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The Otago women's side beat Hawke's Bay 24-20 in a thriller at Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday to win the Farah Palmer Cup championship.
After two losses in the past two finals at this level, it was not going to be three defeats in a row for the Spirit. But it was an extremely close-run thing. Hawke's Bay led 8-7 at halftime and with just over a quarter of the match left led 15-10.
Otago then scored twice and was up 24-15 before big Hawke's Bay winger Toni Iosefo scored out side with nine minutes left.
The visiting side then attacked to try to get the winning score but a knock-on led to the ball being turned over and Otago won the game. With the victory, it goes up to the premiership next season.
Otago coach Scott Manson was full of praise for his side and its strength of character.
He said the impetus of the returning midfield back Kilisitina Moata'ane from a yellow card early in the second half gave the team a real boost.
"When Tina came back on that really gave everyone a lift and we sort of got better organised and started hitting things harder," Manson said.
"But we had to work hard, showed some real ticker and guts against them. Massive credit has to go to them. They played in a way which didn't let us play the way we wanted to.
"But massively proud of the way we played. They had some big forwards and our guys competed hard against them. Put them down and worked really hard in the rucks."
Otago had a very strong opening to the game but could only get the one try. Manson said perhaps nerves played a part.
Otago finally got on the scoreboard when first five-eighth Rosie Kelly got a nice inside ball and raced 50m to score.
The Bay came back and scored on the half-hour mark, when the Otago scrum got messy and flanker Niamh Jefferson went over. Shortly afterwards Moata'ane was yellow carded for a tip tackle.
She had her revenge when she ran on to the ball hard in a nice cut move and could not be stopped, scoring under the bar on the hour mark. Otago pushed further ahead when a nice move to the left had fullback Sheree Hume over in the corner before a late spurt from Hawke's Bay set up the exciting finish.
Kelly had a top game, as did Moata'ane, while hooker and skipper Tegan Hollows was into everything. Lock Julia Gorinski and flanker Bree Thomas got through plenty of work.
Canterbury won its third straight title in the Farah Palmer Cup premiership, beating Auckland 30-20 in Christchurch on Saturday.
In the Mitre 10 Cup premiership final, Tasman beat Wellington 31-14 in Nelson on Saturday to complete an unbeaten season.
In the Lochore Cup final played in Greymouth yesterday, South Canterbury beat West Coast 23-19.