Spirit intent on earning place in final

Warren Kearney
Warren Kearney
The Otago Spirit is not booking its flights for next week’s final yet as it goes into its semifinal match against North Harbour today.

The  sides met in North Harbour last week and Otago ran away with the game, winning 34-15 after  leading 17-3 at the break.

The teams now meet in the semifinal of the Farah Palmer Cup Championship with the winner going on to play Bay of Plenty in the final next weekend.

Spirit assistant coach Warren Kearney said the side was fully aware it could not get ahead of itself and it had to play well again to come away with the victory.

"The win last week has given us the confidence that we know we can perform against them. But we have to go out there and earn the right to get into the final," he said.

"The game last week showed what we can do when we play an expansive game and get over the gain line. But that still just comes back to the basics — working hard for each other and not getting too far ahead of ourselves."

Winger Sam Hollows scored three tries in the win last weekend but is not playing today. She had study commitments during the week and has not had a full preparation for the game.

North Otago schoolgirl Cheyenne Cunningham comes into the starting side on the wing and will be keen to show her wares.

Another school pupil, Isla Pringle, gets a start at tighthead prop after Syreeta Norris took a blow to her jaw last week. Her jaw was not dislocated but was badly bruised and she is likely to miss the rest of the season.

Kearney said although Hollows picked up three tries last week and had played well, she was the beneficiary of some good work inside her. The side needed to keep that up and the chances would  come.

The loose forward trio for Otago had been a strength and he was expecting some good performances again out of captain Angie Sisifa and openside flanker Georgia Mason.

He was expecting plenty from a North Harbour side which would have been disappointed with its performance last week.

With Otago looking to play the game at pace, North Harbour would be looking to slow the ball down at the breakdown and keep  it  in close.

Otago would look to its strong ball-runners and try to string together some phases in play.

Kearney said Sisifa has been a warrior all season and led the side well.

In the semifinals of the Premiership section of the Farah Palmer Cup, Canterbury hosts Waikato in Christchurch while Counties-Manukau will host Auckland at Pukekohe. Both games will be played today.

 

Otago v North Harbour
Forsyth Barr Stadium, today, noon

Otago: Sheree Hume, Nicole Kennedy, Greer Muir, Soraya Umaga-Jensen, Cheyenne Cunningham, Olivia Waldron, Zoe Whatarau, Angie Sisifa (captain), Georgia Mason, Morgan Henderson, Julia Gorinski, Kate Smith, Isla Pringle, Tegan Hollows, Eilis Doyle. Reserves: Morgan Walker, Annemieke van Vliet, Michaela Day, Jessica Kendall, Leyhana van Vugt, Catarina Autunes, Kilistina Moata’ane

North Harbour: Briar McNamara, Caitlyn Cox, Emma Iversen, Laishon Jones, Justine Vizirgianakis, Claidia McMeekin, Cesca Luafalealo (co-captain), Jemma Palmer (co-captain), Kate Williams, Maryke Penman, Pia Tapsell, Sophie Fisher, Olivia Ward-Duin, Amy Robertshaw, Cristo Tofa. Reserves: Billy-Jo Jones, Cheyenne Wikaira, Rachel Dunn, Kelvery Longopoa, Alexa Fraser, Tuiala To’o, Louise Halaleva.

Referee: Lauren Jenner (Counties-Manukau)

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