Otago Spirit impresses in first cup game of season

Otago Spirit winger Kiana Wereta (top) beats Taranaki Whio fullback Alesha Williams to score a...
Otago Spirit winger Kiana Wereta (top) beats Taranaki Whio fullback Alesha Williams to score a try during the Farah Palmer Cup match at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin yesterday.PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The Otago Spirit put a statement on the board in its opening game of the season with a convincing victory over Taranaki Whio yesterday.

Playing under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, the home team won 57-5 after leading 24-5 at halftime.

The team showed plenty of enterprise and energy and was a step ahead of a Taranaki side which is still adjusting to the game at this level.

The Otago Spirit backs ran hard and straight for the majority of the game and found space with ease.

The forwards hit the breakdown hard, linked well at times and had the edge in set pieces.

Halfback Rosie Kelly threw out some good passes and kept her forwards going in the right direction.

Though he knows tougher tasks await, Spirit coach Scott Manson was satisfied with the performance.

"We wanted to move the ball and show a bit of width which I think we did well," he said.

"We created plenty of opportunities and managed to take plenty of them. We knew they were bigger than us so we wanted to move them round."

The Spirit used the ball well and kept its structure for much of the game, he said.

The side had come through the match unscathed on the injury front and it was always good to open the season with a comfortable win.

The Spirit came out of the blocks well and was three tries up after 20 minutes.

The side was a step ahead of the opposition and the opening try came after nine minutes when Otago turned the ball over. It went into the arms of Kilisitina Moata'ane and she found a gap. She could not be stopped by the covering defence.

The second try came from a nice cross-kick by first five-eighth Hannah Stolba, which landed in the hands of winger Cheyenne Cunningham, who went in to score untouched.

The tries kept coming. After a nice break by centre Amy Du Plessis, the ball was moved to the left and winger Kiana Wereta made the most of the space to score in the corner.

Speedy fullback Sheree Hume scored a nice try on the half hour, finding a gap in the Taranaki backline defence and sprinting 60m to score.

The visiting team was strong with the carry at times and got its reward right on the stroke of halftime when loose forward Jaiana Smith scored after the forward pack drove to the line.

The Sprit kept the pedal down in the second half, scoring another five tries, and going close on a couple of other times.

Best for the home side was hooker and skipper Tegan Hollows and lock Kate Smith, while Greer Muir got around the field well in her new position of No8.

In the backs, Kelly played well as did Moata'ane while winger Wereta showed some real dash.

The side will take on Northland next week.


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