Canada international Nelles scores match-winning try in New Zealand women's final

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Canada international Cindy Nelles crashed over in the 81st minute to help Canterbury secure their fourth successive New Zealand women’s provincial title with an 8-7 victory over Waikato in Christchurch on Saturday.

Waikato were leading 7-3 and within sight of their first Farah Palmer Cup when Nelles received the ball from New Zealand international scrumhalf Kendra Cocksedge and smashed over to score the home side’s only try and end the game.

“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’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.”

The victory ensured Canterbury were unbeaten for the second successive season.

The women’s provincial championship was in danger of not being played at all this year due to the financial stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand Rugby, however, said earlier this year that because the world champion Black Ferns were unable to play any tests and the country was hosting the women’s World Cup in 2021 it was imperative the competition was played.

“Canterbury have set the benchmark in recent seasons and continued to do so in 2020 so it is fitting to see them lift the title,” NZR’s head of women’s rugby Cate Sexton said.

“I want to pay credit to the efforts of all teams in what has been a challenging year, but the final product saw some of the best Farah Palmer Cup action in recent times.”

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Michael Perry