Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images
Canterbury lock Cindy Nelles crashes over to score on fulltime during the Farah Palmer Cup final.
A wasteful Canterbury recovered from three blown try-scoring opportunities to win their fourth consecutive Farah Palmer Cup title in dramatic fashion.
But they certainly made hard work of it, shading Waikato 8-7 in an error-ridden final at Rugby Park in Christchurch on Saturday after lock Cindy Nelles crashed over to score the game-winning try in the 81st minute.
“We know this Canterbury team is an 80 minute team and we put that out there,” Canterbury halfback Kendra Cocksedge said.
“We’ll definitely be doing some celebrations. It’s a four-peat and you’ve got to celebrate your success and our girls have had an awesome season.”
* Canterbury prop Pip Love overcomes gruesome broken finger for humdinger final
* Why World Rugby don’t allow HIA replacements in the Farah Palmer Cup
* Black Ferns’ contenders have big chance to stake selection claim
The much-improved Waikato could smell victory after No. 8 Kennedy Simon scored in the 65th minute to cancel out a first half penalty to Cocksedge, which she slotted from right in front.
But they were left heartbroken when Nelles spied a hole in their impenetrable defence to deliver Canterbury a fourth straight title when it looked like it was going to slip through their fingers – literally.
Winger Sam Curtis and centre Grace were both guilty of knocking the ball on over the try-line during a scarcely believed 10-minute period where Canterbury blew three certain tries.
“Far out it was tough,” Cocksedge said. “When I was out there I was thinking ‘my God, I think this might be one of the toughest games I’ve been a part of in my whole career and I’ve played in World Cup finals’.
“We made some mistakes in that first half and credit to them [Waikato] because in that second half they came at us but we’re pretty proud to fight till the death at the end there.”
Waikato also came up short in the first half with Cocksedge pulling off a crucial try saving tackle to deny danger-woman Stacey Fluhler following a free-flowing sequence down the right.
Waikato second-five Chelsea Alley struck the post from a penalty attempt on halftime after spraying an earlier effort wide of the target.
Canterbury finished undefeated for the second straight season.
“We gave it all as you can see,” Alley said. “Canterbury are a bloody classy side and they need to be really proud, but I’m just so proud of my girls for the season we’ve had.
“We’re not broken yet. We’ll be back next year bigger and better than ever, ready to go again.”
Canterbury 8 (Cindy Nelles try, Kendra Cocksedge pen) Waikato 7 (Kennedy Simon try, Chelsea Alley con)