History made as Whanganui Metro Women earn first MRU victory

By Jared Smith

It went from the worst of times to the very best for the St Johns Whanganui Metro, who created history with their first victory in three seasons of the MRU Women’s competition on Saturday.

After a heavy loss to four-time consecutive champions Kia Toa RFC seven days prior, Metro’s inner belief was brought to the fore with their 34-15 victory over newcomers Wairarapa Wahine Toa at the Kaierau Country Club.

“Coming into the weekend, as a leadership group, we made it clear to the girls that we just need to go out there and just be absolutely relentless,” said prop Lavenia Nauga-Grey.

“We started off very well. [Wairarapa] pushed through their big ball carriers at us, that’s how they came back for their two tries.”

The Metro backline was outstanding, even when their franchise player Riana Tamati had to come off for a blood bin in the first quarter.

Stepping up in her absence was Keilani Tyrell, daughter of former Samoan test player and local legend Denning.

“She brought a nice, calm presence to the halfback role,” said Nauga-Grey.

Also shining was Learna Nepia, in her first game for Metro after recovering from both Covid-19 and a hamstring injury.

“She just played absolutely amazing – ran the ball hard, foot work was amazing.”

Former Black Fern Sosoli Talawadua led by example with some big tackles and some tactical kicking as well.

The Country Club was filled with whanau of the team, who gave boisterous support.

In one of the best compliments of the day, one of the rookie Metro players overheard two little girls in the clubrooms saying to each other they had to go out and watch the team play – when you’re trying to grow the women’s game locally, you can’t hope to hear better.

Metro will try to keep their momentum going when they play Ashhurst Pohangina RFC at Spriggens Park on Saturday.

Meanwhile, it was an inauspicious start to St Johns Whanganui Metro Colt’s defence of the Gordon Brown Memorial Cup, after a 34-20 loss to Te Kawau RFC in Rongotea.

A new-look team in the MRU Colts competition after the departure of regulars like Jack O’Leary, Keightley Watson, Joey Devine, Jacob Gedye and Sam Cosford among others – the scramble for WRFU Premier and Senior teams to confirm last-minute status of other players meant Metro had a disrupted build-up to the season opener.

“Really scrappy – we had 10 or 11 at training, then on Saturday we had 22,” said coach Mark Cosford, staying on for one more season.

“A bit awkward to work on moves and lineout calls before kickoff.”

Te Kawau, meanwhile, had a couple of preseason fixtures, and ultimately out-scored Metro five tries to four, with successful goal kicking widening the margin.

Winger Justin Ferguson got a double for Metro, with the other tries coming from Sebastian Devine and player-of-the-day halfback Jerome McKenna, all three being squad members from the previous season, with Devine following in the footsteps of his brothers.

“The younger ones from last year, I’ve got a core of 8-9 and some new boys coming through,” said Cosford.

He will be joined by Ricky Winterburn as assistant coach, having had success with the City College 1st XV, with an eye to Winterburn taking over the head coach role in 2023.

Metro have the bye in their nine-team competition this weekend, before facing Bush SC at their park on May 14.