New Zealand were crowned world champions after beating title-holders England 41-32 in the Women’s World Cup final in Belfast on Saturday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
There was very little to choose between the two best sides heading into this clash, and that was the case throughout the final as the Red Roses and Black Ferns combined to produce an instant classic.
In a top quality game, played at a high tempo, the momentum swung one way then the other and back again, and so did the lead. Loosehead prop Toka Natua grabbed a hat-trick for New Zealand, while centre Lydia Thompson bagged a brace for England.
England looked in control, but failed to get a breakthrough early on. Instead, New Zealand ran in a try against the run of play at the other end. From turnover possession, Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali exercised a kick-pass, and fullback Selica Winiata got a favourable bounce and scored.
But then New Zealand’s Sarah Goss received a yellow card for a tip-tackle and England pounced. They responded in emphatic style by scoring 17 unanswered points via a penalty by Emily Scarratt, a penalty try and a try from Thompson.
New Zealand were not deterred and hit back on the stroke of half-time when Natua stretched out and scored from close range to make it a seven-point game at the break.
England’s physical prowess waned in the second half and the Black Ferns seized control. Natua streaked over for her second try and with the conversion, the scores were level at 17 apiece.
A penalty by Scarratt put England back in the ascendancy, only for New Zealand lock Charmaine Smith to etch her name on to the scoresheet after a scintillating break by Stacey Waaka.
The Red Roses would strike and hit the front again, this time through Thompson, but that signalled their last real opportunity to stay in the fight.
Unlike England, the Black Ferns sustained their pace and power when on attack and that saw them score three straight tries, via Natua, Winiata and scrumhalf Kendra Cocksedge for a 41-25 lead with nine minutes to play.
And while England snuck in a late converted effort, it was little consolation as they were toppled by the Black Ferns, who claimed their fifth world title.
England – Tries: Penalty try, Lydia Thompson (2), Izzy Noel-Smith. Conversions: Emily Scarratt (2). Penalties: Scarratt (2).
New Zealand – Tries: Selica Winiata (2), Toka Natua (3), Stacey Waaka, Kendra Cocksedge. Conversions: Cocksedge (3).
England – 15 Emily Scarratt, 14 Lydia Thompson, 13 Megan Jones, 12 Rachael Burford, 11 Kay Wilson, 10 Katy Mclean, 9 Natasha Hunt, 8 Sarah Hunter (c), 7 Marlie Packer, 6 Alex Matthews, 5 Tamara Taylor, 4 Abbie Scott, 3 Sarah Bern, 2 Amy Cokayne, 1 Vickii Cornborough
Subs: 16 Vicky Fleetwood, 17 Rochelle Clark, 18 Justine Lucas, 19 Harriet Millar-Mills, 20 Izzy Noel-Smith, 21 La Toya Mason, 22 Amber Reed, 23 Amy Wilson Hardy.
New Zealand – 15 Selica Winiata, 14 Portia Woodman, 13 Stacey Waaka, 12 Kelly Brazier, 11 Renee Wickliffe, 10 Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, 9 Kendra Cocksedge, 8 Aroha Savage, 7 Sarah Goss, 6 Charmaine McMenamin, 5 Charmaine Smith, 4 Eloise Blackwell, 3 Aldora Itunu, 2 Fiao’o Faamausili (c), 1 Toka Natua
Subs: 16 Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate, 17 Sosoli Talawadua, 18 Aleisha Nelson, 19 Rebecca Wood, 20 Lesley Ketu, 21 Kristina Sue, 22 Theresa Fitzpatrick, 23 Carla Hohepa.