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Opening Exchange Sets Tone For Title Tilt

Thursday, September 22, 2016
Opening Exchange Sets Tone For Title Tilt

Counties Manukau Stingrays may not have to wait long for an indication of where their NZRL Nationals Women’s title defence stands.

Stacked with Kiwi Ferns internationals, the South Aucklanders have dominated the tournament in recent times, taking out the 2015 event with a 34-0 whitewash of nearest rivals Akarana Falcons in the final.

So, the meeting between these two adversaries on the opening morning of this year’s tournament looms as a rematch of last year’s finalists, as well as a forecast of things to come over the next three days.

They have already met once this season, with the Stingrays prevailing in their NRL Women In League Round encounter.

Coach Shaun Clark enters the competition without several senior players, most notably 2015 final Most Valuable Player Laura Mariu, so he’s cautious about the prospects for this week.

“We looking not too bad,” insists Clark, who was 2015 Outstanding Coach. “We’ve had a few injuries, and a few pull out with family issues and stuff like that.

“There are about six rookies this year and we’re definitely looking to give them some experience to see how they go.”

All that said, the Stingrays were somewhat below full strength by the time they reached last year’s final and had more than enough depth to easily handle their challengers.

Clark fully expects Akarana to pose the biggest threat once more, with surprise 2014 runners-up Central Vipers, third last year, as the dark-horse contenders.

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He seems relaxed about taking on the Falcons so soon in the schedule.

“That’s definitely a big challenge first up,” concedes Clark. “But if we lose, we lose … if we win, we win.

“You don’t win the tournament in game one.”

Puketawhero Park, Rotorua
Friday, September 23

Time Teams Field
10am Central Vipers v Canterbury 5
Wai-Coa-Bay v Auckland Vulcans 3
Akarana Falcons v Counties Manukau Stingrays 4
12.30pm Wai-Coa-Bay v Counties Manukau Stingrays 2
Akarana Falcons v Central Vipers 3
Canterbury v Auckland Vulcans 4
3pm Wai-Coa-Bay v Akarana Falcons 5
Canterbury v Counties Manukau Stingrays 3
Auckland Vulcans v Central Vipers 1


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