The final analysis reads three tries apiece with contrasting halves – the first featuring some frenetic, open rugby, while the second was more tactical and defence-oriented.
Rolling subs, 25-strong squads and 35-minute halves were some of the adjustments in the name of player welfare due to the Covid-19 disruptions in the delayed build-up to this inaugural competition.
There was no Kendra Cocksedge for Matatū, nor Chelsea Semple (nee Alley) or Stacey Fluhler for the Chiefs.
Stepping forward was Matatū opensider Lucy Jenkins, the game’s outstanding figure, tigerish on the ball, industrious around the field and a useful lineout option.
After two unique haka, the Chiefs ripped into their work, intent on spreading the ball at will. Wing Portia Woodman looked good but had few opportunities. Matatū were equal to the task on defence and stretched but did not break.
Funnily enough, it was the props who crossed the line first, Angel Mulu for the Chiefs scored the first try in Aupiki, while Pip Love for Matatū went over after an Amy du Plessis thrust.
Chiefs wing Ruby Tui dived over in the corner off a cutout pass by Kelly Brazier, whose jinky footwork was a feature of the opening exchanges.
Tui had her hands full with Matatu’s Grace Steinmetz, who scored in the corner off a scrum and good hands on the blindside. That may have been her first touch, but she showed her range of skills thereafter. The last pass came from second five Liv McGoverne, who was penetrative all night.
An opportunistic piece of play by Chiefs fullback Hazel Tubic led to a try to the dynamic No 8 Kennedy Simon from a Victoria Edmonds offload. Simon ran for 20m to finish, and it was 17-10 after 31 minutes. Who would have known that would be the last scoring until the final throes?
The second spell was a much different affair, both sides very solid on defence, forcing errors and kicking for position more often. Matatū had the best chance, but hooker Georgia Ponsonby lost the ball over the line after a lineout drive. Still, the underdogs worked the inside channels and their passing game was slicker than the Chiefs, who started to look ragged.
The Chiefs scrum, however, came to the rescue in the closing stages, led by tighthead Tanya Kalounivale. It was just enough.
In the third minute of added time, Matatū prop Amy Rule latched onto an inside pass by fullback Renee Holmes and scored in the corner. Arabella McKenzie’s tough conversion just missed right.
There were passages of stirring rugby amidst plenty of errors. But the intent was there and the spectacle was a pleasing one for the restricted spectators. Onwards and upwards.
Round two next Tuesday at the same venue will pit Hurricanes Poua against Chiefs Manawa (3.35pm) and Blues versus Matatū (7.05pm).
Chiefs Manawa 17 (Angel Mulu, Ruby Tui, Kennedy Simon tries; Kelly Brazier con) Matatū 15 (Pip Love, Grace Steinmetz, Amy Rule tries) HT: 17-10 Chiefs Manawa