New Zealand held out on their own tryline to beat England and retain the Women’s World Cup in a thrilling final that featured 65 points and 11 tries in Auckland on Saturday.
New Zealand’s running game trumped England’s power in a 34-31 victory that saw the Black Ferns win back-to-back World Cup titles.
Winger Ayesha Leti-I’iga put the Black Ferns ahead with their sixth try and they held on in a dramatic finish at Eden Park to halt England’s world-record winning streak at 30 matches.
England played three-quarters of the game with 14 players after winger Lydia Thompson was shown a red card for a head-high tackle but they still nearly pulled off victory thanks to the ferocity of their forward play.
Four of England’s five tries came from lineout drives, including a hat-trick to hooker Amy Cokayne, and they were handed a chance to snatch victory in the dying minutes.
However, two lineout drives were repelled by the home team on their tryline and when England knocked-on, a record home crowd of 40,000 erupted in noise.
It completed a metamorphosis for New Zealand under veteran former All Blacks coach Wayne Smith, who was introduced this year after the Black Ferns were thrashed twice by England a year ago.
Smith had steered the Black Ferns to 11 straight wins but his team were still underdogs against a Red Roses side he labelled one of the best teams in the history of men’s or women’s rugby.
His team stayed true to the breathless, attacking style they had used with success all tournament and it ultimately triumphed over England’s efficient, power-based game, roared on by a world-crowd for women’s rugby.
New Zealand captain Ruahei Demant said her team’s turnaround in fortunes was one the country should savour.
“It’s been really challenging. Last year we went on a northern tour and we got pumped,” Demant said.
“The way that the players have turned themselves around, there’s a lot that’s unseen. We’ve sacrificed so much to get one chance in a lifetime to win a World Cup at home, and we did it.”
Earlier in the day, France clinched another women’s Rugby World Cup consolation prize when they thrashed Canada 36-0 in the bronze-medal match in Auckland on Saturday.
The French led 22-0 at halftime and scored five tries in a dominant performance.
Les Bleues have finished third in seven of the nine World Cup tournaments, having never qualified for the final.
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