Red Roses wilt against Black Ferns onslaught
NEW ZEALAND, shocked at their failure to reach the 2014 final, finally erased that stain from their memories with a powerhouse performance in the second half that England simply could not match.
Five of New Zealand’s seven tries came after the break as they moved smoothly up through the gears with their inspired pack providing the platform for the sweetest of wins.
England had provided stern opposition for the first 40 minutes, indeed they led at half-time, but although their heads never dropped and they took what chances came their way the prospect of victory gradually slipped away as the second half progressed. They were well beaten on the night.
No Women’s World Cup Final has yet taken place without England or New Zealand taking centre stage and these two sides always looked destined to duke it out again this year although France are a coming force and made England dig deep in the most physical of semifinals in midweek, a contest that one or two England players were possibly still feeling in their legs.
England had fancied their chances though. Their impressive win over New Zealand in Rotorua this summer was founded firmly on their forward strength and England were quick to employ all that power in the opening exchanges last night as they laid siege to the New Zealand line
The Kiwis resisted extremely well, winning the physical exchanges which rather set the tone for the evening and then struck first with a fine try from full-back Selica Winiata who used her sprinter’s speed to latch onto a cross field kick from fly-half Victoria Subritzky-Nafatal. Winiata might have enjoyed the luck of the bounce but she still had Emily Scarratt to beat which she did in some style.
Scarratt, who had moved to full-back for the final after the concussion to Danielle Waterman in the semi-final, twisted her left ankle in attempting the challenge and needed some strapping before she could continue.
No serious damage done, however, and moments later Scarratt was crashing her way down the right wing with a powerful surge before she got England on the scoreboard with a simple shot in front of the posts after New Zealand strayed offside in a ruck.
The exchanges were intense, as you would expect, but New Zealand flanker Sarah Goss overcooked it in the 20th minute when she lifted Katy McLean off her feet in a completing a big hit. It wasn't a shocker and McLean landed on her side but it was undoubtedly worth the yellow card she received.
England immediately upped the intensity as they looked to use their numerical advantage. Alex Matthews forced her way over the line but couldn’t get the touchdown but from the resulting scrum Sarah Hunter controlled the ball superbly at her feet as England marched the scrum forward. The shorthanded Kiwi scrum disintegrated and a penalty try and the automatic conversion was England’s reward.
The force was with England and even the return of Goss couldn’t stem the flow as the Red Roses streamed forward to stretch their lead further on the half hour with a cracking try
from right wing Lydia Thompson after a delightful break by Rachael Burford. Kay Wilson carried on the move and Katy McLean fired out a quick pass for Thompson who lasered in on the line. Scarratt added the extras with a magnificent touchline conversion.
At 17-5 up England were beginning to build a decisive lead and New Zealand needed to strike next, which they did just before half-time when prop Toka Natua stretched to touchdown after a patient build up by the Kiwis.
New Zealand were quickest out of the blocks after the break and Natua was soon on the scoresheet again when she ploughed over from short range after the powerful SubritzkyNafatal had shown excellent feet close to the line. Kendra Cocksedge added the relatively simple conversion and suddenly it was all level.
All to play for, and although Scarratt added a second penalty New Zealand finally regained the lead when big Charmaine Smith had the presence of mind to touchdown on the padding on the base of the post after a period of intense Kiwi pressure. Back came England with a blazing second try from Thompson who took flight down the right wing leaving even a known speedster like Portia Woodman in her wake. England, for a matter of seconds, were back in the lead but from the restart the remarkable Natua struck for her hat-trick try although perhaps there was the hint of a knock on when she went to ground en route and regathered herself.
New Zealand, with their excellent ball retention, scarcely allowing England a glimpse of the ball, then went for the jugular and after another intense barrage the alert scrum-half Cocksedge just managed to force her way over to put some daylight between the two sides.
Deep into the final quarter and it was all one way traffic as New Zealand poured on the pressure and there was no way back after Winiata scored in the corner after another crossfield kick had scored havoc in the England defence. A late England try by Izzy Noel Smith added a little gloss to their tally but there was never any hint of a miracle England comeback.
We’ve done it: The Black Ferns show the trophy
Hope: Lydia Thompson scores England’s second try