Northland Kauri head coach Cheryl Smith is confident the wins will come for the region's top women's rugby team after a 40-7 loss to Otago on Saturday.

Playing in their first ever home game in the Farah Palmer Cup in front of over 200 supporters at the Trigg Sports Arena, Northland's inexperience at the domestic level was exposed by a quick, skilful Otago unit which possessed a number of talented players.

Northland's Kat Wira-Kohu carries the ball forward with Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali running in support. Photo / John Stone
Northland's Kat Wira-Kohu carries the ball forward with Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali running in support. Photo / John Stone

While the home side had size and strength on their side, Otago were too good with ball in hand and were clinical in capitalising on Northland's errors.

It wasn't a lacklustre performance by the women in blue as plenty of heart and desire was shown across the park. However, continued pressure from the visitors and simple mistakes from Northland saw Otago run in three tries to lead 21-nil at halftime.

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Krystal Murray (with ball) looks to offload as her team members charge in behind her. Photo / John Stone
Krystal Murray (with ball) looks to offload as her team members charge in behind her. Photo / John Stone

What had been a clear sky earlier in the day soon turned dark as the rain fell in the second half. The slippery conditions made ball-handling difficult for both sides, but they did well to preserve the quality of the game.

Fatigue and inexperience did seem to be the most debilitating factors for the Kauri as Otago found space on the wings fairly easily after stringing a few phases together.

Northland lock Tui McGeorge (top right) competes at lineout time as she is lifted by teammates Kahu Shelford and Jurney Blair. Photo / John Stone
Northland lock Tui McGeorge (top right) competes at lineout time as she is lifted by teammates Kahu Shelford and Jurney Blair. Photo / John Stone

With the visitors scoring three more tries, Northland was facing a 40-nil deficit. However, in a testament to their strength of character, the home side battled on and looked dominant in patches towards the end of the game.

After a period of possession for Northland, winger Savannah Bodman finally breached the Otago line in what was good reward for a hard day's toil.

Northland winger Savannah Bodman (right) was the only member of the home side to score against a resolute Otago defence. Photo / John Stone
Northland winger Savannah Bodman (right) was the only member of the home side to score against a resolute Otago defence. Photo / John Stone

Former Black Fern and Northland first five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali was a rock in the home side's backline and co-ordinated play as best she could in trying conditions.

Coach Smith, who sat with assistant coach Susan Dawson in the raised stands alongside the supporters, was pleased with Saturday's performance but acknowledged it was similar to last week's loss to Hawke's Bay.

Northland Kauri head coach Cheryl Smith (top right), seen here sitting next to assistant coach Susan Dawson, has plenty of belief in her team's ability. Photo / John Stone
Northland Kauri head coach Cheryl Smith (top right), seen here sitting next to assistant coach Susan Dawson, has plenty of belief in her team's ability. Photo / John Stone

"We started well then we sort of slipped away and it's the same thing as last week, we let three tries in before halftime," she said.

Despite the loss, Smith said it was game her team could be proud. However, with only one full team training a week, Smith felt they might have to increase that if the players wanted to succeed at this level.

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Northland first five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali showed her class and leadership well. Photo / John Stone
Northland first five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali showed her class and leadership well. Photo / John Stone

"They know that they are better than what they were [on Saturday] but we only train together as a team once a week, so for an hour and a half, I have to get them ready for 80 minutes of rugby."

Injury had already hit Northland hard with international locking pair Harono Te Iringa and Taylah Hodson-Tomokino unavailable due to head knocks received in the Hawke's Bay game.

The atmosphere at the Trigg Sports Arena was electric as Northland's women's team performed a haka before the game. Photo / John Stone
The atmosphere at the Trigg Sports Arena was electric as Northland's women's team performed a haka before the game. Photo / John Stone

Smith was buoyed by the great turnout from Northland rugby fans and said an emphatic win by the Northland women's under-18 team over Auckland East in the curtain-raiser showed great signs for the future.

"It was awesome to see everyone come out [on Saturday] but it's not a one-year goal, it's a three-year goal and I'm sure Northland knows that and it shows with how they turned out in force.

Over 200 people came out to support Northland in their first ever home game in the FPC, Northland captain Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate seen here leading her team out on to the pitch. Photo / John Stone
Over 200 people came out to support Northland in their first ever home game in the FPC, Northland captain Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate seen here leading her team out on to the pitch. Photo / John Stone

"The pathway has begun and those [under-18] girls can see there's a pathway for them, it's exciting for the future of Northland women's rugby."

The Northland Kauri next play North Harbour at Semenoff Stadium on Sunday at 2.05pm as part of a double header which will see the men's team play Bay of Plenty at 4.35pm.

Lock Eva Fulton (with ball) was a stand-out player for the Kauri in their first home outing. Photo / John Stone
Lock Eva Fulton (with ball) was a stand-out player for the Kauri in their first home outing. Photo / John Stone
Northland rugby legend Stacey Tupe (left) waits at halfback with while versatile flanker Trish Vaka pushes hard in the scrum. Photo / John Stone
Northland rugby legend Stacey Tupe (left) waits at halfback with while versatile flanker Trish Vaka pushes hard in the scrum. Photo / John Stone