It wasn't the result Northland's Farah Palmer Cup team were hoping for in their competition debut, but the signs for hope were evident in their 64-31 loss to Hawke's Bay on Saturday.
After travelling down the day before from Kerikeri, Northland's first ever Farah Palmer Cup (FPC) team charged out onto a cold and windy Park Island field in Napier with the support of many family members who had made the trip for the historic occasion.
Northland were the first to score through left wing Savannah Bodman, who would go on to notch up a hat-trick, but due to the visitors' fatigue and missed tackles Hawke's Bay stormed back into the game with a couple of soft tries late in the first half.
Leading 33-12 going into the second half, the home side struck again and the game threatened to blow out for the Northland women. However, the visitors hung in there to score tries late in the game to finish with 31 points and take pride in their first outing.
"It was basically just a welcome to FPC," Northland coach Cheryl Smith said.
"It's the next step up but we scored 31 points and the Hawke's Bay coaches were quite surprised with the calibre of players we had, but overall, a lot of positives came from the game."
While a win would have been the ideal start to the competition, Smith said she was pleased with the heart shown by the girls in an away trip, which was also about bonding within the team.
Northland made more history on Saturday as they performed the Ngāpuhi haka before the game. According to Smith, Northland was only the second team to perform a haka in the competition, alongside Waikato.
"It's part of the culture in Northland, Tai Tokerau and the girls are very into their culture and it's a way of bringing them together as well," she said.
Smith said the jersey presentation was an emotional and enjoyable time for the team and she was glad to hear her first five, experienced Black Fern and former Counties Manukau FPC player Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, vocalise her pride in the team's performance.
"[Subritzky-Nafatali] said at fulltime that she was so stoked, she was happy with what they had achieved [on Saturday] because for the majority of the team, they haven't played FPC before," Smith said.
Now Northland look to their first home game against Otago at Trigg Stadium on Saturday at 2pm. Smith was hoping for a good performance in front of a home crowd.
"Hopefully, it will work in our favour and there will be a few people to come down on Saturday."
Northland's under-18 women's rugby team also travelled over the weekend as they went south to take on North Harbour on Saturday. Coming up against a strong opposition, Northland showed some good skills but couldn't earn the win, losing 45-27. Northland try scorers included Georgia Brierly (2), Rangimarie Chapman-Barber, Nia Kara and Louisa Tubailagi, with Emily West taking the conversions.
Northland vs Hawke's Bay scorers:
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.