The final game of a fantastic tournament in Ireland and Northern Ireland, surely a claim for Ireland to host the Men’s Rugby World Cup in 2023. Both England and New Zealand came into the final with good wins in the tournament, England with a narrow victory over the French and New Zealand winning comfortably against the USA.
The final started with a frantic pace in the first 20 minutes. Both fly-halves Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali and Katy McLean had some strong kicks. However, it was the Black Ferns’ fly-half who made the
first real impact, kicking the ball cross field into open space and setting up the try for the fullback Selica Winiata. The conversion was missed and the Black Ferns lead by 5 to 0. England then started to get themselves into the New Zealand 22 with some good hits coming from the Black Ferns. England gained a penalty which gave them three-points after a sloppy mistake from the Black Ferns for not realising the England play on the floor. Then the game saw its first yellow card with Sarah Goss tackling Katy McLean in a seemingly dangerous manner. McLean landed on her side and it seemed to be a fair tackle. However, referee Joy Neville deemed it to be a yellow card offence. England’s scrum-half Natasha Hunt unfortunately for England was not able to provide quick ball from the rucks or the scrums’ giving her back line little time to build a phase with the good line speed defence that the Black Ferns had that evening.
On the other hand, the England forwards were bringing the game to New Zealand, epitomised by the front 5 producing a powerful scrum and winning a penalty against the head. England then were thwarted by the Black Ferns defence as Alex Matthews, blindside flanker was denied a try. England after another powerful scrum were awarded a penalty try with New Zealand not being able to hold the scrum, surprisingly no yellow card was given at this stage. England now lead by 10 points to 5. There were more barn storming runs from Alex Matthews. With half an hour gone, England scored a great try from first of all a great run from the inside centre Rachel Burford, great supporting play by one winger Kay Wilson and finished off by the other wing Lydia Thompson. Katy McLean kicked a great conversion from out wide and England now had a lead of 7 points over the Black Ferns.
Katy McLean then had a couple of bad kicks giving possession and territory to the Black Ferns and England compounded that by giving away another penalty just before the half time whistle. New Zealand kicked to the corner and after a strong line out, Toka Nauta, the loose-head prop crashed over for the first of a hat trick of tries. Remarkable from a prop.
England then conceded another try early after the restart with Nauta skilfully releasing the ball before getting back onto her feet in the ruck and charged for the line with the England defence baffled as to how she got through. The score was 17 points a piece. England’s full-back Emily Scarratt then slotted a penalty for the Red Roses with some help from one of the bars.
New Zealand hit back with a brilliant try, starting with a brilliant run from second-row Charmaine Smith and finished by Stacy Waaka. This was then followed by the try of the match, scored by Lydia Thompson. After the fly-half for New Zealand tried to kick the ball into space again, the ball was plucked from the air by Thompson and she ran down the touch line with Portia Woodman, the winger discussed a lot in the build up to the final, in hot pursuit but Thompson evaded Woodman’s grasp. The Black Ferns took back the lead with Nauta the prop scoring her hat-trick try. The score was now 31 to 25 to New Zealand.
After this the Black Ferns turned the screw and ramped up the pace. Scrum-half and place kicker Kendra Cocksedge scored a typical scrum-half try by dummying a pass and crashing over for a score. New Zealand forwards then became more dominant and kept England in the 22. After regaining possession, and with a good cross-field kick from Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Selica Winiata scored her second try, which provided to be decisive. England did come back with the final try of the game from the forwards. The last three minutes also saw the second yellow card for the Black Ferns, this time to replacement Lesley Ketu.
In the end the running power in broken play from the Black Ferns was too much for the Red Roses, the final score 41-32. The Black Ferns won their 5th World Cup. England will be disappointed, however, the young guns in the form of Meg Jones and Sarah Bern were very impressive. This will also hopefully persuade the RFU to change their minds about not extending professional contracts.