The Northland/Auckland rivalry has been set alight in women's rugby as Auckland edged out a narrow win over the Kauri in the two sides' first meeting in almost 20 years.
Despite a strong start for the visitors at Whangārei's Semenoff Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon, the Kauri worked their way back into the lead. However, 15 unanswered points from the Storm saw them claim a 29-22 win.
Playing in front of under 100 people in the stands, Auckland started strongly with two tries in the first 15 minutes to Theresa Fitzpatrick and Ruahei Demant to extend their lead to 14-3.
Staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat, the Kauri immediately hit back through some individual brilliance from first five Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali who ripped the ball away from the Auckland halfback and scored Northland's first try.
Five minutes later, Black Ferns Sevens star Tyla Nathan-Wong, playing at halfback, received the ball from Aroha Savage off the back of the scrum and crashed over the tryline.
Savage was in the action herself 10 minutes later after receiving a great offload from forward Krystal Murray and putting on one of her trademark steps to beat the last defender and score.
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Up 22-14, the Kauri looked dominant going into the second half against one of the best teams in the Farah Palmer Cup.
However, the Aucklanders hit back within 30 seconds after the restart with a mistake from Northland seeing 16-year-old Sylvia Brunt toe ahead the loose ball and score in acrobatic style.
Despite the setback, the Kauri kept fighting to protect their 22-19 lead and fashioned some good chances to increase it, only to fall at the last hurdle. Auckland soon equalised through a penalty from Patricia Maliepo.
Auckland, who had underutilised their backline speed all game, finally spread the ball wide with 20 minutes to go and Fitzpatrick scored her second, taking back the lead at 29-22.
What followed was a dramatic finish as Auckland looked set to score again as they camped in Northland's 22-metre zone.
However, simple errors from the visitors gave possession back to the Kauri who stormed up the field thanks to an enterprising run from Nathan-Wong, who was then hit in a late tackle by replacement back Princess Elliot who was then yellow-carded.
The ensuing penalty and one-player advantage almost paid dividends for the Kauri who, in the final seconds of the game, came within one metre of scoring and potentially tying the game.
A knock-on right at the Auckland tryline from Murray gave away possession and the Kauri, try as they might, couldn't regain the ball from the scrum before the final hooter sounded.
"We had everything to gain today," Kauri captain Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate said.
"To have [Auckland] even be up here, a top side, was next level, very privileged."
Ngata-Aerengamate speculated the last time a Northland women's team played Auckland was in the early 2000s, before many of today's players had been born.
The Northland hooker, who traveled further from her home in the Far North than even the Auckland players to play in Whangārei, was proud of her team and hoped the side's younger players would learn from the experience.
"[There was] just a bit of jitters from our younger players, but now they've got a taste of it so next time, I reckon they'll lift."
Auckland captain Eloise Blackwell, who does whakapapa back to Tai Tokerau, commended the Kauri forward pack.
"I think one of the true assets for the Kauri is their forward pack, they're strong, they carry hard, they're fearless, they don't care who's in front of them and I love that about the Northland girls."
Blackwell highlighted Auckland's Aleisha-Pearl Nelson, who was raised in Kaihu, playing her 70th Farah Palmer Cup in her home region.
"For [Nelson] to run out on her 70th game on home soil, it's such a privilege and she always gives back to the Northland community and it's awesome for her to be recognised."
While Nelson was knackered after the physical game, the prop was all smiles having played the milestone game in Northland.
"It's really hard to put into words because I'm torn, Northland is my home but Auckland is my team, so it was pretty amazing to play my 70th game against the Kauri."
Kauri head coach Cheryl Smith was disappointed to not to draw the game in the final moments, but expressed her pride in the performance.
Smith, a former Black Fern, speculated she may have played in the last contest between Northland and Auckland, playing for the latter.
While the result against Auckland was the Kauri's second loss in two games, Smith said their effort against the competition's frontrunners sent a clear message to future opposition.
"After today, it's sending a message to the other teams that Northland's here to play."
The Kauri next play Counties Manukau in Pukekohe on September 27, broadcasted live on Sky Sport.