is going to deliver more rewards on and off the field.

“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images

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