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North Harbour turn on second half pressure to beat Tasman women

Tasman centre Jess Drummond attempts to evade the North Harbour defence.

Tasman centre Jess Drummond attempts to evade the North Harbour defence.

North Harbour produced a dominant second half performance to beat Tasman 25-12 in their Farah Palmer Cup women's championship rugby match at Nelson's Trafalgar Park on Sunday.

Tasman had been well in touch after trailing just 8-7 at the break. But continual handling issues on a sodden Trafalgar Park played into Harbour's hands as the visitors eventually took control.

Despite heading into the match without a win, Tasman were still a playoff prospect provided they beat both Harbour and Hawke's Bay in the final round. Those hopes continued to diminish as Harbour tightened their grip during the second half.

Tasman captain and No 8 Jess Foster offloads in the tackle.

Tasman captain and No 8 Jess Foster offloads in the tackle.

Harbour entered the contest in search of their second championship win without their Black Ferns Charmaine Smith and Rebecca Wood.

Over 24 hours of rain in the build up to the match suggested that conditions would negate Tasman's attempts to capitalise on their pace and mobility.

Tasman still managed to dominate territory and possession during the early stanzas on the back of some solid defence against a big Harbour side. But it was Harbour who opened the scoring, goal-kicking lock Sophie Fisher landing a penalty from an attacking scrum for a 3-0 lead after 19 minutes.

The wet conditions inevitably created handling issues for both teams, Tasman squandering several attacking opportunities through spilled passes.

Tasman's normally solid scrum also came under severe pressure from Harbour's bulkier pack. But after absorbing plenty of defensive pressure, Tasman struck through their centre Jess Drummond who broke clear from 60m out to easily outsprint the Harbour defence. 

Tasman's lead was short-lived though, Harbour's backs stringing the passes together from a missed clearance to put winger Caitlyn Cox across in the corner for an 8-7 halftime lead.

Tasman's handling issues continued after the restart as more attacking chances went begging inside Harbour's quarter. Instead it was Harbour who increased their lead, their forwards maintaining the pressure to steadily work deep into Tasman territory.

Big prop Olivia Ward-Duin eventually cashed in, highlighting Harbour's physical forward presence with their second try. And when 17-year-old flanker Kate Williams followed her across from a pick-and-go soon after, Harbour appeared to have taken a stranglehold at 20-7 with 17 minutes remaining.

Influential midfielder Laishon Jones bagged Harbour's bonus point try to eventually push the visitors well clear at 25-7.

Tasman captain and No 8 Jess Foster was rewarded for an outstanding individual effort with a late consolation try, Foster having led aggressively from the front with feisty halfback Rosie Buchanan-Brown producing some tough defence. 

Tasman have one final chance to secure a win when they host Hawke's Bay next Saturday.


North Harbour 25 (Caitlyn Cox, Olivia Ward-Duin, Kate Williams, Laishon Jones tries, Claudia McMeekin con, Sophie Fisher pen) Tasman 12 (Jess Drummond, Jess Foster tries, Risi Pouri-Lane con) HT: 8-7.