Saturday, October 28, 2017
Bay of Plenty Times
The Bay of Plenty Volcanix will play in the Mitre 10 Farah Palmer Cup Premiership next season after beating Otago Spirit 7-5 in the championship final on Saturday.
The victory was as dour and tough as the low score indicates, with constant rain and strong winds making conditions difficult at Blake Park.
It may not have been the open, slick rugby that the Bay of Plenty Volcanix have produced all year, but they were not complaining after holding on to a narrow two-point lead for the final 60 minutes.
It ends a remarkable form reversal for the Volcanix who did not win a game last season.
Coach Brendon Webby said in the end it came down to effort.
"They gave it for the whole 80 minutes and never once gave up or stopped trying, and that is the biggest thing for us. We are pretty proud," he said.
"One of our goals was to do something different and set women's rugby in the Bay on the right track and I think we have done that."
The opening four minutes of play from the kick-off produced nearly as much open play as the rest of the match to follow. The Volcanix started impressively with a gusty wind behind them, putting together some good phase play.
First five Shaye Whareaorere produced a moment of magic to put an accurate grubber kick behind the Otago backline for speedster Sapphire Tapsell to win the race to the goal line.
Fullback Crystal Mayes calmly slotted the wide angled conversion for a 7-0 lead and what was to be the winning points in the match.
In the previous match between the teams played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin earlier this month, the Volcanix won 27-17 with the likes of Mayes and Tapsell running in vital tries.
Otago decided to make use of their strong ball carriers Kate Smith and Angie Sosefo and took it to the Volcanix defence. Their efforts finally paid off after 22 minutes when centre Greer Muir crossed the try line.
As the conditions worsened, so did the number of ball handling errors from both sides who, despite everything, still tried to play an expansive game.
The wind strengthened throughout the second half behind Otago and they had the majority of territory, but seldom threatened the inspired defensive line of the Volcanix led by flankers Lesley Elder and Christine Yule.
A 60m break from her own goal line by fullback Mayes set up the best scoring chance for the Volcanix but, like so many others, ended up in a turnover.
With time up and the final hooter sounding, Otago had a chance to steal the title off the Volcanix with one final charge to the line. But a courageous defensive effort by outstanding prop Luka Connor won a penalty and the Volcanix cleard to end their season on a deserved high.
Co-captain Yule said her team's enthusiasm right to the end was the key.
'We kept working, we trusted our structures, we remained calm and ruthless. Everything we set out to do we did out there," she said.
"The culture for our season was just amazing and the attitudes we bring is something else and something special to be part of."
Bay of Plenty Volcanix 7 (Sapphire Tapsell try, Crystal Mayes con) Otago Spirit 5 (Greer Muir try) HT: 7-5