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Waikato victory features Gisborne connections

Gisborne players Kelsey Teneti and Gaibreill Wainohu featured for Waikato, who exacted their revenge in the Farah Palmer Cup final against Canterbury on Saturday.

A year ago, Waikato were pipped for the title by Canterbury in the dying stages of the final. Now, they’re the competition champions.

Teneti, at centre, and Wainohu, on the left wing, were part of the action for most of the game.

Gisborne player Renee Holmes was one of nine Waikato players who missed the final through being in a Black Ferns camp ahead of a trip to Europe this month for tests against England and France.

On Saturday, Waikato had a 22-20 win against Canterbury, who had won the past four titles. It had been a tumultuous week, in which Covid-19 alert level changes forced changes to Waikato plans.

The visitors got off to a horrible start as well, as an early error welcomed Canterbury deep into their own territory, and lock Lucy Jenkins scored the opening try with a strong run moments later.

With a howling wind at their backs in the first half, Canterbury looked to play for territory and kick deep when they had the opportunity. While they were having lineout struggles, Canterbury had the vast majority of possession and in the right half of the field to put pressure on Waikato.

Aside from the opening slip-up, Waikato put up a stoic defensive front. The only additional points they conceded in the first half came from two penalties.

Against the wind, Waikato had their work cut out just to make ground, as kicking for distance was not a great option in most situations. Dynamic centre Teneti was a big factor in Waikato finding brief periods of relief from the pressure, breaking the line with strong carries to get her side on the front foot.

Waikato could manage only a penalty in the first half, but were able to hold Canterbury to just one try.

As was the case in the first half, the second was played mostly at one end of the field; this time it was Waikato putting the pressure on Canterbury.

Drawing penalties, Waikato were able to attack the Canterbury line at will. While they might have been wondering what they had to do to force the referee to pull out a card, they eventually cracked the line through prop Awhina Tangen-Wainohu.

After a further 10 minutes that saw almost a repeat set of phases and plenty of Waikato advantages, Canterbury finally lost a player to the sinbin for repeated infringements, with Jenkins yellow-carded. Waikato scored from the ensuing lineout drive through hooker Merania Paraone.

Just as they were about to get back to 15 players on the field, Canterbury had Stacey Niao sent to the sinbin after another period where they were heavily penalised under significant pressure on their own line. Waikato scored again, this time through No.8 Victoria Edmonds, with the conversion putting them ahead by nine.

Canterbury had a chance late to close the gap, which was helped when Teneti was sinbinned after three Waikato penalties in quick succession. The hosts did get over through Steph Te-Ohaere-Fox at the death, but the whistle was blown after Isabella Waterman’s successful conversion, and Waikato claimed a two-point win.