The third week of the Women’s Rugby World Cup has wrapped up and Cheree Kinnear recaps the news from all six games. Video / Photosport / © Rugby World Cup Limited
A huge crowd brought a colourful and celebratory vibe to the latest Women’s Rugby World Cup matches in Whangārei on Saturday, with thousands of supporters from around the world revelling in the party atmosphere along
with Kiwis from around the country.
A crowd of almost 17,000 – the largest seen at the Northland Events Centre for years – packed into the stadium, making plenty of noise as they cheered on the teams taking part in the matches: Australia v Wales, New Zealand v Scotland, and Fiji v France.
Supporters came in their droves, with plenty of Scottish, Fijian, French, Australian and Welsh fans present and with their flags and colours showing, creating a big buzz. But what really swelled the numbers was the thousands of Black Ferns fans who turned up in force from around Northland and the rest of the country to back the women in black.
And they were treated to an outstanding display from the New Zealand side, who hammered the Scots 57-0.
The Black Ferns were captained in the game by Northland halfback Arihiana Marino-Tauhinu, and her fellow Northlander, prop Krystal Murray – who led the haka – came on early in the second half to give the home province fans even more to cheer about.
When Marino-Tauhinu was named Black Ferns captain for the match against Scotland, she spoke about how proud she was, and dedicated the honour to her late father, Francis.
She said her dad would have been so proud, as were her whole whānau, to witness her rise from being a member of a small Far North community to leading her country on the global stage in the WRWC.
And many of her large whānau from the Far North and Auckland were in the crowd at Northland Events Centre to show their support and pride.
They expressed the huge pride they have for Marino-Tauhinu and her helming the Black Ferns in her home region.
So, how did they predict she would perform?
“100 per cent, for sure. She always gives 100 per cent.”
They know that having her so prominent on the world stage will inspire other young female Northlanders to chase their dreams.
Whangārei’s Renee Clark had hoped to attend earlier World Cup games at the Northland Events Centre but hadn’t been able to, so she was determined to get there on Saturday to watch the Black Ferns.
Clark said it was awesome to have the games in her home town, and it was great to see so many people there to support them.
That level of support was illustrated by around 75 per cent of the fans leaving immediately after the Black Ferns v Scotland game – but those that remained still saw some great rugby and enjoyed the atmosphere.
Whangārei Fijians Kunal, Sarvag, Anur and Ragni Shankar turned up to support their team in their game against France. Ragni Shankar said she had lived here for 16 years and was delighted to see her beloved Fijiana in the city.
“We’re here to support our team, and I’m delighted to be supporting our team in Whangārei. We’ve been to the Hamilton Sevens [to support the team] so it’s good to be able to see them here.”
Perhaps the strangest group of supporters were garbed all in white – six members of the Rugbycorp group who came along dressed as brides.
The six, Aucklanders Richard Everitt, Scott Cordes, Warwick Lewis, Stephen Flint, Ian Little and Todd Thorne, were there to show that the Black Ferns were no longer the bridesmaids in New Zealand rugby.
The Rugbycorp members have been attending sporting events across the globe in their wedding finery for the last 15 years.
They’ve been to two men’s Rugby World Cups, and while in Whangārei they also took the time to visit some of the city’s attractions – though not in their game-day whites.
■ This Saturday, World Cup quarter-finals 1 and 2 will be held at the Northland Events Centre, in Whangārei, with the first at 4.30pm and the second at 7.30pm.