Hawke's Bay Tui women's rugby coach Steve Woods got the call within minutes of the final whistle blowing on today's Farah Palmer Cup Championship final in Dunedin.

"All of our team, even the older ones will be back next year ... we've still got a job unfinished."

The Big Barrel Tui were pipped 24-20 by the Otago Spirit in an entertaining encounter in Forsyth Barr Stadium in which the lead changed five times. Otago gain promotion to the Premiership next year.

"While I'm a bit disappointed that we conceded penalties at crucial times I'm still so proud of the Tui. Otago are a fantastic side who set the benchmark all year and we pushed them close," Woods said.


He pointed out the fitness levels within his squad have improved from last year when they lost 34-10 to Otago in their semifinal but there is still room for improvement in that department.

"This year we had 17 players working in a High Performance squad at the start of the season. Next year we want to take that to 30 and with several more players progressing from our Hawke's Bay under-18 team which won their Hurricanes tournament we won't be short of depth."

As much as the high penalty count against them, 18, was an issue for the Tui so was their inability to score when Otago second five-eighth Kilisitina Moata'ane was in the sinbin after a dangerous tackle on her Tui counterpart Te Maari MacGregor in the 34th minute.

Woods agreed openside flanker Niamh Jefferson and lock and co-captain Hannah Brough had phenomenal work rates for his side. Moata'ane and first five-eighth Rosie Kelly who finished the season with 107 points were lethal attackers in the Otago backline.

Busy Otago loosies, No 8 Greer Muir, and flankers Morgan Henderson and Bree Thomas, functioned well in the collisions.

The hosts opened the scoring when Kelly out sprinted the Tui defence to score in the 19th minute. She added the conversion.

Hawke's Bay replied four minutes later with a penalty to Black Ferns first five-eighth Krysten Cottrell. In the 30th minute Jefferson scored after stealing the ball from Otago halfback Rosie Buchanan-Brown at a five metre scrum and the Tui retained the 8-7 lead until the halftime whistle.

Kelly gave the Spirit the lead again with a 53rd minute penalty when a Tui player was ruled to be offside. The visitors retained possession for 11 phases before co-captain and No 8 Gemma Woods scored her 57th minute try from close range and Cottrell added the extras to have the Tui ahead 15-10.


Moata'ane returned from the bin full of authority and enterprise and scored in the 60th minute. Kelly again slotted the conversion.

More quick hands from the slick Otago backs saw fullback Sheree Hume score in the 69th minute and Kelly converted from out wide. Winger Tori Iosefo kept the Tui in the hunt with her 71st minute try but the tenacious Otago defence kept the visitors out until the final whistle. It was the third consecutive year Otago had been in the final.

"We knew this was our year," captain and hooker Tegan Hollows said afterwards.

"Our ticker and heart pulled us through. We're one big family, a tight unit and our fitness got us through too."

Otago Spirit 24 (Rosie Kelly, Sheree Hume, Kilisitina Moata'ane tries; Kelly 3 cons, pen). Hawke's Bay Tui 20 (Niamh Jefferson, Gemma Woods, Tori Iosefo tries; Krysten Cottrell pen, con). HT: HB 8-7.