Big River’s season ends at semifinal stage

Big River Country was beaten in a solid home win for Ururoa at Kettle Park on Saturday. PHOTO: SI...
Big River Country was beaten in a solid home win for Ururoa at Kettle Park on Saturday. PHOTO: SI LEEDS.
Big River Country have fallen to the Dunedin Ururoa in their Otago Premier Women’s semifinal at Kettle Park in Dunedin.

The final score was 33-15 to the home side but that did not reflect the effort and endeavour our girls showed in yet another semifinal appearance.

Dunedin opened the scoring after some sustained pressure which resulted in winger Naomi Sopoaga crossing to give her side a positive start. This was followed quickly by another try to the opposite winger Hannah Norris to give Dunedin a 10-0 head start.

Big River found time on the ball but were never really allowed to play with it and find their structure. They did score next, however, through flanker Kayley Johnson to narrow the gap. The remainder of the first half belonged to the home side who managed to send the ball wide for some great reward. Winger Norris was the recipient of three more tries in quick succession to take Dunedin’s score to a handy lead at halftime.

Big River Country showed all the desire and effort in the world to come back into the match and control the second half for large periods. They denied Dunedin by putting on a huge show of defence and made them work for every metre. With ball in hand, BRC never seemed to get the rub of the green and were forced to cede possession to the home side of numerous occasions and were pushed on to the back foot time after time. BRC scored two second-half tries to skipper Tegan Hollows and replacement Shanika McKenzie to actually win the second half on points scored, but the damage had already been done and Dunedin moved on to the final next weekend in what was a strong display by them.

Dunedin were very good with ball in hand and showed why they are perhaps favourites to take the title this season. The home side were led well once again by pivot Sheree Hume who put on a masterclass in possession. Hume’s ability to draw in defenders and then release the ball created gaps everywhere which her outsides made the most of. Winger Hannah Norris was outstanding in open space, Norris grabbed four tries and made plenty of ground in possession. Flanker Shakirah Stephen was the pick of the home sides forwards and got through huge amounts of work on both attack and defence.

Big River Country’s experienced players really stepped up and led by example in this match. Skipper Tegan Hollows was huge in what was a physical contest. Prop Isla Pringle and lock Kate Smith were also immense and gave absolutely everything they had to the cause.

Keely Hill was outstanding in the backline and really gave BRC some go forward on attack. Player of the match Sasha Scott never took a backwards step, and was outstanding on both sides of the ball.

This ends Big River Country’s impressive season a week shorter than they would have hoped. They showed huge amounts of industry in this match but did not seem to be rewarded for this. Regardless, it has been a hugely impressive season for them as they have introduced many new players into the family and their connections have grown throughout the season.

Next season is their "jubilee" season of sorts as they celebrate five years in existence. For now, we celebrate what has been an awesome season, but keep an eye on what can looks an exciting future for our Big River Country side.

Dunedin Ururoa 33 (Hannah Norris x4, Oceana Campbell, Naomi Sopoaga tries; Sheree Hume 1 pen), Big River Country 15 (Tegan Hollows, Shanika McKenzie, Kayley Johnson tries)

By Francis Parker