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Breathtaking 20 minutes with 5 tries helps Black Ferns reclaim World Cup from England

Loosehead Toka Natua scored a hat-trick as New Zealand battled from 17 – 5 down to put 41 points on England.

England 32

New Zealand 41

Sean Farrell reports from Kingspan Stadium

A BRILLIANT BLACK curtain came down on Ireland 2017, the Women’s Rugby World Cup, with New Zealand celebrating in Ravenhill as they reclaimed the trophy from England to don the crown for a fifth time.

Fiao'o Faamausili lifts the Women's Rugby World Cup Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

And they completed their march through the tournament in incredible style, coming out on top of an 11-try spectacular that gave lie to the notion that finals are tense, tight affairs with too much pressure to deliver real quality.

Real quality was flung into the mix in spades from both sides, but it was a slice of luck that got the Kiwis off to the perfect start after a speculative cross-field kick was adjudged just out of reach by Portia Woodman. Rather than risk a knock-on, she allowed the ball bounce and it ricocheted off her shins. Fullback Selica Winiata collected the pill as if it were a rehearsed move and mercilessly ate up the 30 metres remaining to touch down.

To make matters worse for England, Emily Scarratt picked up a knock as Winiata raced away and she hopped with a wince as she kicked England onto the scoreboard in the 14th minute. However, she was still on the field and England were turning the screw.

Come the 20th minute, the strains being put on the Kiwi defence were beginning to tell. But the call from referee Joy Neville, a 2013 Grand Slam winner with Ireland, to sin-bin openside Sarah Goss for a tip tackle was very harsh.

There was no grey area in what followed though, as white pack utterly dominated black in a series of scrums leaving Neville running under the posts, awarding a 24th minute penalty try.

Rattled, the Ferns were guilty of forcing the issue while down a woman. Kendra Cocksedge fired passes head-high to team-mates, line-outs were rushed and forced a Kiwi scramble to chase dropped balls and cross-field kicks were unleashed too early.

England meanwhile were humming, Rachel Burford blew the defence wide open in midfield and the quick, slick hands arriving to support sent her centre partner Meg Jones scampering into the corner.

Having not lost any of their previous three World Cup finals against England, New Zealand were never going to let themselves be ushered aside here. Toka Natua forced her way over for the first part of her hat-trick to leave the Ferns just 17 -10 down at the break despite being dominated.

Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali celebrates Toka Nutua's try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Earlier, France secured their sixth third-place finish (in a competition that’s only eight tournaments old) with a frenetic 31 – 23 win over the USA. So New Zealand could take comfort in the notion of legacy as they chased their fifth crown into the second half.

If the first 40 simmered, the second that brought the contest bubbling right up over the rim. And all tournament long New Zealand have shown that when a game gets fractious and dis-jointed so that it becomes a test of pace and skill, there is only going to be one winner.

Netua helped them level, Scarratt kicked England back ahead and it lasted just two minutes before Charmaine Smith planted the ball on the line. Just when it looks like the game might settle into a rhythm, Lydia Thompson danced out of loose tackles and burned away from Woodman of all people.

Still keeping track? It’s not easy, but England led 25 – 24 at that juncture of all hell breaking loose, and had every reason to believe they could hold it. Until Natua carried into contact and noticed she hadn’t been held in the tackle, so rose back to her feet to canter under the posts.

Though Izzy Noel-Smith would score late on, that was the end of the English challenge. The black magic was still working as Cocksedge capped an astounding 20 minutes with the fifth try of the period, New Zealand’s sixth of the night and, somehow, there was still more to come from this outrageously talented side.

Portia Woodman with Megan Jones Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Fittingly, when Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali lobbed a 69th minute cross-kick to the right flank Carla Hohepa opted out of wriggling past the last defender camped on the try-line and instead popped up the simplest of passes to the grateful Winiata.

That’s the beauty of New Zealand rugby in a nutshell. The simple things, done extremely well and usually at extreme pace too.

For the Black Ferns, losing to Ireland in 2014 was a gigantic blip in their history. So they came to these shores and set the record straight.

Scorers

England

Tries: Penalty, M Jones, L Thompson, I Noel-Smith

Conversion: E Scarratt (2/3)

Penalties: E Scarratt (2/2)

New Zealand

Tries: S Winiata (2), T Natua (3), C Smith, K Cocksedge

Conversion: K Cocksedge (3/7)

England: Emily Scarratt  Lydia Thompson (Amy Wilson Hardy ’71) . Megan Jones  Rachael Burford (Amber Reed ’58) ,Kay Wilson, Katy Mclean  Natasha Hunt (La Toya Mason ’59): Vickii Cornborough, (Rochelle Clarke ’57)  Amy Cokayne (Vicky Fleetwood ’60) , Sarah Bern (Justine Lucas ’60),  Abbie Scott,  Tamara Taylor (Harriet Millar-Mills ’64),  Alex Matthews, Marlie Packer (Izzy Noel-Smith ’59),  Sarah Hunter Capt
New Zealand: Selica Winiata, Portia Woodman,  Stacey Waaka (Theresa Fitzpatrick ’64), Kelly Brazier,  Renee Wickliffe (Carla Hohepa ’59), Victoria Subritzky-Nafatali, Kendra Cocksedge (Kristina Sue ’79):  Toka Natua ( Sosoli Talawadua  ’77), Fiao’o Faamausili Capt ( Te Kura Ngata-Aerengamate ’78), Aldora Itunu (Aleisha Nelson ’67); Eloise Blackwell, Charmaine Smith (Rebecca Wood  ’71), Charmaine McMenamin (Lesley Ketu ’71), Sarah Goss, Aroha SavageReferee: C Molloy (IRFU)

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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