UPDATED: Their newly contracted Black Ferns player and captain Dhys Faleafaga has a finger injury and was running water and their Top-4 winning first five-eighth Cheyne Copeland was in hospital today having a knee operation.
With that pair sitting this one out, and their Pulse netballers Renee Savai'inaea and Ana Puleiata (also injured) also absent, there was an air of uncertainly about how they would go in today’s inter-provincial First XV girls friendly between themselves and former national champions Feilding High School.
Seventy minutes later the matter was settled after St Mary’s had racked up a 70-12 win.
St Mary’s had far too much power and aggression in the forwards for Feilding and won the game up front in fairly emphatic style. St Mary’s scored 12 tries to Feilding’s two.
The stars of the show?
Both their props, and in particular hard running loosehead prop Laina Semu, who scored a hat-trick and propping partner Nive Leota scored a brace. This pair ran in four combined tries in the second half wearing the no. 1 jersey.
Other players to standout for St Mary’s and to also be rewarded with tries were lock Bianca Petelo and blindside flanker Leilani Chapman. Captain for the day and second five-eighth Julie Tusa was also hard to handle for the Feilding defence. All these players fed off each other, frequently breaking tackles and linking well in their support play.
It was Feilding who scored the game’s first and most spectacular try, however. Winning a turnover from a scrum on their own goal line they counterattacked and right wing Brianna Wallace showed a clean pair of heels in finishing off a 95-metre strike up the far touchline.
St Mary’s hit back with their first try to prop Leota and then scored three consecutive tries, to Tusa, left wing Lourdes Faitoa and hooker Janaya Lau Young.
Feilding’s best player all game was No. 8 and captain Ashley Knight, consistently leading from the front with ball in hand and helping her side compete in the breakdowns. Feilding rallied behind her and hit back with a try to halfback Jannah Rowden. This closed the gap to 12-24, but was as close as they would get.
St Mary’s lock Petelo finished off a sweeping 65-metre passage of play right on halftime, and St Mary’s turned to play with the wind leading 29-12.
Prop Semu got up a full head of steam early in the second half, scoring two consecutive tries. St Mary’s scored their next try in the corner from a blindside scrum movement, before Semu scored twice more in succession.
St Mary’s lost little from their bench and replacement forward Emma Brown scored the next try and flanker Chapman the last.
Despite the lopsided scoreline at the end, Feilding were good in patches and with more game time together will only improve. Both schools are carrying squads of 50-plus and are carrying two teams in their respective Wellington and Manawatu competitions.
Manawatu’s other leading schoolgirls rugby school, Manukura, has made overtures to play St Mary’s and they two schools are making plans to play a friendly next Friday.
Watch some try scoring clips below - including Feilding's first try and all five of the tries scored by the St Mary's props: