Aupiki 2023 - good vibes, but who's stopping Manawa?
It’s winless in 2022 Southerns Matatu against Chiefs Manawa in the second-edition of the Super Rugby Aupiki final this Saturday in Hamilton.
The question on people’s lips is, can anyone stop the Manawa maul? It’s demolished all in sundry. The Chiefs can give it a whirl too. With five tries in four games, wing Georgia Daals sits just one try behind hooker Luka Connor as the leading try scorer in the competition.
Connor scored a hat-trick against Hurricanes Poua in round one traveling a combined five meters, three times.
Under the guidance of ‘The Professor’ (Wayne Smith) the Black Ferns had six months to figure out how to stop a rolling maul, when it was England’s strongest weapon. Most of the Aupiki women hold down another job and represent a truer reflection of the Wahine rugby landscape.
Beating your own is sometimes more difficult than beating the formidable foreign beast. The Chiefs play much the same way as England did that famous night at Eden Park.
So, who can stop the Chiefs and their maul in 2023?
Hurricanes Poua tried twice and failed miserably. Joanah Ngan-Woo was unreal this season, perhaps the best lock in the world at present. However, the Poua, pummelled in the scrums as well, couldn’t involve their vibrant, unpredictable backs often enough.
The Blues? Jaymie Kolose, Sylvia Brunt, Katelyn Vaha’akolo, Patricia Maliepo and Ruahei Demant are all dashing outside backs involved in the semi-finals at least in the top ten for most meters carried. No.8 Liana Mikaele-Tu’u was right there too. However, the Blues lacked the collective muscle and concentration to consistently outlast Matatu.
MATCH REPORT | The first #Aupiki23 Semi-Finalist has been confirmed.
— Super Rugby NZ (@SuperRugbyNZ) March 19, 2023
Matatu leaped out to a 19-8 lead against the Chiefs in 22 minutes in their first encounter. When Matatu got stuck in the tight exchanges, they suffered like everyone else. Conceding 38 unanswered points in 32 minutes is an unmitigated disaster. Their finish was exceptional though with three unanswered tries.
The Black Ferns front row from that fateful November 12, 2022 evening was all Matatu: Pip Love, Georgia Ponsonby, and Amy Rule. They will go to battle under the leadership of lock and fellow Black Fern Alana Bremner.
Can Matatu do a 1998 Crusaders (coached by Wayne Smith) and win an unlikely Super Final in the far North against a steamroller adversary? It seems unlikely but surprise tactics, quick, taps, avoiding the constant hard stuff, and a gen (cough) referee could lead to a boilover.
Good stuff in sundry.
Small Venues. The buzz is palpable, it’s grassroots. Elsewhere there often appears to be more TV staff than actual spectators. Bring Aupiki to the people.
Intent. Lots of ambition, plenty of good tries, and expansion into Australia likely. Restlessness with the current situation is evident on both sides of the Tasman.
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