Despite trailing 22-10 at one point, Whakarewarewa have stormed home to beat Waikite 36-22 in the opening round of Baywide women's rugby.
Waikite looked good early on Sunday, but tired in the second half, perhaps lacking match fitness after not being able to play in last weekend's pre-season tournament.
Whakarewarewa were actually the first team on the scoreboard, pouncing on a Waikite error in their own 22m. They kept the ball in hand before shifting the ball right for hooker Terri King to slide through a gap and score.
Waikite struck straight back after winning a penalty inside the Whakarewarewa 22m. They took a quick tap, shifted the ball left and winger Kaffy Trotter scored in the corner to make it 5-all.
The two sides went toe-to-toe for much of the first half but a yellow card to Waikite's Dolly Roberts swung the momentum Whakarewarewa's way and they capitalised with a try to first five Terina Mohi to take a 10-5 lead.
Once back to full strength, Waikite looked powerful with ball in hand and with 10 minutes left to play they equalised through Teresa Wahssy.
Whakarewarewa were down to 14 players late in the first half when lock Teiria Sandle was sin binned and this time it was Waikite who capitalised through prop Animei Skudder to lead 15-10 at halftime.
Whakarewarewa invited pressure early in the second half with an error inside their own 22m. Waikite kept the ball in hand, sucking in defenders, before spreading the ball wide for Roberts to go through a massive gap and score under the posts. She converted her own try for a 22-10 lead.
That is where the point scoring stopped for Waikite, who lost captain Eliza Stephens to an ankle injury and had another player sin binned 10 minutes into the half. Gaps were opening up in the defence and Whakarewarewa's talented backline began to exploit them.
Whakarewarewa had all the momentum and it paid dividends when lock Casey James crashed over from close range. They backed that up with a converted try to winger Tuhia Hohepa to make it 22-all.
With 15 minutes left to play Whakarewarewa fullback Nadia Flavell, whose lighting speed and electric footwork were a joy to watch all game, broke out of her own half and raced away to score and give her side a 29-22 lead.
Whakarewarewa halfback Nadine Stone, who also had an excellent game, sealed the win with a try on fulltime, on the back of a nice break by Mohi.
Whakarewarewa coach Ron James said it was an "enjoyable game" and he was proud of his players.
"We've got seven left from last year's team, so it's a pretty new team. We're going to learn more and more from this, we've got four or five girls who have never played before and their confidence just grew as the game went on," James said.
He was pleased with the fight his team showed to come back from 22-10 down.
"To come back and win 36-22 was really awesome. Our first five Terina Mohi [was a standout], she really stood up in the second half. Once she started taking ownership and taking the ball to the line, she showed her class."
Waikite coach Shane Wilson said his side played well for 65 minutes.
"It was just the 'F' word, fitness, that came into play at the end. [Missing the pre-season tournament] definitely hurt us, but we only had eight players available that day.
"There are a lot of promising signs out there, our backs were running quite well. We had a good staunch defensive line, but once fatigue set in it opened up," Wilson said.
Baywide women's rugby results
Rangataua 70 v Waimana 7
Rangiuru 98 v Rotoiti 0
Whakarewarewa 36 v Waikite 22