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Matatu edge Chiefs Manawa in dramatic Aupiki final

By Ned Lester
Matatu celebrates their try in the Super Rugby Aupiki final. hoto by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

The Super Rugby Aupiki seasoned wrapped up Saturday with an exhilarating match between the undefeated Chiefs Manawa and the underdogs, Matatu.

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Hazel Tubic’s kicking game has driven her Manawa side around the park expertly throughout the season and her territorial skills put her side in great positions during the opening 20. Once in position, the dominant Manawa forwards took their opportunities and had 19 points in the opening 18 minutes.

Matatu then roared into life through some dynamic and physical carries from Amy du Plessis. The front-foot-ball turned into some positive territory of their own for Matatu and the South Island side capitalised on the chances to stretch their legs with some wildly impressive offloads and chemistry leading to their opening try from Black Fern Amy Rule.

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Renee Holmes’ boot converted the try and the fullback was over for a try of her own just a minute later after some more Amy du Plessis brilliance. Holmes was on the scoreboard yet again five minutes later as she nailed a penalty kick from near halfway.

The comeback built further steam when Martha Mataele intercepted the ball and ran it in from 50 metres out to put her side in front.

The Matatu resurgence brought out the best in the Manawa though as the Waikato side quickly regained the lead through a silky smooth play off the lineout that sent Mererangi Paul over, untouched.

The start of the second half was an arm wrestle, 17 minutes passed before any points were scored. Matatu regained the lead as Renee Holmes scored in the corner after a strong carry from – you guessed it – Amy du Plessis.

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Manawa’s discipline started to falter as Matatu kept the pressure on, the South Islanders’ set piece was up to the challenge allowing them to piggyback up the field with every Manawa infringement.

Canadian international Cindy Nelles was a menace at the breakdown, claiming a number of turnovers for Matatu and helping disrupt any kind of rhythm Manawa could gather.

A knock-on from Chelsea Bremner in the 70th minute again handed Matatu possession and a high tackle two minutes later gave Renee Holmes the chance to put Matatu up by seven. The kick was another long one from out wide but Holmes was composed and slotted the three-pointer.

With under three minutes on the clock, Manawa went to the corner and went to work with their lethal rolling maul, pushing Matatu over the chalk with Luka Connor claiming her seventh try of the season. The conversion was too challenging of an angle for Tenika Willison though which left a two-point lead for Matatu.

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The dying moments provided edge-of-your-seat action as the Manawa strung phases together to get deep into the Matatu half. A controversial call then saw Nelles penalised on what looked to be a clean – and game-winning – turnover. The penalty handed Willison a shot at redemption as the final siren sounded.

After a superb season, the Manawa fullback looked calm and composed lining up the title-deciding kick, but as soon as the ball was struck it looked awry and sailed to the right of the posts.

Matatu claims a famous victory, winning the title after going winless just the season prior. Final score: 33-31.

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J
Jon 3 hours ago
How Maro Itoje terrorised the All Blacks lineout

Yeah England were much smarter, they put their much vaster experience to use in both the scrum (bending/not taking hit) and lineout (Itoje early sacks) law vagaries. Really though, I know what is there, I’m more worried about Englands locks. We only got to see Itoje and Martin, right? Depth allround in the England camp was probably the difference in the series and the drop off when Itoje reached his minutes limit for the season (it was like the plug was pulled from the charger) was up there with keeping Sexton on the park in that quarter final. What happened there? You have a lot of watching hours experience with locks come blindsides Nick, especially with a typical Australian player make up, have you see a six the size of Barrett absolutely dominate the position and his opposition? I can easily see Scott, and even Martin for that matter, moving to the blindside and playing like Tadgh Beirne with the amount of top locks we have coming through to partner Patrick. Still with the English mindset, because despite running the best All Black team I’ve seen in a long time close, they do need to find improvement, and although I thought they had a lot of good performances from their 7’s (over the years), I really like the prospect of Cunningham-South in his 8 spot and Earl on the open. Can you see Martin as mobile enough to take over Lawes? I absolutely loved his aggression when Jordie ran upto him to try and grab the ball. That alone is enough reason for me to try him there.

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