Iti Rearea Sneak Past Mahuika To Win U16 Girls Grand Final

In 2022 we added yet another 2 U16 girls teams to the contest and it continues to grow. A gruelling competition, none the less the rugby league was fast and furious, and it was the new team on the block, Iti Rearea who emerged victorious in a tricky final against last years champions Mahuika. With the women’s and girl’s games growing every year, and the standards always going up, this final was always going to be one to be looked forward too.

Iti Rearea were the dominant team during the pool stages. They swept aside everyone in their pool games, dealing out big scores against RLSWA, Ngati Kahungunu and PNG Red Dust on the Saturday, and completed the treatment with a dominant victory over Tonga on Sunday morning, to finish a dominant top of the table, with only 4 points against, and 84 points scored for. With strong forwards, fast backs and some smart playmakers, they were the heavy favourites heading into the finals. Even a brave performance from Pikiao Warriors, who pushed the girls in green in their semi final, had everyone thinking Rearea was the side to beat.

But beware the defending champions. Mahuika didn’t have it all their own way in the pool stages, as they dropped their second game to a strong Cook Islands team. And even though they won their other games without much fuss off the back of some great individual performances against Tonga, Ngati Kahungunu and RLSWA, it didn’t seem like they were quite clicking as a team. But that all vanished on sunday when they played one of the tournament heavyweights again in Cook Islands, and put them to the sword in their best performance of the finals. Were the ladies in black and red finally hitting their stride at the right time.

After a spirited cutural exchange from the Mahuika ladies, the game started in fast fashion with both teams choosing to run it on final tackle for their sets and going close to scoring. If not for some great cover defence on both sides of the ball, either side could have taken the lead early, with Makaea Monk and Chevy Brinkworth looking dangerous for both teams. An error from Iti Rearea gave the Mahuika the first chance to score, and when Macalice Hogan-Tule broke through 3 tackles, it looked like Mahuika would score through Hokimai Tukiwaho, only to be denied by a brilliant ball and all tackle from Leona Yusia. But Mahuika and their supporters wouldn’t have to wait long. Shontay Hokianga broke through 3 tackles and gave the ball to Kuini Nama who unleashed speedster Brinkworth, and a brilliant conversion from Bella Houghton put Mahuika up 6-0 and hold that lead till halftime.

In the second half, Terina Tetana found the sideline off the kickoff, to give Rearea their first shot of the game at the line and they looked like they would score straight away, but Yusia dropped the ball with the line wide open for Mahuika to survive. But with Jessica Kaukau pulling the strings, it wouldn’t take them long for them to get another chance. And Rimu Pomare scooped the ball up from dummy half after a quick play the ball, and scored under the sticks. Tetana kicked the conversion, and it was 6-6 and game on.

But Sienna Hodge-Cekic restored the lead a minute later. Off the restart Mahuika drove the ball deep into the Rearea territory and on the front foot. Getting the ball 10 metres out on the last tackle, Sienna just decided enough was enough and run right over the top of the Rearea defence to put them up 10-6. A crucial missed conversion, kept the door open for a normal time win. And the try seemed to wake up the girls in green. Terina Tetana had a searching run and was tackled a metre from the line, before Kahurererangi Reti scored from dummy half, to leave Tetana a big, but not easy kick to put her side in front. And she made no mistake. Iti Rearea lead 12-10 with not long left.

Off the tap off it looked like Mahuika would make a big play to try steal the game back, but a loose ball was scooped up by Sydney Kaukau who scorched away and although she was tackled, it was enough as two tackles later the siren went in the background. The Iti Rearea girls and supporters were celebrating, while the Mahuika girls can be super proud of their effort as they pushed the favourites right to the edge.