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Pirates first five-eighth Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali ripped the ball free from her opponent and crashed over from 5m out to seal a dramatic late 29-26 win in an epic final against University at Hancock Park on Saturday.
Ten minutes earlier the game had looked lost.
Pirates coach Shaun Bovey felt victory had slipped away when University lock Julia Gorinski scampered down the touchline to score from 20m out.
His side trailed 26-19 in what had been a topsy-turvy encounter. And to be fair, University deserved its lead.
The underdogs had played with fantastic width and even had the better of the physical battle up front.
But Pirates responded with a furious late surge to snap University’s three-year stranglehold on the title.
Replacement outside back Oceana Campbell got on the outside of the last defender and sprinted 40m to score.
Then with the last play of the game, former Black Fern Subritzky-Nafatali stripped the ball and scored.
Pirates supporters flooded the ground. It was the team’s first title since 2017.
"To win like that was so good," Bovey said.
"We weren’t happy with our first half. We wanted to be the aggressor but we weren’t.
"To be able to pull that off for the club was absolutely epic.
"To be fair, University was probably the better team for 70 minutes. For us to get home like that — they were very unlucky."
It was a drama-packed
afternoon. Early in the sec-
ond half the game had to be shifted to another field at the ground after University fullback Olivia Fowler injured herself while making a tackle.
She had made several breaks during the opening half and looked dangerous with the ball.
Pirates opened the scoring when experienced fullback Sheree Hume slipped over out wide.
But University replied immediately through Gorinski, who muscled her way over from close range.
Midway through the first half Kilisitina Moata’ane barged her way past defenders in the midfield to score a nice 30m solo effort.
But University struck back and massive prop Rebekah Wairau was unstoppable close to the line.
It took the lead before the break with the try of the game.
Classy loose forward Grace Carroll, who linked well the entire match, got on the outside and set off for the line.
She swerved in and then back out before getting the pass to winger Patience Davis, who was strong enough to hold off the remaining cover defence.
Shortly after the break, Pirates drew level when Subritzky-Nafatali put in a clever cross-field kick from a quick tap to winger Brigid Corson, who scored.
Pirates had just gained some momentum. But the injury break and shift to the back field worked out better for University.
It dominated possession and eventually Pirates’ defence cracked. Gorinski found herself in the open with a decent distance to run to the corner. She dug deep and got there.
But what could have been the winning play proved to be the spark that ignited Pirates.