Counties Manukau profited from a strong start holding on to beat Akarana 24-16 to win the Bobby Vercoe Cup in today’s historic women’s curtain-raiser ahead of the Vodafone Warriors’ Women in League match against Penrith at Mount Smart Stadium.

The Stingrays made a hot start, rattling on three tries in the opening 10 minutes to fullback Langi Veainu, hooker Krystal Rota and wing Mary-Jane Ale.

Faced with a 0-14 deficit, Akarana needed to regroup quickly and did, settling down and coming back strongly with two tries.

The first went to captain and hooker Georgia Hale backing up on the inside to ice a long-range attack before loose forward Toru Arakura powered up to go over, cutting the margin 10-14.

The Falcons were coming up at Counties Manukau, threatening to score again but the Stingrays held out until the break.

They made a sharp start to the second half, Kiwi Fern Teuila Fotu-Moala sending halfback Kimiora Nati over on a short side play, giving the Stingrays an 18-10 lead.

The eight-point margin didn’t last long as Akarana prop Amber Hall took plenty of defenders with scoring under the crossbar for Arakura to convert.

The contest was down to just two points at 18-16 in the Stingrays’ favour but they came up with defining moment came when centre Amber Kani put on some dazzling footwork to cross. With the conversion Counties Manukau was eight points clear again at 24-18.

There was time left for the Falcons to fashion another comeback but they couldn’t make an impression in the final minutes as the Stingrays held on to claim the claim the Bobby Vercoe Trophy.

Veainu won the MVP trophy, also presented by Vercoe, a long-time supporter of the women’s game.   

Match details | Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland

Akarana Falcons 16 (Georgia Hale, Toru Arakura, Amber Hall tries; Laishon Jones conversion; Toru Arakura conversion).

Counties Manukau Stingrays 24 (Langi Veainu, Krystal Rota, Mary-Jane Ale, Kimiora Nati, Amber Kani tries; Kimiora Nati 2 conversions).

Halftime: 14-10 Stingrays.

Teams:

Akarana Falcons | Tasha Davie; Madison Bartlett, Sharlene Atai, Va’anessa Molia-Fraser, Lara Diamond-Brahne; Alexandra Cook, Laishon Jones; Amber Paris-Hall, Georgia Hale (c), Contessah Wright; Alice Vailea, Annetta Nuuausala; Ngatokutoru Arakua. Interchange: Montana Taogaga, Lani Latoa-Williams, Tanika-Jazz Bell, Cesa Luafalealo, Elizabeth Golding.

Head coach | Ross Uele.

Counties Manukau Stingrays | Langi Veainu; Jocephy Daniels, Atawhai Tupaea, Amber Kani, Mary-Jane Ale; Sarina Fiso (c), Kimiora Nati; Lilieta Maumau, Krystal Rota, Harata Butler; Teuila Fotu-Moala, Kelly Maipi; Louisa Gago. Interchange: Hilda Peters, Billy-Jean Ale, Manutala’aho Huni, Geneva Webber, Aleasha Brider.

Head coach | Shaun Clark.