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Falcons Close Door on Tournament Rivals

Saturday, September 24, 2016
Falcons Close Door on Tournament Rivals
A peerless defensive display has delivered Akarana Falcons into their second successive NZRL National Women’s Tournament final against archrivals Counties Manukau Stingrays at Rotorua.

And while the titleholders from South Auckland will enter the title game unbeaten, the Falcons have perhaps had the more impressive run thus far through the competition.

The Falcons secured their spot in the title game with a clinical 14-0 win over Canterbury on Saturday morning, finally sealing a victory over the gutsy southerners with a converted length-of-the-field intercept try from Madison Bartlett, her second of the match.

Akarana never allowed their opponents any space to operate with the ball, usually throwing three or four defenders at the ball carrier and driving them back behind the advantage line.

“We knew that Canterbury had some really big girls and they like to run up the middle, so it was all about us matching them there and going up a level,” says Falcons coach Ross Uele. “It was really awesome to watch.

“We turned their big girls back and it makes the coach happy when his players do what he asks of them.”

That defensive effort has become a hallmark of their play over the first two days at Puketawhero Park. After conceding 20 points in their opening loss to Counties, they have held their next four opponents to a combined four points and three of them scoreless.

The Falcons closed their account with a 20-0 whitewash of Auckland Vulcans.

“Definitely, those were a couple of good wins today,” says Uele. “We were probably a bit below par when we played Counties Manukau in our first game, but we realised that defence was probably the biggest area we needed to improve.”

By contrast, the Stingrays have allowed their opponents the sniff of an upset, trailling through half-time three times in five encounters, including both outings on Day Two and that opener against Akarana.

Down 6-4 to Auckland Vulcans and 12-10 to Central Vipers, the champions capitalised on their greater depth to outscore them by a combined 36-0 over the closing stages.

“They’ve got a good squad, full of awesome talent, and the majority are Kiwi Ferns,” says Uele.

“Counties are the benchmark for women’s rugby league in New Zealand, so just being competitive with them is great and something we want to improve on in the future.”

Video interview with Akarana Falcons coach Ross Uele

Puketawhero Park, Rotorua

Saturday, September 24

Akarana Falcons 14 (Madison Bartlett 2 & Lani Williams tries; Laishon Jones goal) Canterbury 0
Central Vipers 14 (Lee Nepia, Cindy Rupapera & Casio Austin tries; Trish Hina goal) Wai-Coa-Bay 0

Counties Manukau Stingrays 24 (Sarina Fiso, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Alaimoana Fineaso-Levi, Amber Kani & Krystal Rota tries; Te Aroha Hapuku & Kahurangi Peters goals) Auckland Vulcans 6 (Ema Fifita try; Rebecca Taua goal)

Counties Manukau Stingrays 26 (Kimiora Nati, Sarina Fiso, Teuila Fotu-Moala, Christyl Stowers, Billy-Jean Ale tries; Nati 3 goals) Central Vipers 12 (Bridget Lake & Grace Uluiburotu tries; Trish Hina 2 goals)

Akarana Falcons 20 (Elizabeth Goulding, Ngatokutoru Arakua, Va’anessa Molia-Fraser, Alice Vailea tries; Laishon Jones 2 goals) Auckland Vulcans 0

Canterbury 32 (Melissa McGlynn 2, Stacey Hildreth 2, Corrina Whiley & Sekolasitka Wong tries; Charntay Poko 3 & Mareta Pelenato goals) Wai-Coa-Bay 10 (Jamie Lee Tautari & Rochelle Smiler tries; Tenika Willison goal)

Sunday, September 25
Fifth/sixth playoff – Auckland Vulcans v Wai-Coa-Bay
Third/fourth playoff – Canterbury v Central Vipers

Final – Counties Manukau Stingrays v Akarana Falcons

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