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Slick Winiata hat-trick helps Black Ferns gloss over set-piece struggle with Wales

The diminutive fullback got on the end of three of New Zealand’s eight opening day tries.

New Zealand 44

Wales 12

Sean Farrell reports from UCD

THE CAMPUS WAS able to pace itself early on day one of the World Cup. And eventually, so too were New Zealand, but the Black Ferns would have liked to show off more artillery than just their brilliant backs in the 44 – 12 win over Wales.

New Zealand perform the haka Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

While the teams warmed up for their tournament-defining Test match, fans found their bearings, milling between the ball-games and beer of the Fanzone and the un-barred field where you can stand within spitting distance of the players before they ran in to the ticketed match arena.

A decent Welsh following had plenty of commendable defensive interventions worth cheering early on, and the crowd and non-playing squad made themselves heard as black jerseys were frustrated at the line-out and ploughed into touch. Still, it only took until the eighth minute before the outside gas of Portia Woodman was unleashed on the tournament.

The Sevens star took took the ball on veering right off a line-out set-piece, dummied inside and smoothly changed angle and pace to take her the long way around Elan Evans, who did enough to prevent Woodman finishing herself, instead it was offloaded for Selica Winiata.

The Ferns had plenty of territory and possession to work with, but they attacked with the lax nature of a team in no rush. The imposing figure of number 10 Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali flicked between speculative chips ahead and carrying loosehead-like into contact and looking to offload out.

One such carry led to Stacey Waaka finishing off a slick back-line move in the left corner, but with Kendra Cocksedge off-radar from the kicking tee, Wales had a pack giving them every reason to believe a shock was still possible.

A shaky line-out and a scrum swaying more than their pre-match anthem stance had the four-time champions under massive pressure after Wales’ first venture into the opposition 22. The Ferns escaped with their line and full XV in tact despite a suspicion of a deliberate knock-on from Woodman.

They barely looked back from that tough spell. The brilliant captain Fiao’o Faamausili, at her fifth World Cup, broke free of a maul and back into Welsh territory and the Black jerseys clinically flowed after her with Renee Wickliffe grounding her first of two tried before the interval to leave the Kiwis 20 – 0 to the good.

Jasmine Joyce with Selica Winiata Jasmine Joyce with New Zealand’s Selica Winiata. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The second half was much more comfortable for the tournament second favourite. Kelly Brazier showed why she will be back in the 10 shirt before the pool stage is out with a decent first touch on a bouncing ball and a glorious pass right to send Woodman in.

Eloise Blackwell would soon force her way over and Cocksedge finally nailed a conversion to put the contest well beyond Wales, but the Celtic nation would still get the largest cheer of the game as Sioned Harries crashed over under the posts to at least avoid the nil.

The Ferns were far from perfect and their round three pool opponents Canada  will see plenty to be targeted around scrum and line-out.  The Canadians enjoyed a much more straightforward opener to the tournament, with the brilliant Magali Harvey scoring a first-half hat-trick – and five of Canada’s 16 tries –  as the day’s biggest mismatch ended 98 – 0.

When it comes to the breakdown, handling skills and innate finishing nous, they have it in spades. Few more so than Winiata who completed her hat-trick either side of a yellow card for Cocksedge that led to a Wales try for Melissa Clay.

New Zealand will watch the rest of today’s action knowing they were in a contest in Billings Park, but they must feel that they have a few gears still to shift through.

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