Karamu High School student Cortez Te Pou celebrated her first class rugby debut for the Hawke's Bay Tui with four tries today.
'I'm pretty happy with that. All of the girls played well ... we stuck to our systems and we played hard," 18-year-old fullback Te Pou said after the Big Barrel Hawke's Bay Tui opened their Farah Palmer Cup Championship campaign with a 64-31 victory over newcomers Northland at Napier's Park Island.
The Year 13 student had her hat-trick by the 63rd minute and scored her final try with six minutes remaining. A New Zealand Maori under-18 squad member who boasts tremendous pace, Te Pou, continues to build on the promise she displayed as a member of the 2014 Hastings East Ross Shield-winning team in Wairoa.
"That's where I got scouted by our Karamu High School teacher Tom Blake to come to his school so I could continue with my rugby," Te Pou recalled.
The former Hastings Intermediate School student had started playing as a 6-year-old at the Hastings Rugby and Sports Club. Her long-term goal is to secure a berth in the Black Ferns squad and if she continues to play like she did today against some of the tougher teams in the Championship she should tick that off within three years.
"Hopefully I play well for the New Zealand Maori under-18s against Pasifika in Auckland [on September 27] and that will enhance my chances. Because of that match I will miss our game against Tasman but national duty comes first," Te Pou said.
Bay head coach Steve Woods said he couldn't have asked for a better debut from Te Pou.
"She just loves scoring tries. I remember when she scored five in our final trial. As for the team itself there are still some work ons. We need to protect our ruck ball better and a little bit of defensive work is required."
Woods agreed he couldn't fault his side's attack. He pointed out the victory was an appropriate way to celebrate the presentation of the first blazers for Tui players.
Experienced second five-eighth Chanel Atkin, who shone with her distribution and defensive reads, played her 70th first class match for the team and Woods daughter, Tui co-captain and No 8 Gemma Woods, played her 50th.
All of the Bay players can be proud of their contributions to the victory in the absence of Black Ferns first five-eighth Krysten Cottrell who was ruled out with a back injury.
Along with Woods, co-captain and lock Hanna Brough and blindside flanker Kathleen Brown, were prominent in the pack.
Centre Michaela Baker joined Te Pou as the best of the backs. First five-eighth Sylvia Bockman did well to slot six of her seven attempts at goal in a tricky wind.
Northland winger Savannah Bodman deserved her hattrick. First five-eighth Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and No 8 Krystal Murray also impressed for Northland.
Hawke's Bay Tui 64 (Cortez Te Pou 4, Kathleen Brown 2, Michaela Baker 2, Hanna Brough, Tori Iosefo tries; Sylvia Bockman 6, Emma Jensen cons), Northland 31 (Savannah Bodman 3, Krystal Murray, Taylah Hodson-Tomokino tries; Murray 3 cons). HT: 33-12.
The Hawke's Bay Saracens were pipped 43-41 by the Wellington Centurions on the adjacent field after the visitors scored a converted try with the last play of the game.
The Saracens did well to establish a 22-12 lead in the first half but were below par in the second half.
"Individually some of the guys played well but collectively they didn't," Saracens head coach Mutu Ngarimu said.
Locks Elijah Martin and Phil McRoberts were workaholics in the Saracens pack. Winger Anzelo Tuitavuki made the most of his opportunities and scored three tries.
Fellow winger Travis Janssen, second five-eighth Jesse Paewai and substitute No 8 Albert Hemopo scored one each. First five-eighth Johnny Lauano kicked four conversions and a penalty.