A new era in female sport is underway – and on this evidence the Women's NRL competition is going to be a smash hit.
The Warriors' Women beat an Auckland representative side 30-4 on Friday night, in a highly engaging clash.
Beyond the result though, it was a special occasion. That was evident in the reaction of the crowd, who were highly animated and vocal throughout, much more so than for a typical curtain raiser.
This was just a warm-up match for the Warriors, who are building for their debut in the inagural NRL Women's competition next month, but still a fierce encounter.
The Auckland side were obviously overmatched, but gave a good account and for a period in the second half were the dominant team. The Warriors were fast out of the gates, with four tries in the first 20 minutes, exhibiting a combination of pace, power and vision.
But they struggled to maintain their standards in the second half, though coach Luisa Avaiki will be pleased with some of their scrambling defence.
With both the Newcastle Knights and Warriors' men watching on, the female Warriors opened the scoring in the fifth minute, with centre Amber Kani showing good power to finish. They extended their lead a few minute later with a beauty, as Annetta-Claudia Nuuausala produced a precise one handed offload to send Tanika-Jazz Noble-Bell over.
The semi-professional outfit began to take control after that, with a scorching run by Langi Veainu down the left sideline for their third try, before Hilda Mariu crossed on the other flank after some slick chain passing.
But it wasn't all one way traffic. Auckland second rower Amber Paris Hall came up with one of the biggest hits seen at Mt Smart, flattening 41-year-old Lorina Papali'i, as the crowd roared. Moments later Auckland fullback Christyl Stowers produced a desperate ankle tap – in the spirit of Scott Sattler – to deny a runaway Veainu.
The Warriors then came up with the try of the half, with captain Laura Mariu showing great vision with a midfield kick that Apii Nicholls regathered unopposed.
But the Auckland team showed great resolve in the second half, as they started to get used to the pace of the game. They frustrated the Warriors with some strong defence, before giant prop Kararaina Wira-Kohu powered through three defenders to score, to a huge ovation.
Auckland went close again, before Saviha Clark crossed for the Warriors in the 51st minute to finish the scoring.
Warriors Women 32 (A Kani, T J Noble-Bell, L Veainu, H Mariu, A Nicholls, S Clark tries; A Nicholls 4 goals)
Auckland Invitational 4 (K Wira-Kohu try).