Hawke's Bay Tui's rugby halfback Gemma Woods dedicated her two-try display on Saturday to her former Napier Ross Shield teammate Leslie Laing who died last week.
"I wanted to get to Les' funeral this morning but because of our early kickoff I couldn't. So I decided to wear a black arm band in his memory and dedicate the game to Les," Woods said after the Tuis' 39-17 third round Farah Palmer Cup Championship loss to the Otago Spirit at Park Island.
Laing, who died after a work accident in Auckland last week, and Woods were teammates in the 2001 Napier Ross Shield team and they were also former ISO Ltd workmates at the Napier Port. While rapt with her two tries, Woods, 29, who first played for the Tuis in 2007, was disappointed to be sin binned for a high tackle in the 23rd minute.
"I probably could have pulled out of it," she admitted.
Woods agreed the youthful Tuis displayed plenty of promising patches but were guilty of poor discipline and conceding soft turnovers. Talented substitute loosie Laurae Blake also had a stint in the sin bin after earlier conceding a penalty try.
The Tuis conceded 12 penalties, the same number they were awarded. They also lost the services of centre Shaylee Tipiwai with a dislocated knee after 54 seconds and flanker Luana Apuwai with an ankle injury in the 31st minute.
Hawke's Bay's runners need to have more depth when on attack in the opposition's red zone and their forwards need to be lower when engaged in pick and go mode. Flanker Niamh Jefferson was again a workaholic.
Former Black Fern Amy Williams shone with her tactical kicking and options. Second five-eighth Renee Holmes again proved she is a player with enormous potential but she needs to improve her ball security at contact time.
The mother-and-daughter combo of starting winger Julie Ferguson-Ngawaka and substitute back Teilah Ferguson appeared together for the first time in a first class fixture and Teilah produced some outstanding defensive work. Otago's defensive work was superb.
Flanker Georgia Mason and lock Annemieke van Vliet, a younger sister of former Tui Ditte van Vliet, were key architects in the Otago pack. Midfielders Kilistina Moataane and Greer Muir operated well in the Otago backline which delivered some entertaining support play.
■ Hawke's Bay Saracens remain on track to retain their Hurricanes Development competition title after beating Wellington Maori 43-30 in Porirua on Saturday.
Saracens manager Mike Smith said both teams produced some "amazing skills" as they turned on a festive-type display. During the final 20 minutes the Saracens dominated with their exciting back three of fullback Ash Robinson and wingers Liam Edwards and Tom Iosefo combining in spectacular fashion.
Lock Ben Parsons was prominent at lineout time and flanker Chris Johnson again shone with his workrate and expertise at the breakdown. Centre Cole Eru again boxed above his weight with plenty of accurate defensive reads and valuable line breaks.
■ Hawke's Bay delivered their best finish in the 4-year history of the Taupo-based national under-19 tournament with a third placing in the Championship division and 11th overall placing.
These placings came courtesy of a 26-16 win over the Heartland under-19s and Hawke's Bay head coach Blair Cross pointed out this was the first time Hawke's Bay had recorded two wins at the annual event. Prop Jack Byrne and flanker Will Gunson were inspirational in the Bay pack while halfback Bronson Hokianga, centre Mitch Drew and winger Nathan Burton all impressed in the winning backline.