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The Otago Spirit was denied a winning finish to the Farah Palmer Cup by a late Wellington penalty.
Thamsyn Newton drilled the shot with the last act of the game to seal a 27-24 win in Wellington on Saturday.
But coach Scott Manson has judged the season a reasonable success regardless.
His side finished fourth in the South Pool with two wins from five games.
"The level of opposition was far better this year than what we’ve previously played against," he said.
"We are used to being in that Championship where you don’t always get challenged each week.
"So we’ve done a lot of learning around that this season. We should have won the Manawatu game and then this game [against Wellington] we could have won.
"But I think we’ve got the skill set and the ability to compete against some teams. But at the same time we’ve still got a lot to learn mentally in testing situations."
Wellington opened the scoring through exciting winger Kolora Lomani.
She beat a couple of tacklers after Wellington had strung a series of phases together.
Lomani was in again not long after and Newton drilled the sideline conversion to make it 14-0.
Winger Meg Breen got Otago on the scoreboard after she collected a nice skip pass from Rosie Kelly and dotted down in the corner.
Midfielder Teilah Ferguson narrowed to gap to 14-12 when she forced he way over late in the half.
Newton had opened the scoring in the second half with a penalty, and then centre Monica Tagoai took a short ball and ran in from 15m.
The Spirit rallied and eventually found space out on the right for Kiana Wereta to score. And an Otago penalty try helped set up an exciting finish.
But unfortunately for the visiting team, Newton had the last say.
Waikato will play Manawatu in one semifinal, while Canterbury will host Counties Manukau in the other.
Canterbury is chasing a fourth consecutive title.