Bay of Plenty's Farah Palmer Cup campaign is over for another season after going down in their final round match against defending champs, Canterbury in Christchurch on Sunday. While the team was plagued with some injuries to their key players this season, it meant many of their younger and less experienced athletes got the chance to gain some valuable game-time experience, resulting in three wins from six games for the Volcanix. Reporter Adyn Ogle reports.
The Bay of Plenty Volcanix may have wrapped up their season with a 40-7 loss to Canterbury but coach Rodney Gibbs believes they have laid a solid platform for next year.
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Sunday's final-round Farah Palmer Cup premiership match had the Volcanix in a tough challenge against Canterbury, the defending champs, in Christchurch.
The Volcanix showed their character with a gritty first-half performance. Tynealle Fitzgerald scored the Bay's only try of the game just before half-time, trailing the home team 14-7 at the break.
But Canterbury would kick on in the second half with four tries to seal the win.
"The scoreline was a bit disappointing," Gibbs says.
"The attitude and the intent was really good and the girls were up for the game. They [Canterbury] scrambled on defence quite well and they are a good team. At that level you might only get a couple of opportunities and you have to nail them."
On the back of likely the most concentrated season for Bay of Plenty Rugby's women's high performance, Gibbs says the group, including the management team, has taken on massive learnings.
"I am proud of the growth and the understanding we now have of what we need to do at this level to compete. We are out of the area of just survival.
"There is a lot to it. First and foremost, we have to have the right athletes and that understanding of a performance environment. That is more than just a campaign, it is a year-long process. Obviously you need good players, which I am confident we have."
Captain Christie Yule backs up Gibbs' assessment of the team's development.
"I am proud of the progress they have shown and their ability to learn and then apply what they have learned," Yule says.
"[Next year] We want to be in the semifinals and be competitive. It is still about developing us as players and there are some areas we have developed that we now consider as strengths."
Yule says the team has a great coaching staff in Gibbs and his assistants Tanerau Latimer and Matt Wallis.
"It was always going to be a good test for the guys, they did really well in terms of how they responded to the many questions we had. They covered it and complimented each other well too."
Development and injuries to key players this season meant some of the Bay's young stars had their chance to shine.
"Some young kids were put in the game-driving roles and that is not easy at any level. Playing there not only put them in good stead, but they stood up really well."
There will be little rest for the group with a training block scheduled before Christmas as they look to capitalise on the platform they set this season.
"We have to grow our tactical awareness of the game. From a personal point of view, I had assumed a few things around game knowledge. I understand more now. We have learned a huge amount – as much as the playing group. One of those things is about being a bit clearer about what we need to focus on at certain times of the year."
Gibbs is hoping to retain as many of his players as he can to carry the continuity over to 2020. Gibbs says this week will be a review week for the team, including a training session tonight. Some players will transition into sevens rugby while others will play for the Black Ferns and be involved in New Zealand development squads.
Farah Palmer Cup premiership final points table:
Bay of Plenty 13