Black Ferns edge out England for World Cup glory
September 5, 2010
New Zealand celebrate winning their latest Rugby World Cup crown © Getty Images
New Zealand claimed a fourth successive Women's Rugby World Cup Final triumph with a hard-fought 13-10 victory over England in a thrilling clash at the Twickenham Stoop.
A try from prolific winger Carla Hohepa and five points from the boot of centre Kelly Brazier carried the Black Ferns to a deserved victory in front of a record final crowd of 13,283, a win which saw the defending champions weather yellow cards for fly-half Anna Richards, prop Mel Bosman and captain Melissa Ruscoe.
England defended valiantly to shackle New Zealand for long periods and dragged themselves back into the contest thanks to a try from wing Charlotte Barras and a penalty from fly-half Katy McLean only to be pipped to the sport's biggest prize.
Early nerves from England hooker Amy Garnett handed New Zealand great field position and from the game's opening scrum they piled forward, with Brazier proving elusive, but the hosts turned the ball over and eventually cleared the danger.
The Black Ferns continued to press as England struggled to find the rhythm that had served them so well earlier in the tournament. A great touch-finder from Brazier turned the screw and although the England lineout held its own a penalty went against them. Brazier could only pull the chance wide of the posts.
New Zealand refused to dwell on the missed opportunity and responded with renewed vigour to keep the England defence busy but ever-impressive flanker Maggie Alphonsi was happy to meet them head on. Another penalty handed the Black Ferns chance to open the scores but this time it was scrum-half Emma Jensen who was wide of the mark.
The defending champions continued to hammer at the heart of the England defence but got little reward for their complete dominance in terms of territory and to a slightly lesser extent possession. Frustration on the Black Ferns' part was evident with an alarming penalty count and captain Ruscoe was handed a warning from the referee midway through the half. But they failed to heed the warning with fly-half Richards handed a yellow card.
England raised their game in a bid to take advantage of their rivals' indiscipline but McLean failed to find her range with a penalty moments later. New Zealand continued to play on the edge and felt the wrath of the referee as a result with England posing a much more significant threat at the breakdown than the Black Ferns had experienced in the lead-up to the final. And that pressure resulted in the second yellow card of the game with Bosman joining Richards on the sideline.
England then surged forward in the hope of making their numerical advantage tell on the scoreboard but the Black Ferns showed their class by weathering the storm before the return of Richards alleviated some of that pressure. And far from adopting a conservative approach they stunned the hosts with Hohepa skipping through the England defence for the game's opening try, converted by Brazier.
England responded with a crowd-pleasing attack but New Zealand's exemplary work in attack was matched by their efforts in defence. Another missed penalty from McLean summed up a disappointing half for the hosts and a back-to-strength New Zealand headed into the break firmly in control of the contest.
England made a near-perfect start to the second half with McLean finally finding her range with a penalty but an excellent kick chase from New Zealand soon had England fullback Danielle Waterman under pressure. The result was a chance for Brazier to cancel out McLean's score but her effort fell short of the posts.
The game then sparked into life with England and then New Zealand giving the ball some air to good effect. The Ferns went closest to scoring with Hohepa denied by an excellent try-saving tackle from Joanna McGilchrist before Richards was thwarted by some scramble defence. The home side then re-grouped and earned a crucial penalty before clearing the danger to the delight of the large majority of the capacity crowd.
New Zealand fullback Victoria Grant and prop Ruth McKay were the next to trouble England's last line of defence and although they were denied, Brazier hit the target with a penalty as warning was given to England captain Catherine Spencer about her side's indiscipline. But it was New Zealand who saw the next yellow card with skipper Ruscoe given her marching orders for hands in the ruck.
Alphonsi led the England charge with a little help from the rest of the England pack and New Zealand could only infringe as they looked to stop a powerful looking maul. Yet another warning went the way of New Zealand as Spencer opted for the scrum. The England pack dug deep to produce a timely surge and were eventually rewarded for their bravery. Spencer was patient at the base of the next scrum before feeding scrum-half Amy Turner down the shortside. Turner found Barras who darted in from the touchline and stretched to score the try. McLean's conversion levelled the scores and lifted the roof off The Stoop.
Both sides rang the changes up front in the face of a gruelling workload and it brought immediate joy for New Zealand who edged ahead once more thanks to Brazier's latest success with the boot.
New Zealand were happy to play the territorial game as the match entered the final ten minutes with the boots of Brazier and Jensen keeping England at arm's length and pinned in their own half. Forced to go from deep with the clock against them, they were unable to pick a hole in a Black Ferns' side within sight of yet another World Cup victory.
England's Alice Richardson exited the game on a stretcher with three minutes remaining - leaving the hosts with 14 players having emptied their bench - and her withdrawal was followed by Brazier's latest penalty miss but it was irrelevant with New Zealand seeing out the clash to claim a famous triumph.
Graham Jenkins is the Senior Editor of ESPNscrum.