Eng­land’s tears

Red Roses en­dure the pain of World Cup fi­nal de­feat

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Kate Rowan at the Kingspan Sta­dium, Belfast

New Zealand were crowned Women’s Rugby World Cup cham­pi­ons for the fifth time beat­ing hold­ers Eng­land 41-32 af­ter a breath­less game that will go down as a clas­sic fi­nal of both the men’s and women’s game.

For the ma­jor­ity of the tour­na­ment, New Zealand’s match-day 23 was made up of 17 am­a­teurs and just six play­ers on sevens con­tracts, this is sure to fur­ther the de­bate sur­round­ing pro­fes­sional con­tracts for women’s XVs play­ers as Eng­land were the only side in the tour­na­ment to field a pro­fes­sional side.

Head coach Si­mon Mid­dle­ton’s charges looked sharp un­til the hour­mark but the Black Ferns showed that ruth­less streak Kiwi teams are famed for. None was more ruth­less than player of the match, loose-head prop Toka Natua, who scored a hat-trick.

A talking point in the build-up to the fi­nal was Mid­dle­ton’s de­ci­sion to start Emily Scar­ratt at full-back – due to in­jury en­forced ab­sence of Danielle Water­man – rather than the No13 role she has made her own. Meg Jones, 20, joined vet­eran Rachael Bur­ford at cen­tre. De­spite a bright early show­ing from Eng­land’s for­wards and fly-half, and ar­chi­tect-in-chief, Katy Mclean; New Zealand drew first blood. Full­back Sel­ica Wini­ata ran through for the open­ing try of the fi­nal off the back of a cross-field kick. Scrum-half Ken­dra Cocksedge could not add the ex­tras.

Af­ter an in­jury scare, Scar­ratt looked in fine form mak­ing a burst for the Red Roses to en­ter New Zealand’s 22. Min­utes later she nailed a penalty awarded due to a dan­ger­ous tackle by Natua.

Black Ferns open­side Sarah Goss, who played on the same high school team in New Zealand as Eng­land’s hooker Amy Cokayne, was shown the yel­low card by Ir­ish ref­eree Joy Neville af­ter a hor­i­zon­tal tip-tackle on Mclean.

With the one-woman ad­van­tage, Eng­land looked to cap­i­talise push­ing to­ward the five-me­tre line but New Zealand’s rush de­fence was ef­fec­tive. Some­thing had to give and Eng­land looked to score through blind side Alex Matthews but, when Ir­ish TMO Si­mon McDow­ell was con­sulted, she was deemed to be held up.

With a five-me­tre scrum, the English front row put in a heroic ef­fort and Sarah Hunter showed why she is re­garded as the best in the world at the base of scrum and her side were awarded a penalty try, putting them ahead for the first time af­ter 24 min­utes.

Eng­land pulled fur­ther ahead thanks to a try from wing Ly­dia Thompson, who had to leave the 2014 World Cup in France due to in­jury – a sweet mo­ment for the 25-year-old. Scar­ratt showed class from the tee with her con­ver­sion.

New Zealand ral­lied in the fi­nal min­utes of the first half and were re­warded by a try from Natua. Cocksedge again

could not add the ex­tra two points. The first half ended 17-10 to Eng­land.

When New Zealand were awarded a penalty early in the sec­ond half, they chose to kick to the cor­ner, show­ing their in­tent.

Fly-half Vic­to­ria Subritzky-Nafa­tali looked dan­ger­ous with ball in hand so close to Eng­land’s line, help­ing to set up Natua to score her sec­ond. This time Cocksedge’s kick was on point to level the game.

Eng­land revved back into ac­tion and were re­warded with a penalty from a tricky an­gle as No8 Aroha Sav­age failed to re­lease the ball, which Scar­ratt again nailed to edge her side ahead.

New Zealand went on the ram­page from the restart. Lock Charmaine Smith crashed over and Cocksedge con­verted to take the Black Ferns four points ahead. But Eng­land hit back as Thompson flew up the wing to score her sec­ond try.

Scar­ratt missed the dif­fi­cult con­ver­sion, her first miss of the night, mean­ing that Eng­land were back a point ahead. The breath­less na­ture of the fi­nal con­tin­ued when the Black Ferns tram­pled up the field with Natua se­cur­ing her hat-trick. With the suc­cess­ful con­ver­sion, New Zealand went back ahead.

Try-scor­ing ma­chine Por­tia Wood­man had been rel­a­tively quiet but made a swash­buck­ling di­ag­o­nal run to place her close to the English line. Af­ter a pe­riod camped on the line, Cocksedge pushed over and con­verted her own try to take to score line to 25-36.

New Zealand’s con­fi­dence grew with the 11-point cush­ion and the bal­letic

The Ki­wis showed the ruth­less streak that New Zealand teams are fa­mous for

Wini­ata danced over the line to put her side 16 points ahead.

With 10 min­utes to go, the Black Ferns had one hand on the tro­phy and con­tin­ued to press, with the English de­fence look­ing in­creas­ingly flus­tered.

Yet Eng­land would not wane and, with less than four min­utes on the clock, re­place­ment Izzy Noel-Smith crashed over and, with an­other ac­cu­rate kick from Scar­ratt, Eng­land clawed them­selves back to within nine points but it was too lit­tle too late to re­tain their hold on the World Cup.

End of the road: The Eng­land play­ers con­sole each other af­ter los­ing the World Cup Fi­nal in Belfast last night in a game that show­cased the sport to an au­di­ence of mil­lions

Cham­pi­ons again: the Black Ferns cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning the Women’s Rugby World Cup; Toka Natua, be­low, goes over for New Zealand

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